An Incredibly Depressing Last-Minute Gift: Medical Gift Cards

What’s this? A gift card? For health care? Oh, you shouldn’t have! Really. You shouldn’t have. Yet, medical gift cards issued by health insurers and hospital systems are increasingly more common.

Available gifts range from discount cards for medical and dental services to credits for in-home caregiver services.

But some in health care point out that some cards may not be the right choice because they come with numerous restrictions or cost more than the benefit is worth.

“If you’re a company, it costs you nothing to put out a gift card. Even if they are not particularly a good deal, even a few people will buy them,” said Dr. David Howard, a health policy expert at Emory University in Atlanta.

We at Consumerist would argue that that statement also applies to all gift cards, but the combination of health insurance and gift cards seems like it could be a festival of rules, restrictions, and fees. Be wary. Last year, Consumer Reports didn’t have nice things to say about a healthcare prepaid Visa card (now discontinued) released by health insurance company Highmark.

Medical gift cards pay for doctor, dentist visits [AP via WalletPop]
Health gift-card fees can make you sick [Consumer Reports Money]