Discount Health Care Cards-Consumer Driven HealthcareWhat are discount health cards? Discount health cards provide one part of the solution to the nation''s healthcare crisis by enabling consumers to purchase healthcare products and services at discounted retail rates. Discount health cards are not insurance and are not intended to replace insurance. In fact, many consumers choose a discount card to complement their health insurance program, filling in gaps such as prescription drug benefits or vision care.
Why Choose a Discount Health Card? Discount health cards are NOT insurance.
Discount health cards enable consumers to purchase healthcare products and services from providers at discounted prices, similar to the rates that healthcare providers charge wholesale customers such as preferred provider networks (PPOs) or large insurance plans.
Many consumers choose a discount card to complement their health insurance program, filling in gaps, such as prescription drug benefits, chiropractic care, dental or vision care.
Discount health cards have gained popularity because they provide consumers access to the healthcare they need without the limitations, exclusions and paperwork associated with insurance plans.
In addition, discount health programs typically include the cardholder''s entire household.
How You Benefit with a Discount Health Card? Discount health programs, or discount benefits cards as they are sometimes called, were created to help bridge the gap for consumers burdened by the increasing cost of healthcare by providing opportunities to directly purchase healthcare services and products at discounted retail rates. Discount cards offer:
Access: Individuals and families without insurance can use discount programs to receive access to and substantial savings on health care services such as doctor visits, hospitalization, prescription drugs, eyeglasses and dental care that they might otherwise not afford.
Affordability: While insurance rates have increased at double-digit rates over the past 12 years, discount card providers have kept their rates virtually unchanged.
Savings: Those with limited insurance, the under-insured, and insured individuals with high deductibles can reduce out-of-pocket expenses and receive discounts for services not normally covered by insurance such as chiropractic care.
Choice: In some cases, consumers with discount health cards pay less for services such as dental and vision care than those covered by traditional insurance plans.
Convenience: Discount programs are accepted at some of the nation''s largest healthcare retailers including national pharmacy and optical chains. While each program varies, many companies offer programs with providers that include:
* Pearle * LensCrafters * Medicine Shoppe
* Eckerd''s * Safeway * Wal-Mart
* Sears * Target, and many more!
What types of services are typically included by discount health cards? Discount health cards include a wide range of services and products including dental services, prescription drugs, vision care, chiropractic procedures, hearing care, physician/hospital & ancillary services, nurse medical information lines, vitamins and emergency care for travelers. Choose a program that offers discounts on services that you need and that you will use.
Who should use discount health cards? The wide array of choices in the discount health card industry and the many discounts available make it possible for everyone to enjoy the benefits of discount health cards. Discount health cards are designed to provide benefits for a wide-range of consumers. For individuals and families without insurance, discount health cards offer substantial savings on healthcare services such as doctor visits and on everyday health related expenses including prescription drugs, eyeglasses and dental care that they might otherwise not afford.
For those with limited insurance, the under-insured, and insured individuals with high deductibles, discount health cards can reduce out-of-pocket expenses and offer discounts for services that may not be covered by insurance such as chiropractic care.
In some instances, discount health cards for ancillary health services and products such as vision, dental and chiropractic care offer services at overall out-of-pocket costs lower than insurance co-payments.
For these reasons, many of the country''s Fortune 500 companies now offer discount health cards to their employees as part of their benefits packages.
How do consumers get discount health cards and how do the cards work? You can obtain discount health cards either through your employer, an association, union, or another entity with which you are connected or you can go directly through a reputable discount healthcare program.
Signing up for a card is easy. Complete an application and pay a nominal monthly fee. In some instances, your employer will pay the fee. To access care and receive savings, a cardholder must simply provide the card to a participating provider at the time health services are rendered and pay the discounted fee.
How do discount healthcare programs offer such benefits? Discount healthcare programs enable members to access similar rates that healthcare providers charge wholesale customers such as preferred provider networks (PPO) or large insurance plans. The difference is that instead of financing the medical expenses of members by charging high monthly rates, consumers agree to pay a discounted fee to the provider directly at the time of service.
What is the difference between discount health cards and health insurance? Discount health cards are not insurance. Card companies who indicate otherwise are not being truthful. Unlike health insurance, there is no sharing of risk by the consumer and the discount healthcare company.
Discount health cards afford consumers the opportunity to directly purchase health care services and products from providers at amounts discounted below their retail rates. Cardholders are required to pay the provider''s discounted fees in full at the time healthcare services are rendered or as dictated by the provider''s agreement. Consumers are free to make their own choices about which services to purchase and from whom to make those purchases.
Insurance plans, on the other hand, define specific benefits available to the consumer at rates determined by the plan purchaser. Insurance plans also pay health care providers on behalf of the consumer.
Do I still need insurance if I have a discount health card? That''s a decision each consumer must make. Discount cards and insurance plans frequently provide complementary benefits. That is why many of the nation''s leading companies offer their employees both insurance plans and discount cards. Each individual should evaluate his or her own health needs and the various benefits offered by each type of program.
Why has there been controversy surrounding some discount health card providers? Millions of consumers have embraced discount health cards because of their value and simplicity. This popularity has led a number of companies to enter the discount health card business. Unfortunately, not all of them are reputable. Some card providers charge steep up-front fees or promise dramatic savings they can''t deliver, while others bombard consumers with misleading and confusing sale pitches.
Alan Masters is the President and CEO of Benefit Masters based out of South Lake Tahoe, CA.