Everybody loves a discount. There’s nothing like saving money on the things you need the most. And that’s true whether you’re at the grocery store or the doctor’s office.

You want to get the best medical care you can at the best price. One option to help you do that is a discount health plan. These work sort of like coupons: They provide you with discounts on medical procedures or other medical costs, such as prescriptions.

So what’s the catch? It’s a big one: Discount health plans are not health insurance. And they’re not a substitute for it, either. They don’t provide the protections that insurance plans offer.

Because discount plans aren’t health insurance, they can be purchased from private companies and are regulated on a state-by-state basis.

What discount health plans might do is provide you with additional savings on products and services that may not be included or covered under your health insurance plan. Here’s what you need to know about them.

A HealthMarkets licensed insurance agent can also help you decide on a health insurance plan. Start online today or call (800) 304-3414.

How do discount health plans work?

When you have health insurance, you typically pay a monthly premium for healthcare coverage. On top of that premium, you may also pay copays or coinsurance for medical services. (Here’s the difference between copays and coinsurance.)

On the flip side, discount plans ask you to pay a membership fee—kind of like the one you might have at your local gym. This is either paid yearly or monthly.

The membership fee allows you to access discounts to medical products and services that may not be covered by your health insurance plan.

Typically, your provider will adjust its pricing to reflect the discount, and you’ll pay the discounted fee at the time of service. Because a discount plan is not insurance, though, the money you spend on these services won’t go toward a health insurance deductible.

However, discounts aren’t always guaranteed. And only certain providers and services will accept a discount health plan. That’s why it can be helpful to ask your current provider if it will participate in a discount health plan before you sign up.

What kinds of discounts are available?

Discount health plans may offer savings on a range of medical services from a specific number of providers. This could include discounted access to providers such as chiropractors and physical therapists.

Other discount plans may be targeted toward additional (or supplemental) health services that may not be covered under some insurance policies, including certain prescriptions, as well as vision, hearing, and dental plans.

For example, not all dental plans cover trips to the orthodontist if you or your child needs braces. And there may be a price cap on that coverage. The same is true for corrective vision procedures such as LASIK and appointments at the audiologist, who could fit you for a hearing aid.

How much could I save with a discount health plan?

This all depends on your medical needs—and what your insurance does and doesn’t cover. Plus, your insurance provider may already negotiate discounted rates for you on certain services. And no additional membership fee would be needed.

Understanding your current coverage is key when deciding if a discount health plan is a good fit for you. Need help figuring that out? Call (800) 304-3414 to speak with a licensed insurance agent.

A discount plan may be more helpful as an addition to your health insurance plan, especially if your insurance requires additional policies (and costs) to cover vision, dental, or hearing.

The benefits of a discount health plan are all in the details

The savings you can get with a discount health plan can sound enticing. But before you sign up for one, know whether or not the “save up to 70%” you may see advertised applies to your particular healthcare needs. Or if it’s even really a discount.

If you receive a phone call about a discount health plan, ask the caller for information in writing so that you have time to do your own research and assess the pros and cons of the plan before you sign up.

A little preparation goes a long way in figuring out whether a discount health plan is a good addition to your insurance, or if you might be better served finding a discount plan for ancillary services instead.

Look over your healthcare costs for the past year, including prescriptions, as well as premiums (the monthly cost of your plan) and deductibles (i.e., how much you pay before your insurance kicks in) for dental or vision insurance policies. Then look ahead to consider what treatments or procedures you might need in the coming year.

Reminder: a medical discount plan is not insurance and should not replace your health insurance plan. Before you sign up for any discount plan, make sure they are not replacing or interfering with your insurance coverage.

Still not sure if a discount plan could be right for you? HealthMarkets can help you find out. Start reviewing your options online today, or call (800) 304-3414 to speak with a licensed insurance agent.

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References

SureBridge: Underwritten by the Chesapeake Life Insurance Company. Retrieved from http://content.suppsportal.com/ProductBrochures/GENERIC/Wellness%20Plans/GW%20DISC%20SRVS_V03.pdf Accessed December 8, 2021.

Federal Trade Commission. This Open Season, Is That Really the Health Insurance You’re Looking For? November 2, 2021. Retrieved from https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2021/11/open-season-really-health-insurance-youre-looking. Accessed December 8, 2021.

Healthinsurance.org, Retrieved from https://www.healthinsurance.org/glossary/medical-discount-plan/. Accessed December 7, 2021.

Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information Retrieved from https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/video-0031-truth-about-medical-discount-plans. Accessed December 6, 2021.

Consumer Health Alliance, Why Choose a Discount Healthcare Program?, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.consumerhealthalliance.org/about-discount-health-plans1/. Accessed December 8, 2021.

Healthcare.gov, Getting Prescription Medications, Retrieved from https://www.healthcare.gov/using-marketplace-coverage/prescription-medications/. Accessed December 7, 2021.

ACS Member Insurance, Medical Discounts. Retrieved from https://acsmemberinsurance.org/Other-Plans-Services/Medical-Discounts, Accessed December 8, 2021.

American Refractive Surgery Council, Does Insurance Cover LASIK? April 12, 2021. Retrieved from: https://americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/does-insurance-cover-lasik/. Accessed December 6, 2021.

Michigan State University. December 2, 2014. Retrieved from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/is_it_a_health_insurance_plan_or_a_discount_plan_know_the_difference. Accessed December 8, 2021.

HealthCare.gov. Retrieved from https://www.healthcare.gov/why-coverage-is-important/pay-less-before-meeting-deductible/. Accessed December 8, 2021.

Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved from https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/spot-health-insurance-scams#Medical_Discount_Plans_and_Scams. Accessed December 8, 2021.

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