October 22, 2004
ALERT: HEALTH DISCOUNT CARDS PROMISE BIG SAVINGS, DON’T
In the latest
issue of his Consumer’s Edge newsletter, Attorney
General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. warns consumers to check out the
promises made by health discount card programs. Advertisements
for the cards suggest that people who enroll will realize large
savings on medical and dental bills, lab tests and prescriptions.
However, Curran says that the savings don’t always materialize.
discount cards can sound like a solution to people who don’t
have health insurance or who have inadequate insurance. After paying
a membership fee, a consumer is supposed to be able to present
the card to participating healthcare providers and receive a discount
on fees. However, Curran says that many consumers complain that:
• They have difficulty finding providers who accept the card, even
though the program claimed it had an extensive network of thousands
of providers. In addition, no Maryland hospitals accept discount
The savings are not as much as was advertised. When consumers can
find a provider who accepts the card, the discount offered may
only be 10 to 20 percent, not the “up to 60 percent!” or “up
to 80 percent!” trumpeted in the ad.
The consumer mistakenly believed the card was an insurance plan.
Some consumers have been confused by advertisements using words
such as “health coverage” and pictures of cards that
look similar to insurance cards.
If you’re considering enrolling in a health discount card
program, check it out carefully first,” Curran said. “Don’t
be pressured. Ask for materials that you can look over, and most
importantly, verify which providers will actually accept the card.”
said that consumers should ask their doctor, dentist and pharmacy
whether they accept the card and what discounts
be offered. If they don’t accept the card, the consumers
should ask the discount card company for a list of providers in
the area that do, and then call those providers to confirm. Also,
the consumer should ask not just what the discount would be, but
what the cost of a doctor visit or dental check-up would be. Merely
being told that the discount would be “30 percent off” is
not helpful without knowing what the full charge would
Consumer’s Edge newsletter is on the Attorney General’s
website at www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/edge116.htm