Masks and restrictions may be gone, but changes wrought by the pandemic are here to stay, and they’re continuing to evolve into other areas of healthcare — like wellness — and consumers need ways of paying for such services, which are usually not covered by insurance.
That’s the short version of the expansion happening now in healthcare financing. It’s exemplified by the news that Synchrony is enlarging the circle of providers who now offer its care now, pay later financing option, the CareCredit card, to wellness practices that fall outside of strict medical and clinical use cases.
“We are seeing a lot more around the holistic view of people thinking about their health in a much more comprehensive way.”
Synchrony’s CareCredit card is stepping up to the challenge posed by these wellness payments.
CareCredit has added 45 new healthcare specialties to its network of 266,000 medical practices, including preventative care, nutrition and weight loss programs, holistic and lifestyle care like acupuncture, chiropractic, elective cosmetic procedures, and behavioral counseling.
Demand has been building for a while. In “How Digital Has Changed The Consumer Healthcare Experience And Expectations,” a PYMNTS study with research sponsored by CareCredit, a key finding is that 57% of consumers who use wearables and 61% who use health-tracking apps or sites use them weekly or monthly. It proves that many consumers are paying closer attention to their wellness. But as the study states, it also shows “that some aspect of the user experience is causing users to engage with them less often than intended. Adding more features and capabilities could help enhance user experience and potentially drive more frequent use.”
The ability to pay for wellness treatments from nutrition to sleep can be a major unlock for engagement with these providers. “That brings the opportunity to match the offers and things that we do at CareCredit in terms of bringing the care that people need when they need it and being able to finance it or pay for it in a way that is affordable for them,” Casellas said.
“It’s the way that we bring flexibility of payments across the board.”
The expansion of CareCredit’s network reflects the self-care trend that promises to be a long-lasting side effect of the pandemic. Casellas spoke of the “holistic” thinking that’s become top-of-mind for millions of consumers. But amid an extended period of high inflation and paycheck-to-paycheck living, many people can’t afford wellness care — at least not in one payment.
Synchrony data finds that 4 out of 5 people don’t have a dedicated health savings account (HSA) for unexpected and out-of-pocket health costs, with almost 20% of respondents forgoing recommended care for this reason. Delaying preventive care is one way of assuring bigger health problems — and costs — down the line, which gets to the heart of expanding financing.
“When folks don’t have the ability to know that information, and when they’re not knowledgeable about the ability to finance a procedure, they tend to either delay or not do the procedure at all,” Casellas said. Flexible card payments “brings forth the opportunity to say yes to a procedure that is needed rather than delay it or completely not do it at all,” he said.
By making wellness more affordable through focused financing options, adherence to these regimens tends to be higher, with consumers reaping the full benefit and not dropping out.
“We think that if we provide the consumer an ability for them to stick for 12 months or 18 months, getting the counseling, getting the nutrition, and getting the weight management, they’re going to be a lot more successful at the end of 12 or 18 months knowing that they can stick to that type of plan. We have seen that,” Casellas said.
Asked about how new CareCredit providers are vetted in a world of medical scams, Casellas told Webster that the company applies the checks and balances consumers want in healthcare.
He said, “There is a process we go through in terms of doing certain due diligence around [things like], Do they use medical practitioners in their office? Is it a medical staff, for example? We require certain types of certifications around running a medical spa, where we combine that [with] the fact that we do agreements with the many medical associations that are part of that vertical” to ensure that CareCredit is available only through legitimate wellness practices.
And the vetting process fades quickly for providers. The news release on the wellness expansion notes, “For providers, third-party patient financing through CareCredit helps bolster their revenue cycle management, reducing administrative costs and improving workflows with immediate patient payments and no-recourse financing. It can also help organizations initiate discussions around the cost of care earlier in the healthcare journey.”
CareCredit settles with the provider at the start of the process, giving wellness practices another compelling reason to offer financing for their treatments and services.
Additionally, the CareCredit network includes major pharmacy chains so that supplements and other wellness supplies can also be financed, further reducing strain on consumers. However, most practices offering CareCredit financing are “independent small business owners in the United States,” he said. So, health financing ends up being good for patient wellness, as well as the cash flow of thousands of small wellness practices whose services are now in high demand.