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Dentists Lead Passage of New Virtual Credit Card Law to Help Curb Rising Healthcare Costs

The Georgia Dental Association (GDA) applauds Governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly for supporting the passage of House Bill 818, which prohibits insurance plans from mandating that healthcare providers and hospitals only accept virtual credit card reimbursement payments. As a result of the work of the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), and the Georgia Dental Association, Georgia is now the second state in the nation to adopt such a measure, which goes into effect on January 1, 2019.

The new law will help address the rising costs of healthcare in Georgia, particularly in rural and underserved parts of the state, as such a mandate from insurance plans would ultimately result in the providers’ transaction fees associated with processing virtual credit card reimbursement payments being passed on to the patients of this state.  These transaction fees can range between 2.5-5% of the underlying reimbursement payment.

State Rep. Lee Hawkins carried the bill as lead sponsor after discovering his dental practice was processing virtual credit card payments without his knowledge and recognizing the negative financial impact on his practice. A virtual credit card is defined in the new Georgia law as a single-use credit card exclusively provided in an electronic or digital format.

“This is a more common-sense approach,” said Dr. Hawkins, whose practice averaged paying 3 percent in fees when virtual credit cards were used. “Health care is expensive enough.”

While the law does not prohibit virtual credit card reimbursements, it preserves a healthcare provider’s choice whether to accept non-virtual credit card reimbursements (e.g., checks and electronic funds transfers) and ensures transparency by requiring that insurance plans advise providers of their ability to opt-out of receiving virtual credit card payments.   
     
The new law affects not only Georgia dentists but also physicians, podiatrists, pharmacists, optometrists, psychologists, registered opticians, licensed professional counselors, physical therapists, chiropractors, hospitals, or other entity or person who is licensed or otherwise authorized in this Georgia to furnish health care services.

“Operating revenues are critical in any healthcare service practice and particularly critical in lower income communities and single practitioner practices,” said Frank J. Capaldo, Georgia Dental Association Executive Director.

The Georgia Dental Association (GDA) is the state’s largest dental association, representing more than 3,400 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information in Georgia, the GDA has promoted the highest standards of dentistry through education, advocacy and professionalism since 1859. A constituent of the American Dental Association, the GDA is based in Atlanta.
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