Colorado is the test site of a new healthcare credit card being offered by JustCare, a national cooperative of healthcare buyers and sellers. Eventually, JustCare intends to market the card nationwide.
It is the first product to be rolled out by the Denver-based cooperative, which was incorporated in March 1991 to help members reduce administrative expenses.
The card will be issued by Dial National Bank, a subsidiary of Des Moines, Iowa-based Norwest Financial Services. Norwest Financial is an arm of Minneapolis-based Norwest Corp.
The JustCare card is designed to inform providers of the card carrier's health plan eligibility and credit status and serve as a payment vehicle. Patients may use it to pay their portion of the healthcare tab, including coinsurance, copayments and deductibles. It also may be used to finance those expenses.
The card will be available to people whose employers or insurers are members of the cooperative. In Colorado, some 20,000 people are expected take part in the initial test phase. The card is recognized by 40 hospitals, 400 pharmacies, and 5,800 physicians and other licensed healthcare professionals across the state.
JustCare cooperatives also have been created in California, New Jersey and Texas. The card is expected to be launched in those states by mid-year.
James A. Bryant, JustCare's vice president for development, said the cost of administering the credit-card program will be built into the prices for healthcare services negotiated by the cooperative. Depending on the region, administrative expenses will vary from 4% to 5% of the patient-pay portion of healthcare expenses, he said.
So, a $100 charge paid by a JustCare member will reflect a $4 to $5 markup. However, by virtue of the cooperative's power to negotiate lower rates, patients' charges will be lower to begin with, Bryant said.
JustCare has spent much of the past few years assembling provider networks in four states and hurdling legal obstacles. In an earlier interview, JustCare President Edgar W. Smith predicted there would be 100,000 cardholders by the end of 1995 and 5 million in five years. But Bryant said the program's introduction has been delayed by banking industry regulatory requirements (April 24, p. 34).