Visa U.S.A. has joined the American Medical Association to publish an information booklet intended to help consumers manage their out-of-pocket medical expenses.

The brochure, "Answers to Your Important Health Care Questions," covers general health education information and emphasizes the need to plan for health care costs.

Purp9sely not endorsing any particular form of payment, the booklet highlights all possibilities, including cash, checks, and credit cards.

Funded by an educational grant from Visa, the booklet will be available free in physicians' offices throughout the country. Physicians can call the AMA to request delivery.

Although the text doesn't mention Visa, the association's logo is on the back of the pamphlet and colorful take-one display holders prominently feature the Visa logo.

"It was designed to increase awareness of Visa in the health care setting," said Les Mann, Visa's vice president of health care marketing. "The AMA is very careful -- none of the contents is an endorsement of one [payment] product over another. The objective is consumer education."

Mr. Mann said Visa shares the. same the goals as the AMA in educating patients about their payment options and financial responsibilities as their health care expenses increase.

Visa reports that card transaction volume among health care providers grew by 25% in the second quarter of 1994, and the number of health care locations accepting payment cards reached 192,000 nationwide. Consumers are now using Visa to pay nearly $5 billion in medical costs annually.

"As copayments increase and deductibles increase Visa may see a more substantial role in covering health care costs," said Mr. Mann.

He pointed out that only four years ago, when Visa launched its campaign to improve card acceptance in doctors' offices, credit cards were not a part of payment process. There was very low usage and awareness.

Mr. Mann said Visa added 20,000 new locations over last 12 months, crossing all segments, including 44% of physicians, 70% of dentists, and 95% of hospitals. MasterCard has seen parallel growth.

Generally, 44% of physicians offices accept credit cards, with 90% of large group practices taking the cards. Acceptance at dentists offices has reached 70% compared to 95% of hospitals.

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