A bad economy and a greed ridden health care sector is a bad mix for most of the US workers. Some of the people in their 50s, who got laid off and have family members with life threatening situations have shared their thoughts and vented their frustration on this site as well. They have lost their jobs and their health care while they still have to manage their and their family’s health. I thought I will look into this area and see if there is any help outside.
Well, let us start with one of the alternatives to Health Care Insurance. This alternative is called Discount Cards. Now, as much as they sound great, specially in all the advertising, they are not always with good intention. So, while they are helpful in times when one needs help, one should use them with care and enough information.
What are they?
For a monthly fee, members of discount plans can get access to wholesale rates. When care is received at a participating provider, the member pays the discounted fee at the time of service. The services offered by the benefits companies will vary. Such programs help both the user and the provider who is able to get payment up front with no paperwork to file.
Now, before you jump on any of the plans, please do your research.
- Shop around. Every program is different. Find the program that offers the benefits and services that best suit your needs at a reasonable price.
- Make sure the discount program has clear and understandable disclosure materials that specifically define the terms and conditions of the program.
- Look for programs that provide toll free numbers and/or websites where you can obtain additional information about the program’s benefits and the healthcare providers who are participating in it.
- Read the program’s complaint and refund policies carefully to determine if they are reasonable. The company should offer a 30-day refund policy for your enrollment fee.
- Make sure the program’s materials clearly state that the discount program is not insurance.
- Be sure the program’s benefits do not duplicate your current health insurance policy or other health benefits offered by your employer.
- Be wary of any program that requires large up-front fees.
- Read all materials carefully.
- When in doubt about a discount healthcare program, check the company out with your local Better
- Business Bureau, State Insurance Department or State Attorney General’s office.
- Go to NAIC web site and go to your specific state State Insurance Department Web site. You will see a help line and links to check on frauds going on. Discuss your Discount Health Plan with them and see what they say. This is as “legit” an information that you can possibly get!!
- Check with Consumer Health Alliance – it is a trade organization for Discount Health care programs. It is supposed to protect the consumers against fraud and cheating. You can contact them at:
Consumer Health Alliance
5050 Quorum Drive, Suite 700 PMB #113
Dallas, TX 75254
Office: (800) 550-1242
Beware of the Big No-no’s:
- The discount plans are often advertised through blast faxes, spam e-mails, Internet pop-ups or signs
- posted on telephone poles.
- The company claims you can save a considerable amount on health insurance.
- The company or agent will not give you a list of providers until after you purchase the discount card.
- The company uses high-pressure marketing and an extreme sense of urgency, telling you that you
- “must act now” or “this one-time offer.”
- You are asked for debit or credit card information or a large up-front fee. Legitimate discount cards
- will not mandate large application fees or up-front costs.
- Legitimate discount card issuers will state on all their marketing material “This is not insurance.”
- Legitimate discount card issuers will never suggest you drop your health insurance.
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
I have not used a Discount Card, so am not sure which one is the best or the most useful. I will try and look for the reliable ones and discuss them in a subsequent post. If you know of any good ones.. or have any experience with some of them which are good or bad, please do share.
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