Photo: Flickr / robtheprincess
Local currencies are helping uninsured Americans pay for their medical expenses, CNNMoney’s Blake Ellis reports. Take, for example, Alisha McNamara, a Fayetteville, Ark. resident whose doctor found a lump on her lungs this year.
Unable to afford the necessary tests, she tapped into her savings of “Trade Dollars” issued by Local Trade Partners, a company that serves her region.
With it, McNamara was able to pay for $3,000 worth of medical care, she told CNNMoney.
As the value of the U.S. dollar continues to fluctuate, locally traded currencies have been making something of a comeback in the country.
The practice is perfectly legal, since the U.S. Constitution only prohibits states from printing bank notes of their own. Towns and cities are free to do so, just as long as the cash is clearly distinguishable from the regular dollar and based on its value.
Proponents say local currency functions like a mini economic stimulus, guaranteeing that small businesses accepting the cash receive a steady flow of customers.
Since Local Trade Partners’ launch in 2009, the company has seen an increase of health providers to its network; 60 of 548 members include chiropractors, dentists, and even plastic surgeons. (See how many Americans would get plastic surgery if they could afford it.)
Robert Hodous, a dentist and member of Local Trade Partners, says he’s seen more patients with serious dental problems coming into his office recently.
“They’ve lost their jobs, or don’t have extra money, so they’ve just been putting it off. Having Trade Dollars forces them to say, ‘OK, I need to take care of myself’,” Hodous told CNNMoney.
At the moment, local currencies are active in about 30 communities in the country.