For procedures that are typically not covered by regular health insurance, zero-interest financing is now being offered by more than 100,000 physicians and dentists.This type of financing can offer patients a year or more of interest-free monthly payments.This type of plan is ideal for persons who can make payments and pay off the loan according to the original schedule. (Unless arrangements are made ahead of time, late payments and defaults can render hefty finance charges.) However, it should be cautioned that paying for medical care on credit needs to be done judiciously because it can create a financial crisis the same as other credit. Several big lenders are now offering medical financing.These plans take the forms of no-interest loans payable over a 12-month period (or longer as established at the outset of the loan), special credit plans for insured members with policies linked to health savings accounts, and medical credit cards with reduced rates.These new methods of medical financing are available to only those with good credit.

COMMENTARY: Pet health insurance has been around for years, but not all animals can be insured because of such factors as preexisting conditions and old age. Exclusive lines of credit for pet owners such as offered through CareCredit (www.carecredit.com/practices/veterinary) provide an alternative. In theory, such plans are a good idea because they take the money hassles away from the veterinarian and allow him or her to offer comprehensive diagnostics and optimal treatment choices.

Doctors offering no-interest loans to patients. Freudenheim M.THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 30, 2007.