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Sacramento News & Review – Bad teeth, bad credit – News – Local Stories

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Kenda Williams, 51, went to West Coast Dental in Torrance to treat the shooting pain in her molar. She spent the day in a drug-induced haze.

Williams later found out she had signed up for two credit cards that day to cover her dentist’s $9,055 bill. Unemployed and on Medi-Cal, the Los Angeles resident had no idea why her bill was so high, or why she had been approved for so much credit.

“I thought I was just getting a root canal,” Williams said. “They were giving me a bridge. I already had a denture that was brand new. They’re claiming I asked for a bridge and I did not. They knew I could not afford it because I was unemployed. All I went in for was a root canal.”

She does not recall signing up for the cards, and she said the signatures on the consent forms do not match her own. The dental office did not send in an authorization form to her insurance provider, a Medi-Cal managed care plan, documents show. The insurance company later reimbursed her for $1,070 worth of services, but she still owes about $6,000.

Across California, patients like Williams are wading into years of debt because of high-interest credit cards used to finance dental treatment. They have succumbed to requests by dentists to put their high-priced services on a controversial segment of the health-care industry: companies that offer loans for “out-of-pocket” medical care.

An investigation by The Fresno Bee for The California Divide, a statewide media project examining economic inequality, has found that some dentists appear to be inflating bills and pressuring patients to put their services on a credit card. These credit contracts, which can be easily arranged in the dentist’s office, often have deferred interest provisions, which means that if the patient does not pay in full within a certain time period, interest on the initial loan is charged, with rates ranging from 13% to 29%.

The Bee also found that some dentists charged for care in full before services were performed, leaving patients like Williams paying their bill without ever having their treatment completed. Legal aid organizations report that low-income Californians are particularly at risk of falling into debt traps with medical credit cards because of ongoing struggles with the state insurance system.

Medi-Cal doesn’t cover major dental care unless it is medically necessary, and a limited number of Medi-Cal and Medicare providers render the full range of covered services.

“We definitely see dentists refusing to run the [Medi-Cal authorization] request a lot,” said Eric Schattl, supervising attorney at the Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County. “So then they’re guiding people toward the card early on in the process, even if they know they are Medi-Cal recipients.”

West Coast Dental in Torrance declined to comment about Williams’ case. But advocates say the terms of medical credit cards are too complicated for most people to understand. They are particularly confusing in high-pressure situations, like the moments of excruciating pain leading up to important dental procedures.

“It’s a dentist pitching this product. Your relationship with the dentist is a very intimate relationship. You have to trust the dentist—they’re in your mouth,” Schattl said.

Millions of accounts

Nationwide, more than 6 million accounts are active with CareCredit, a product of Synchrony Bank. It is the most popular medical credit card on the market, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The card can be used to finance anything from veterinary services to LASIK eye surgery. It is offered at 109,000 dental offices nationwide.

Of the thousands of consumers who filed complaints against Synchrony Bank nationwide in the last five years, 177 consumers, including 43 Californians, mentioned the word dentist or dental. There could be hundreds more, however, as most people opted not to publish their complaint narratives.

The Health Consumer Alliance, a statewide coalition of legal service offices, says it has reviewed and helped consumers on 28 dental credit card cases so far this year, and 55 cases in 2018. Central California Legal Services, based in Fresno, estimates they reviewed 24 cases since 2013.

Medical credit cards are not all that different from other credit cards on the market. But customers don’t need to go to a bank to take them out; health-care providers can fill out a client’s application and have it approved in seconds.

“The reason that they are popular is that they’re marketed in a way that oversimplifies in an almost misleading way what the person is obligated to,” said Gina Calabrese, a professor of legal clinical education at St. John’s University.

Beginning next July, a new state law will prohibit health-care providers from signing up patients for deferred interest credit products in their offices. The credit industry and dentists had worked to water down the bill; the original version would have prohibited providers from offering or promoting such products.

Lisa Lansperry, a spokeswoman for CareCredit, said an internal survey showed 94% of their customers were satisfied in 2018. She added that if a consumer has a complaint, the company takes it seriously.

The California Dental Association, which represents more than 27,000 dentists, endorses the cards because many people lack adequate insurance to cover the dental treatment they urgently need, according to spokeswoman Joie Harrison. CareCredit has 120 partnerships, more than 70 of which are paid, with industry groups, including the California Dental Association. Both CareCredit and the California Dental Association declined to disclose whether the dental association was paid for promoting credit cards to patients.

The appeal for dentists is clear. Minus merchant credit card fees, their immediate payment is guaranteed, and gone is the administrative burden.

“In a private office we don’t want to chase down payments,” said Mark Cave, the dental director of Fresno’s Clinica Sierra Vista, who also has a private practice in Visalia. “If we have to hound you for $25 we lose relationships over that with patients. You owe me $300 but you’re sending me $25, and I’ve got bills to pay, too, or we can go to CareCredit.”



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How Do I Sell My Vehicle With Joint Ownership?

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A joint auto loan is when two borrowers have rights and responsibility to the same vehicle and loan. If you have a cosigner, then you, the primary borrower, have all the rights to the vehicle. Here’s what you need to know when you need to sell your car with two people responsible for the loan.

Selling a Joint-Owned Vehicle

Joint owners are typically spouses or life partners who combine their income to meet income requirements or get a larger loan amount. Both co-borrowers are responsible for paying the car loan and have 50/50 rights to the vehicle, so both their names are listed on the title.

Since your co-borrower has the same rights and obligations to the vehicle as you, you must get their permission to sell the car. In most cases, they also need to be present for the sale to sign the title. This may not always be the case, though, so it’s important to know how to read your car’s title.

If you have it, take a look at your vehicle’s title for the names listed on the back where you sign to transfer ownership. For example: let’s say your name is Jane and your co-borrower’s name is Joe. You’re likely to see either:

  • “Jane and Joe”
  • “Jane or Joe”
  • “Jane and/or Joe”

If you see “and/or” or the connector “or”, this typically means only one person needs to be present for the sale of the car. But if you see “and” this means both of you need to be present to transfer ownership – this is usually the case with joint ownership.

In all three cases, you still need the permission of the co-borrower to sell the vehicle even if they don’t have to be physically present to sign the title. If you sell it without the co-borrowers consent, it may be considered a crime because it’s their property, too. Moving forward, discuss the sale with your co-borrower to avoid potential legal trouble.

Selling a Car With a Cosigner

How Do I Sell My Car With Joint Ownership?If you have a cosigner on your car loan, then things become easier. A cosigner doesn’t have any rights to the vehicle and their name isn’t on the title. Their purpose is to help you get approved for the auto loan with their credit score, and by promising the lender to repay the loan if you’re unable to. A cosigner can’t take your vehicle, sell it, or stop you from selling it yourself.

However, it’s nice to let them know if you do decide to sell the car because the auto loan is listed on their credit reports. If you can, reach out to them about your plans to sell the vehicle. The car loan’s status impacts them and could affect their ability to take on new credit when it’s active.

If you sell the vehicle and the lien is successfully removed from the title, then you’re both in the clear.

Removing the Lien From a Vehicle’s Title

If you still have a loan on your car, then your number one priority is paying off your lender. Your lender is the lienholder, and you can’t sell a vehicle without removing them from the title – they own the car until you complete the loan. This typically means paying off the loan balance until naturally during the loan term, or getting enough cash to pay it all off at once from a sale.

When you’re selling a car with a loan, you want to get an offer for your vehicle that’s large enough to cover your loan balance and to remove the lien. If you don’t get a large enough offer, then you need to pay that difference out of pocket before you can sell the vehicle. Or, you may be able to roll over the remaining loan balance onto your next car loan if you’re trading it in for something else.

Looking to Upgrade Your Ride?

Many borrowers ask for help to get the car they need. If you need more income on your loan application to meet requirements, asking a spouse or life partner to chip in can do the trick. If you have a lower credit score, then a cosigner with good credit could help you meet credit score requirements.

But what if you want to go it alone on your next auto loan and your credit isn’t great? A subprime lender could be the answer. Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve been connecting credit-challenged consumers to dealerships with bad credit resources for over two decades, and we want to help you too.

Fill out our free auto loan request form and we’ll look for a dealer in your local area that’s signed up with subprime lenders. These lenders assist borrowers with many unique credit circumstances to help them get the vehicle they need. Get started today!

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Fixed-rate student loan refinancing rates sink to new record low for the second straight week

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Our goal here at Credible Operations, Inc., NMLS Number 1681276, referred to as “Credible” below, is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we do promote products from our partner lenders who compensate us for our services, all opinions are our own.

The latest trends in interest rates for student loan refinancing from the Credible marketplace, updated weekly. (iStock)

Rates for well-qualified borrowers using the Credible marketplace to refinance student loans into 10-year fixed-rate loans hit another new record low during the week of May 3, 2021.

For borrowers with credit scores of 720 or higher who used the Credible marketplace to select a lender, during the week of May 3:

  • Rates on 10-year fixed-rate loans averaged 3.60%, down from 3.69% the week before and 4.32% a year ago. This marks another record low for 10-year fixed rate loans, besting the previous record of 3.69%, set last week.
  • Rates on 5-year variable-rate loans averaged 3.19%, down from 3.23% the week before and up from 3.04% a year ago. Variable-rate loans recorded a record low of 2.63% during the week of June 29, 2020.

Student loan refinancing weekly rate trends

If you’re curious about what kind of student loan refinance rates you may qualify for, you can use an online tool like Credible to compare options from different private lenders. Checking your rates won’t affect your credit score.

Current student loan refinancing rates by FICO score

To provide relief from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest and payments on federal student loans have been suspended through at least Sept. 30, 2021. As long as that relief is in place, there’s little incentive to refinance federal student loans. But many borrowers with private student loans are taking advantage of the low interest rate environment to refinance their education debt at lower rates.

If you qualify to refinance your student loans, the interest rate you may be offered can depend on factors like your FICO score, the type of loan you’re seeking (fixed or variable rate), and the loan repayment term. 

The chart above shows that good credit can help you get a lower rate, and that rates tend to be higher on loans with fixed interest rates and longer repayment terms. Because each lender has its own method of evaluating borrowers, it’s a good idea to request rates from multiple lenders so you can compare your options. A student loan refinancing calculator can help you estimate how much you might save. 

If you want to refinance with bad credit, you may need to apply with a cosigner. Or, you can work on improving your credit before applying. Many lenders will allow children to refinance parent PLUS loans in their own name after graduation.

You can use Credible to compare rates from multiple private lenders at once without affecting your credit score.

How rates for student loan refinancing are determined

The rates private lenders charge to refinance student loans depend in part on the economy and interest rate environment, but also the loan term, the type of loan (fixed- or variable-rate), the borrower’s credit worthiness, and the lender’s operating costs and profit margin. 

About Credible

Credible is a multi-lender marketplace that empowers consumers to discover financial products that are the best fit for their unique circumstances. Credible’s integrations with leading lenders and credit bureaus allow consumers to quickly compare accurate, personalized loan options ― without putting their personal information at risk or affecting their credit score. The Credible marketplace provides an unrivaled customer experience, as reflected by over 4,300 positive Trustpilot reviews and a TrustScore of 4.7/5.

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Provident Financial calls time on doorstep lending business

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Provident Financial has confirmed plans to shut its 141-year-old doorstep lending arm, as its full-year results highlighted the strain the coronavirus pandemic and growing customer complaints have put on subprime lenders.

The Bradford-based company reported a pre-tax loss of £113.5m for 2020, compared with a £119m profit the previous year. The biggest drag was a £75m loss in its consumer credit division, which includes home credit.

Malcolm Le May, Provident chief executive, said: “In light of the changing industry and regulatory dynamics in the home credit sector, as well as shifting customer preferences, it is with deepest regret that we have decided to withdraw from the home credit market.”

Jason Wassell, chief executive of the Consumer Credit Trade Association, which represents alternative and high-cost lenders, said the decision showed that “the current regulatory framework does not work for the market, or its customers”.

“The result in this case is that access to credit will be reduced for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Provident built its name as a provider of home credit, or doorstep lending, which involves a team of local agents who regularly visit borrowers to collect repayments and discuss their products.

Proponents believed agents’ local expertise and personal relationships with borrowers allowed them to achieve better results than traditional bank lending to people with bad credit scores, but the approach has increasingly been superseded by digital models in recent years.

Provident’s business has also been affected by a series of self-inflicted and external difficulties. Its consumer credit division has been lossmaking since a botched effort to modernise the unit in 2017, which led to a pair of profit warnings and an emergency rights issue. More recently, its recovery has been hampered by an increase in customer complaints that prompted an investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The complaints rise has been driven by professional claims management companies, echoing a broader trend across the subprime lending industry which has also affected companies such as Amigo, the guarantor lender. Executives also accuse the Financial Ombudsman Service, which adjudicates on customer complaints, of overstepping its mandate and encouraging huge volumes of complaints.

Provident said it would wind down or sell the consumer credit division, with either option expected to cost it about £100m. 

The move will see Provident exit the most controversial areas of high-cost credit to focus on what it describes as “mid-cost” lending through its Vanquis credit card business and Moneybarn vehicle finance arm. Vanquis and Moneybarn both remained profitable during 2020, despite more than a quarter of Moneybarn customers requesting payment holidays at the height of the pandemic.

The results were slightly better than average analyst forecasts, and the company said Vanquis and Moneybarn had both reported “improving trends” during the first quarter of 2021. Shares in Provident nonetheless dropped more than 10 per cent in early trading.

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