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As health care premiums continues to soar with time, a growing
number of people are being inclined to look for affordable coverage,
and seem to have found one in discount plans – occasionally
described as an "alternative" to health insurance. If
someone wishes to join such a plan, he/she is required to make a
monthly payment that will entitle him/her to reduced rates from
a network of participating providers. The most familiar discount
plan services are medical, dental and vision care, prescription
drugs and chiropractic care.
Discount plans are more like savings coupons than insurance. Instead
of protecting against financial ruin or ensuring access to costly
medical treatment, discount plans negotiate with various providers
to provide services at a discounted rate to enrolled members. However,
members must pay the entire balance of the charge, no matter how
large the amount is.
The monthly payments for discount medical plans usually vary between
$30 and $150 per person. Furthermore, discount plans claim that
they accept all applicants, irrespective of health status and existing
medical conditions. Their comparatively low cost and "guaranteed
issue" features generally draw people with chronic conditions,
such as diabetes, who often find it difficult to buy private health
insurance at any price.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind once you decide to purchase
a discount plan. To begin with, you should get in touch with the
providers you plan to use in order to verify if they participate
in the discount plan. If you find they do, check out if they are
obligated to charge you the discounted rate. You should also ask
the providers whether they would be willing to give you a discount
even without the plan. It should be kept in mind that a number of
providers willingly give discounts as a courtesy to their patients
who do not have health insurance. While purchasing a discount plan
online, you must ensure that the site is secure and never ignore
to review the discount plan's privacy policies. Also check out if
the discount plan's phone numbers are working and you can talk to
a live person. Record the phone numbers and address in your files
for future reference.
Even as discount plans are not regulated by your state insurance
department or by anybody for that matter, any misrepresentation
or fraud by them can be directed to your state's Office of the Attorney
General. If you want to find out whether there have been complaints
against the plan you are considering, you should contact your state's
Office of the Attorney General as well. Not considered creditable
coverage, a discount plan is not insurance and therefore won't count
toward reducing a pre-existing exclusion period if you subsequently
get covered under a job-based group health plan.
You should also know exactly how much you have to pay monthly including
any additional fees such as administrative, membership, and annual
fees. You must ensure that the discounts you receive is more than
what you pay for a discount plan membership.
Read all materials in detail, including the fine print. Be careful
if the promises are too tall for your comfort.