by Jim Wilk
Discount health plans are quickly gaining popularity for those with and without health insurance. These discount health plans work similarly to an auto club or bulk food warehouse membership. Consumers pay a modest monthly fee for access to significant discounts through a -national and prominent network of health and wellness providers and services.
Let’s take a look at a typical industry player in the rapidly growing field of discount health plans. Access to these discount health networks via four different monthly plans priced from $19.95 to $27.95 per month (for the entire family) is provided almost instantly once a new member joins. Plans include a core group of basic discounted services with the option to add a couple additional perks. Here is a quick glance at some of the discounted networks included with membership:
• TeleMedicine — Prescriptions by phone and the ability to call a -doctor 24/7 for health related issues. Doctors can write prescriptions and phone them in to your local pharmacy, all without leaving your house. Twelve doctor phone consultations/prescriptions are included each year.
• Discount Dental — Vast savings at any of the 132,000+ dentists. With or without dental insurance, this is an incredibly useful service as nearly all dental insurance plans do not cover cosmetic procedures. For example, the average price for a porcelain crown is about $900, but it’s less than $600 with the discount plan. The average prices for a cleaning is about $90, but only $50 with a discount plan.
• Discount Veterinarian / Pet Services — A network of 4,500+ vets throughout the country offer 25% to 30% savings on typical veterinary services including treatment, vaccinations, grooming, and housing services. This is not pet insurance. According to an article published by Consumer Reports on pet insurance: “We found that the pet policies we analyzed were not worth the cost for a generally healthy animal.” The beauty of this discount veterinarian network is that there are no insurance premiums, deductibles, pre-existing conditions etc.
• Vision Care — A network of over 44,000 nationwide optometrists will accept the discount card for optometrist’s services and products. My significant other — who has dental/vision insurance through her employer — recently used the card to save $350 on special eyeglasses that were not covered by her insurance. Approximately 3,000,000 Americans now have access to this network of optometrists.
• Chiropractic Care — There are 14,000+ participating chiropractors within this network providing a 25% discount for their services.
• Identity Theft — Although not health related, this is a great asset to have on your side and can certainly save you money when considering the countless time and energy spent by victims of identity theft.
• Legal Services — Major discounts on nearly all legal services from a network of 17,000 qualified lawyers. Having a lawyer defend you in court for a simple speeding ticket can easily cost over $500. The cost for having the attorney defend a speeding ticket is just $89. When considering the cost to have a lawyer defend you in court is often the difference between a steep fine and a rise in insurance premiums. This is a no-brainer if you get pulled over by the police.
Membership also provides significant discounts on the following:
• Massage therapy, acupuncture, Nutritionists, and fitness clubs from a network of thousands of licensed professionals and fitness centers.
• Prescription medications from over 58,000 participating pharmacies.
• Hearing exams and aids from 2,400 participating centers
• MRI, CT and PET scans
• Vitamins and Supplements
• Diabetic and medical supplies
Another reason these plans are becoming so popular is that many employers are dropping dental and vision coverage. Both dental and vision coverage is not one of the mandated areas of coverage for adults in The Affordable Care Act. Employers are quickly realizing the cost they’re paying for premiums have skyrocketed in recent years, and perhaps even more importantly, the cost for these plans rarely make it worth while for the patient to recoup the cost of coverage.
More than 8 million Americans have signed up for plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Now that the enrollment period has ended, no additional sign-ups are allowed until November 1, 2014. Many people are turning to discount health plans because they’re realizing their health insurance plans do not cover adult dental, vision or many other alternative/elective procedures and coverage.
Many healthcare brokers are also educating themselves on the pros and cons of adopting discount health plans. This product line may be the perfect new product supplement to add to the medical health plans they are offering to their clients under the Affordable Care Act. Discount health plans can often save their clients up to thousands of dollars annually by significantly reducing the out-of-pocket expenses that are incurred when utilizing the high deductible plans that are in place. The broker world is also learning that the recurring commissions generated by discount health plans can help them find a new stream of income to replace some of the significant income reductions they are experiencing because of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The brokers are already familiar with many of the nationally prominent providers who participate in both the insurance networks and the discount healthcare space, which include Aetna, VSP, and American Specialty Health, amongst others. The comfort level is there with the quality and breadth of provider networks. As such, it doesn’t the take a huge leap of faith for the brokers to jump onto Discount Health Plan bandwagon.
James Wilk is the founder of Benefit Together (BenefitTogether.com). Before founding Benefit Together, Wilk was senior partner and chief administrative officer at J.D. Power and Associates. He served as the chief executive leading the company’s health care, hotel, and travel practices while managing and transforming all support functions to prepare J.D. Power for successful acquisition by McGraw-Hill. From 1990 to 1998, Jim was Health Net’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Administrative Services. During this span, he provided senior management leadership through substantial organizational reconfiguration and evolution, including conversion to for-profit status and two mergers that resulted in his designation as the chief transition executive for the 1995 Blue Cross $6 billion mega-merger.