It is important to understand, when evaluating medical discount plans, that these plans are not the same thing as medical insurance. These discount plans instead provide access through membership to discounted services from select participating providers. In years past, many companies with such plans carefully chose their marketing messages to closely resemble features and benefits of major medical plans. However, with increased regulations regarding fair marketing practices, these companies have had to come clean and present their programs in a more honest light. As a result, many companies have expanded their networks and service offerings to provide an attractive alternative to expensive health insurance.
Today’s medical discount plans offer more than just cheaper rates with participating doctors and pharmacies. These plans not only offer those discounts, but access to hospitals, labs, and diagnostic testing centers at the same reduced rates insurance companies pay for the same services. Additionally, many of these plans have expanded to include such services as accidental death insurance, accident protection insurance, counseling, and alternative medicines. Each plan is required to meet the strict guidelines set down by each state in terms of what coverage is allowed and how these companies can bill their services.
In order to effectively evaluate these new and improved medical discount plans, consumers must first look into their state’s regulations regarding such companies. Much of this information can be found on the state’s department of insurance or insurance commissioner’s offices’ websites. After understand what your particular state requires, you can select a discount plan that both meets your needs and is compliance with state regulatory agencies. Consumer advocacy and patient advocacy groups can also recommend good programs. For example the American Association of Retired Persons and American Automobile Association often offer their members similar programs and discount plans which are often worthwhile, depending in the individual situation of each member.
However, to accurately evaluate medical discount plans, you truly have to know what you need in terms of coverage. Without insurance, your primary concern might be help paying for prescription medications, eye glasses, or dental visits. However, if you have teenagers in need of braces, your focus might be more on dental care benefits than prescription medication discounts. Likewise, those with chronic health conditions may be more interested in prescription discounts than eye glasses. Some plans are a better fit for a particular demographic than others such as single parents with small children or older adults with increased health problems.