Health Discount and Dental Discount Programs: Will They Help Someone Like Me?

There is a new health care delivery system on the market called “Consumer Driven Health Care,” more commonly known as Health and Dental Discount Programs. As with many cutting-edge concepts, this one has created a bit of controversy.

It will come as no surprise to learn that the people making the most noise on one side or the other of the issue are the ones who are make their living in the health benefits industry.

Unfortunately, this professional “siding up” just leaves the general population stuck in the middle, confused and wondering what is best for them.

In reality, there is no reason to be up in arms over the new Health and Dental Discount Programs. These programs are not meant for everyone, but rather they were designed specifically for the people who have slipped through the cracks in the current health care coverage system.

If you have health insurance now, keep it! If you can get comprehensive health insurance, get it.

If, however, you are in one of the following situations, becoming a member in a dental and/or health discount program may very well help you:

1. You have been turned down for all health insurance due to a pre-existing condition.

2. You have a pre-existing condition, have been accepted for “high risk” health insurance, and are left paying out of pocket for your care until (or unless) the cost reaches a set deductible that is very high (for example until you have paid $6,000/year out of pocket – or more).

3. You have health insurance, but you still have to pay full price for one or more of the following services: at the dentist, for new glasses or contact lenses, for your prescription medicine, for chiropractic care.

4. You already have one of the tax-free Health Savings Accounts set up, along with the required catastrophic health insurance policy, and you are paying full price – either out of pocket, or out of your HSA, for your health care until (or unless) you meet the high deductible of the health insurance policy.

5. You have talked with your insurance agent, have gone over your budget, and you truly cannot find traditional insurance coverage that you can afford.

If you are in one of the situations described above, by all means add health and/or dental discount programs to the options you look into.

As you would when selecting any service company or professional, it is important to do your homework. Check the internet web sites to see which health and dental discount companies have providers in your area.

Look at the value of the programs … how much will you pay per month to be a member of a specific discounts program, and approximately what type of savings will you receive in the various care areas of care.

Find out if you have to sign a contract for a certain length of time on the discount program. See if the company offers any type of satisfaction guarantee.

Check into the company’s credentials … in other words, how they stand with the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Health Alliance, and American Association of Dental Plans. Check to see if the company is listed with Dun & Bradstreet to make sure they are financially fit.

If you have any question about whether a discount program will work for your situation, contact a representative from both the benefit discounts company and the traditional health insurance industry.

Expect true professionals in either segment of the health benefits industry to show a willingness to investigate ALL the options that are available to you at the present time. Insisting on this high level of service by your professionals will ensure that you receive the very best personalized package of health care protection possible.

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Health Cards and Health Insurance Are Very Different

Recently there has been a proliferation of advertisements for health cards. These cards claim to offer access to high quality and affordable medical care, dental care, prescription drugs, vision and other health care services. The rates vary but may be as little as $20 a month to as high of $125 a month for a family. The two big selling points of these plans are that they are affordable and that you cannot be turned down.

Exactly what are you buying? Health cards can also be called discount medical programs or plans. This industry has grown so large that they even have their own trade association, the Consumer Health Alliance. Here is the definition of a health card given by the Consumer Health Alliance. “Our member companies make health care products and services, including prescription drugs, dental, chiropractic, eye care, physician, hospital and laboratory services, available to millions of Americans by providing opportunities for consumers to directly purchase health care services and products at discounted rates.” According to the Consumer Health Alliance more then 28 million consumers have purchased these plans for various companies.

The problem lies not in the concept of the programs but in the sale and execution. The most important fact you must know about these health cards is that they are NOT health insurance. Many consumers have failed to understand what they are buying and as a result have been saddled with hundreds and even thousands of dollars in medical bills they assumed would be covered by their health card.

These plans advertise that they are affiliated with networks of medical providers. That is generally true. Their affiliation may even be with some of the national networks that insurance companies use themselves. The plan representative tells you that if you use the services of a network provider, you will get a discount on the service similar to the discounts that insurance companies negotiate when providers join their networks.

One company, for instance, gives you an example. If you see a network provider, that doctor’s normal charge for an office visit may be $120. But with your discount health card, you will only be charged $90 thus saving you $30 each time you visit the doctor, On the surface that may sound good, but remember, the consumer and only the consumer, has to pay the provider $90 every time he visits that doctor.

What happens if we discuss a hospitalization rather than a doctor’s visit. You find you need a hip replacement. According the the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the average cost of a hip replacement in 2006 was $42,000. You see a doctor who is in the network used by your $29.95 a month health card. You expect to get a significant discount for the procedure because you used a network provider. Remember your doctor visit. You got a $25% discount and only had to pay the doctor $90 of the $120 bill.

But now you have a bill from the hospital for your hip replacement for $42,000. It is also discounted at 25%. That means you owe the hospital $31,500. And you have to pay it. It’s better than owing $42,000 of course, but $31,500 is still a pretty significant amount of money that the consumer has to pay out. Unfortunately, the companies that sell these cards focus your attention on the small services. But, if consumers are smart, they will focus on the big items, which is the real risk of not having health insurance.

For some people who don’t qualify for medical insurance, discount cards may be the only option. Individual health insurance generally is medically underwritten which means if a person has a medical condition that the insurance company does not want to insure, they will be unable to get health insurance. Most states have what are called pool plans, which will insure persons with medical conditions, but as you can imagine, these plans are extremely expensive.

The real danger of these cards is the aggressive methods used to sell them. Many of these plans are actually sold as Multi Level Marketing plans. The sales representatives do not have to be licensed insurance agents, because the plans are not insurance. There interest is in adding people to their downline as that is how they make money. Learning the programs and carefully advising consumers as to what they are buying may not be the most important thing to these sales representatives.

If you are considering buying a health plan, be careful and ask questions. Understand first and foremost, that you are NOT buying insurance. Be wary of extravagant promises of discounts up to 60%. In our hip replacement example, for instance, a 60% discount would mean the service would only cost you $16,800. It is unlikely that a provider hospital would give you that kind of discount. Ask for specifics about hospitals, doctors and procedures. Ask if all the providers honor the advertised discounts. Sometimes doctors and other providers are not even aware they are listed as participants in these plans.

Ask about hidden fees. Often there are administrative fees hidden in the fine print. Be especially careful if there are fees charged for each use of your card. These fees may eat up almost all of your discount.

Discount health cards are never a substitute for health insurance. Before you consider buying one, think about how you will use it. If your need is for less expensive services, such as routine doctor’s visits, dental or vision discounts, they may be worth it. Remember, if you need an expensive procedure such as a hospitalization or surgery, you will be paying most of the bill yourself. No matter what the representative tells you or the advertisements imply, your card will never pay one single cent to any provider. The consumer will always be responsible for the amount of the charge less any discount that might be applied.

Consider your needs and the needs of your family. If you can afford it, buy health insurance. Even a plan with a high deductible such as an HSA will be a better option because at some point after the deductible is met, the insurance will pay the balance of the bill. If you can’t afford insurance or you cannot qualify because of medical problems, a health card may be useful. But before your buy, understand what it is and what it can really do for you.

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About the Alliance Health Plan

One of the first things to mention about the Alliance health plan is that this company really has a much extended network of pharmacies, clinics and doctor offices it co-works with and allows its clients to benefit discounts from. And, no doubt it is one of the major advantages over its market competitors. Having thousands of clients all over USA as their members that provider has the weight and power to negotiate the best prices with its network service partners. So, unlike it is with some smaller benefit plans sellers, with Alliance there is no need to worry about the limited number of places you can get serviced with its discount card. Now, to understand better what an Alliance is, it has to be stated that this plan is not any kind of health insurance. But, it certainly can be used along with your personal and group insurance. If your insurance, for instance, is not covering some drugs you need, you may get discounts from your that health plan.

Another benefit of using a health Alliance card is that you may include your close relations, living under your roof in your discount card, stating them as your dependents. So, your Alliance health plan may work as some sort of your family medical plans’ option. There are two different types of option: gold and platinum. Both of them provide discounts on such essential medical things, as prescription drugs, dental or vision care, chiropractic help, but platinum Alliance health plan also provides discounts on hospital and physicians services, while gold one doesn’t. It is great to know that an Alliance health plan does not have any restrictions as to the number of times you use it or as to any kind of medical condition you may have. In any case, your health plan provides you with up to 60 percents discounts on your prescription drugs and up to 30 percents discounts on your doctor visits. So, there is no limitation as to how frequently you may use it.

There are two payment options an Alliance offers to its clients: monthly fees and annual fees. Besides, there is a 24/7 support service working to help along its clients and to answer any questions. Signing up is not difficult. It can be done right online by filling out one simple application. So, no paper work is required. As you may see, using an Alliance health plan really can save you much money and cut down your health care bill by the half.

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