Medical discount cards aren't insurance
States are warning consumers about aggressive - and false - sales pitches for medical discount cards.
Enter medical discount cards. They're promoted in advertisements and telephone marketing campaigns as having no deductibles or co-pays and give the illusion that having one is the same as having health insurance.
Make no mistake, medical discount cards are not insurance. Several state attorneys general have issued warnings about the sales pitches.
"Many medical discount programs claim that they can offer big savings on doctor’s visits, dental exams or prescriptions, but they fail to make good on those claims," Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said. "Consumers should be skeptical of these kinds of promises and should ask for as much information as possible before agreeing to enroll in a discount program."
A California man is suing another health discount card issuer after suffering a stroke and learning that his maximum benefit was $4,500. Costs of his medical care exceeded $400,000.
Here are some suggestions from the attorney general in Arkansas to anyone thinking about signing up for one of these discount cards:
- Remember that discount programs are not health insurance, even if they claim to be.
- Get a list of their participating providers and what discounts or services they are offering to those with the card before signing up.
- If it is difficult to get that information, look elsewhere.
- Find out about the refund policy.
- Do the math and make sure that what you spend on the program results in actual savings.
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AS another pharmacist, I see that these discount cards actually add a dollar, or two, or twelve, or $22 to the price of your discount, or charge the pharmacy $1, $2, or $10 to fill your prescription with absolutely no discount to you! When I fill your prescription I am usually only given a $1 dispensing fee and MAYBE a few cents over the cost of the drug. There is no margin in pharmacy and it has become a loss leader department to get you to buy non pharmacy merchandise.
Many times these discount cards are e-mailed to us on the prescription from your doctor, but your doctor does not know they are being added. Some middle man that is providing the "E-Script" service is selling ad space on your doctors own prescriptions! I tell people to throw them away and just call around to find the best price. Most pharmacies will match a local competitor's price (within 5 miles), or just go to the store with the lowest quoted price. But remember, price, quality, service,... pick 1 or 2 but you can't have all three when the prescription department is cut to bare bones, overworked, and makes NO profit for it's grueling professional effort and liability. My 2 cents.
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