May 12, 2004 at 1:44 PM CDT - Updated June 27 at 4:56 AM
When you need to see a dentist and get some work done, sometimes you need to pay for the service up front. If the fee is more than you can afford, some dentists encourage you to get a Care Card. A Care Card is a credit card offered by GE. Care Card pays the dentist in full and allows you to make interest free payments for a certain amount of time. On paper it sounds perfect, but some East Texans say the card is not what it appears to be.
Last November, Librarian Dorothy West broke her jaw.
"I was racing up the stairs with my boyfriend and tripped and fell right here," West shows.
Her dentist needed $3,000 up front to fix it. Instead of letting her use a personal credit card, Dorothy says they strongly encouraged her to use something called a Care Card. The card paid the dentist right away. But after the surgery, Dorothy's insurance paid the doctor as well. The doctor got paid twice and Dorothy was stuck with a credit card bill of more than $3,000.
"I think it is a racket," says Dorothy. "I know the doctors want their money, but this is not an ethical way to do it."
"Let's just put it this way, it was strongly encouraged," says Charlene Lewis who faced a similar problem with the Care Card.
Her husband's dentist also encouraged the Care Card. The couple agreed to use it, but when Charlene got the bill, she was surprised to see several extra unauthorized charges. She called the company to find out why.
"I told her the whole long story, and she went to talk to a supervisor. She was gone for about 15 minutes and came back and said a fire alarm just went off and she had to go."
"We've been getting complaints about this type of operation," says Kay Robinson at the Better Business Bureau.
She says the company has an unsatisfactory rating and 15 complaints filed, all because of billing errors. She warns anyone considering the card to look at all their options.
"This program is available all over the U.S. and East Texas at many medical facilities, and many people will utilize it, so this is a reminder that it always pays to check out a company first," she says.