Consumers who may be considering the purchase of a medical discount card or joining a medical discount plan are warned that these programs are not health insurance and may not be regulated.
Due to the increase in the number of advertisements and promotions for prescription drug and healthcare discount programs, it is very important for consumers to be aware of the benefits provided and the terms and conditions of these programs. Since these programs are not considered health insurance, the companies and their marketing representations may not be regulated.
While some of these medical discount programs may offer savings, consumer should consider the following before making the decision to join a plan:
- Consumers may be required to pay a monthly fee of $20 to $100 before getting access to any savings.
- Discount card programs offer only a reduction in the actual cost of prescriptions or medical services. For example, a card that provides a 20% discount or savings would still require that the consumer pay 80% of the cost of the medical services ($100,000 medical expense would require that the consumer pay $80,000). This is important since most participating providers require advance payment.
- Most of these plans require advance notice of utilization of discounts in order to honor them. In some cases, 7 days notice is needed for a doctor's visit, and 30 days notice is often required for hospitalization.
- Some discount medical/prescription plans offer discounts only on certain drugs. In many cases, purchasing a generic drug may be cheaper than applying the discount to a name brand drug. Therefore, check with your local pharmacist to confirm their participation and note the discounts offered.
- Terminating health insurance and opting into a medical discount card program may prevent or hinder an individual's ability to regain coverage at a later date. Also, consider pre-existing conditions when terminating health insurance.
- A few plans may use marketing tactics that lead consumers to believe they are purchasing insurance coverage. Call the Florida Department of Financial Services at 1-800-342-2762 to ask questions about any discount plan in which you are thinking of enrolling.
- Do not sign up for any program in which the benefits are not clearly defined.
- Do not sign up for a program until you have independently confirmed participating doctors or providers in your home area.
- Always research the company by checking with consumer protection organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, local and state consumer protection agencies.