Even the most vigorous crypto bulls catch a cold every once in a while. By that, I don’t mean that fervent cryptocurrency backers are prone to suffer an occasional loss of any faith, rather that, just like the rest of us—they literally get sick and need to see a doctor from time to time.
If these infirm crypto believers had an opportunity to charge into a medical arena breathing fire from their nostrils and pay their copays with bitcoin, I’m sure they would relish the chance! The more it gets used for ordinary transactions, the more it moves away from existing as a theoretical construct and towards acceptance as a living and breathing currency.
So why don’t more doctor’s offices and hospitals accept it? The barrier to entry is small; medical practices don’t need to purchase additional hardware or credit card terminals to implement it; and furthermore, crypto transactions may incur lower processing fees.
Traditional credit cards such as Amex, Mastercard and Visa charge anywhere from 2-4 percent for each transaction, depending on a merchant’s volume and some other variables. The company Bitpay, by contrast, charges a 1 percent flat fee for every transaction that gets processed on their platform.
Maybe our trepidation relates to a lack of understanding. Physicians are a cautious group of people by nature and being dubious is vital to the practice of medicine. If we don’t quite understand why it needs to exist–what niche it fills—and how it works, then why would we agree to accept it as a form of payment?
Tax implications are one of the grey areas that need clarification. Here are some of the nuts and bolts. If a patient chooses to pay for medical services in bitcoin, for example, the cryptocurrency gets converted into dollars at the time of the transaction. Capital gains or losses are realized at the point of sale. The medical practice does not incur any additional tax liability because they are receiving dollars for the services rendered.
The lower transaction costs can add up to a lot of money for large health systems or medical practices that perform uninsured services. The ability to pay in crypto may also come in handy for patients visiting from overseas that don’t have US bank accounts, and prefer not to travel abroad with large amounts of cash.
At the very least, accepting crypto for medical services maybe a smart marketing campaign. Even naysayers have to acknowledge that wide-spread acceptance is growing. It’s already been woven into the fabric of the financial system.
The bulls are already parading around outside our doors. There’s no imminent risk of a stampede, but it still may behoove us to start letting them through our doors.
by Eric Dessner MD
Eric Dessner is a board-certified Ophthalmologist. He owns and operates a private practice in Brooklyn, NY.