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As inflation-weary shoppers try to make ends meet, many are turning to a modern twist on the layaway plan: buy now, pay later. But while platforms like Afterpay and Affirm were originally built to take the sting out of online shopping, these new financing options are beginning to creep into the world of health care.

“Buy now, pay later is a small fraction of the health space, but it is exploding,” said Jay Zagorksy, an economist at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University.


Buy now, pay later loans for health services and products increased from $10 million in 2019 to $230 million in 2021, according to a September report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that surveyed five lenders. They’re pitched as a solution for patients overwhelmed by spiraling out-of-pocket costs or an easier way to pay for health care that insurance doesn’t cover. Some health services have started offering payment plans through leading e-commerce lenders, and a new crop of companies has also emerged to offer such plans explicitly for medical bills.

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