Last minute gifters: Consider medical gift cards

Not sure what to tuck into that special someone's stocking? Gift cards are definitely one popular option this season.

And now at least one major insurer has gotten in on all the gifting action, offering medical gift cards as an alternative to ties, robes and toasters.

The cards sold by insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, (BCBS) can be used to pay a myriad of medical expenses, including co-pays and the bill from your doctor.

Not ones to be left out, hospitals are also joining the ranks of those minting gift cards. Holy Family Memorial Health Network, a Wisconsin hospital and clinic chain also offers medical gift cards.

"The person [receiving the card] can make the decision on where to use it. That is really the gift of it," Sue Allen, a spokeswoman for Holy Family Memorial, told the Associated Press.

Doug Bartel, a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida spokesman, told the AP that the cards do not cover everything and do not replace comprehensive health plans provided by an employer or purchased individually.

But that hasn't stopped Americans from popping into the 1,000 Winn-Dixie and CVS stores in Florida in the hopes of purchasing one of the Blue Cross Blue Shield cards.

Think Aunt Sally would love a medical gift card this year? You've got several to choose from. BCBS offers cards from $19 which let recipients save 10% to 50% on various dental work such as braces, dentures, crowns, fillings, oral surgery and cosmetic dentistry; 20% off brand name and generic medications through most major pharmacies and up to 60% at the eye doctor. Their $59 card can be used toward a premium or toward access to health insurance.

Some say health care is too complicated to be covered by a thin piece of plastic. But supporters disagree. "It's hard enough to afford Christmas, let alone check-ups and doctor's visits," says Sean Ness of Syracuse. "I'd love someone to hand me a card that would cover even some of those [medical] expenses."

Sound off: Would you give a medical gift card? What would your reaction be if you received one?

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