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Whitney Tilson Is Angry At Banks And Other Financial Companies

BuzzFeed business team to spice up an otherwise dry CDS story with some Nicolas Cage GIFs.

12) What a travesty that three states are protecting bad financial actors:

In the years I was assigned to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or Fincen, I observed many formal requests for assistance having to do with companies associated with Delaware, Nevada or Wyoming. These states have a tawdry image: they have become nearly synonymous with underground financing, tax evasion and other bad deeds facilitated by anonymous shell companies — or by companies lacking information on their “beneficial owners,” the person or entity that actually controls the company, not the (often meaningless) name under which the company is registered.

Our State and Treasury Departments routinely identify countries that are havens for financial crimes. But, whether because of shortsightedness or hypocrisy, we overlook the financial crimes that are abetted in our own country by lax state laws. While the problem is concentrated in Delaware, there has been a “race to the bottom” by other states that have enacted corporate secrecy laws to try to attract incorporation fees.

13) Doctors are getting into the action too! This type of arrangement is rife with conflicts and should simply be banned. Doctors should not be in the business of facilitating financing of their own bills.

In dentists’ and doctors’ offices, hearing aid centers and pain clinics, American health care is forging a lucrative alliance with American finance. A growing number of health care professionals are urging patients to pay for treatment not covered by their insurance plans with credit cards and lines of credit that can be arranged quickly in the provider’s office. The cards and loans, which were first marketed about a decade ago for cosmetic surgery and other elective procedures, are now proliferating among older Americans, who often face large out-of-pocket expenses for basic care that is not covered by Medicare or private insurance.

The American Medical Association and the American Dental Association have no formal policy on the cards, but some practitioners refuse to use them, saying they threaten to exploit the traditional relationship between provider and patient. Doctors, dentists and others have a financial incentive to recommend the financing because it encourages patients to opt for procedures and products that they might otherwise forgo because they are not covered by insurance. It also ensures that providers are paid upfront — a fact that financial services companies promote in marketing material to providers.

…A review by The New York Times of dozens of customer contracts for medical cards and lines of credit, as well as of hundreds of court filings in connection with civil lawsuits brought by state authorities and others, shows how perilous such financial arrangements can be for patients — and how advantageous they can be for health care providers.

Many of these cards initially charge no interest for a promotional period, typically six to 18 months, an attractive feature for people worried about whether they can afford care. But if the debt is not paid in full when that time is up, costly rates — usually 25 to 30 percent — kick in, the review by The Times found. If payments are late, patients face additional fees and, in most cases, their rates increase automatically. The higher rates are often retroactive, meaning that they are applied to patients’ original balances, rather than to the amount they still owe.

For patients, the financial consequences can be dire.

14) This NYT editorial is spot on:

Patients around the nation are being victimized by medical credit cards that can lead to financial calamity. These cards, issued by specialty finance companies as well as commercial banks, carry exorbitant interest rates after an initial period of zero interest expires — with heavy penalties for late payments. They are often pushed on patients with modest incomes by health care providers who want to make sure that they get paid, even if some of their patients end up with huge credit card bills they can’t afford. Unless strong regulatory action is taken to curb the abuses, financial companies will continue to gouge consumers at their most vulnerable moments, when they are in pain and need medical attention.

Doctors and dentists whose offices arrange for these credit cards say these kinds of loans help patients pay for the care and procedures they need. But it’s hard to imagine a situation in which a consumer is more susceptible to financial coercion by a provider with a conflict of interest.

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