Historically, credit card use for health care purchases other than drugs and vision care has been relatively low. By many estimates, credit cards account for only about 5% of all consumer health care out-of-pocket expenditures ($156 billion in 1992), compared with about 20% in retail, for example.

But card use in health care is growing dramatically, and the industry represents an attractive opportunity for even further credit card penetration, at least for the near term.

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