Discount Cards Not Created Equal


Some discount medical cards provide value, while others have serious drawbacks such as high-pressure sales tactics, exaggerated claims of savings, inaccurate promotions, or difficulty finding participating physicians, a survey from the Commonwealth Fund concluded.

The cards promise discounts for a range of providers, including physicians, hospitals, laboratory work, and surgical procedures. Some discount card companies are seeking to reform the market through a trade association and voluntary code of conduct. Because the cards aren't regulated, “legislative action is needed that gives state insurance departments the authority and resources to have direct oversight of the discount medical card industry,” the authors stated.

“Uninsured individuals … are turning to discount cards to provide at least some financial protection,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis in a written statement. “Some even buy cards in the mistaken belief that they are insurance plans—in part because of misleading marketing.”

Researchers tested 5 of 27 cards by undergoing the application process, seeking health care services from participating providers, and then canceling the cards.

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