The newest thing in the American medical savings game is prescription drug cards, where users pay a monthly fee (anywhere from $10-100, approximately) that nets them discounts at their local medical establishment. Doctors, pharmacists, dentists and even hospitals are all jumping on the discount prescription drug card bandwagon.
And although they sound like an excellent idea to most consumers, these discount prescription drug cards do carry some risks. This article will detail what to look out for so that you remain an informed medical consumer.
How Does it All Work?
Usually, discount prescription drug card programs work in the same way. The card company works on the clients’ behalf, getting discounts at a variety of medical establishments. However, the discounts that are ‘purchased’ are not done with the provider directly, but rather with a ‘preferred provider organization’ (PPO). At times, this system works so poorly that cardholders have walked into their medical establishment with their discount prescription drug card, just to be told that the institution has no knowledge of the discount program.
Since there is no regulatory body for discount prescription drug cards, the people who sell these cards need not be licensed or even knowledgeable about the health care field. And when you do walk into the pharmacy with one of these cards, it’s hard to even tell if you are getting any sort of discount at all; many health care providers do not offer any sort of price list for their services in the first place.
Is There a Problem Here?
Well, some legislators in Georgia and Kansas think so. They’ve passed laws stating that discount prescription drug card providers state in ‘prominent type’ that they are not insurance programs, since more than a few consumers were making this mistake.
Other states have taken legal action against these discount prescription drug card companies. In one instance, Argus Health Plans was sued because allegedly they signed customers up for a free trial period, and then charged those same customers’ credit cards with no prior authorization for a discount card membership. More than a dozen other suits are still pending investigation or trial with other discount card providers throughout the US as well.
So How Do I Save Money on My Prescription Drugs?
OF course, not all discount prescription drug cards are poor consumer choices. However, without more legislation in place, consumers are at risk to be scammed while trying to save money. Of course, there are still other ways to save on your prescription drug costs, such as:
– Keep dibs on the fluctuating prices of your prescription drugs, as costs can differ quite dramatically between pharmacies;
– Ask your doctor to prescribe the generic version instead of the brand name version; and
– Try and get health insurance coverage if you don’t have it already.
With a bit of know-how and investigative work, you’ll be able to save on your medications without having to resort to discount prescription drug cards anytime soon.
Copyright © Stephen C. Dayton 2005