• Ask these questions: ALTERNATIVES TO DISCOUNT CARDS MAKE A SMART DECISION
Here are some tips to consider before you decide
4 Whom do I call if I have a problem using Remember, you can explore alternative options to to enroll in a discount card program:
the card? save money on health and Rx costs:
q Discount cards are not health insurance.
4 What guarantees do I have as part of this • If your doctor prescribes a brand name drug, You are responsible for paying out-of-pocket,
plan? For example, is there a guarantee
that I will receive the discount each time
ask if the generic is just as effective;
with a debit or credit card or cash, for the
health care services you receive. The card
only entitles you to a discount on health care
I use my card? costs, and not health coverage.
4 Will I get a regular statement outlining
•Comparison shop for prescription drugs; prices
can vary greatly. For more information,
q Your savings may not be significant. You AND
may find, in some cases, that if you add up
4 Will services have to be preauthorized to
• Find out if you qualify for EPIC, a New York
the cost of the discount card including any
enrollment and administration fee, your
actual "savings" are wiped out. Try to figure
get the discount? State-sponsored prescription plan for seniors,
by calling toll-free at 1-800-332-3742 or
out how and where you spend your health
care dollars and whether a discount card
would really save you enough to be
4 Will my medical or personal information visiting www.health.ny.state.us; worthwhile.
be kept private?
• If you are uninsured, ask q Your consumer protections are limited.
your doctor or Discount card programs don't have the
4 If the plan offers a 24-hour "nurse" help consumer protections usually found in health
line, confirm its hours of operation, and hospital if a insurance. For example, there is no guarantee
ask if those answering the help line have discount is of access to health care services, and discount
medical training. available. Some card sales people, unlike insurance brokers,
pharmacies do not need to be licensed.
and drug q If you already have health insurance
MAKE A SMART PURCHASE manufacturers coverage, a discount card won't be
also have worthwhile if it merely duplicates your
• Never give your credit card number or discount programs coverage. For example, if you have insurance
that are free or low cost; coverage for hospital and doctor visits, a
bank account information unless you are discount card for those services
sure you want to enroll in the discount will probably not provide you
card program; • Try to get health insurance. For more with any additional benefits
information on insurance coverage in New or savings. However, if your
• If you shop through the Internet, be York State call toll-free at 1-866-432-5849 or insurance doesn't cover
go to www.ins.state.ny.us/healthyny.htm. For prescription drugs, a discount
careful about disclosing personal card limited to prescription
information such as your mother's maiden information about Family Health Plus or drugs may save you some
name, your Social Security number, and Child Health Plus, New York's health money.
your date of birth; opt out of possible insurance programs for eligible families, go to
information sharing. Be sure to get a www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/fhplus/index.htm q If you drop your health insurance to buy
or call your local Department of Social a discount card, watch out! You may face a
phone number and address for the waiting period for pre-existing conditions if
discount card program and keep copies of Services office. you decide to buy a new health insurance ELIOT M. CUOMO
everything you submit. plan in the future. ATTORNEY GENERAL
FREE AT LAST...NO MONTHLY Recently, the number of companies offering THE CONSUMER FRAUDS AND MAKE A SMART SELECTION
CHARGES, NO PREMIUMS, NO
CO-PAYMENTS, NO discount card programs for health care services PROTECTION BUREAU
LIMITS OR and prescription drugs has increased dramatically. The Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Here are some tips to help you shop smartly:
MAXIMUMS, New Yorkers, especially seniors and the Frauds and Protection is dedicated to prosecuting
FREE... uninsured, are being bombarded with ads, direct businesses and individuals engaged in fraudulent, • Shop around – the cost of a discount card
mail or telephone solicitations by companies that misleading, deceptive or illegal trade practices. The membership could range from $0 or $5 to
claim to offer savings up to 80% on prescription Bureau also provides mediation services to New $100 or $120 for a similar discount card
SAVE Yorkers to help resolve their individual complaints program, plus additional charges like
UP TO drugs, dentist and doctor office visits, hospital administrative fees. Keep in mind that some
and emergency room visits, eye glasses, hearing against businesses. Additionally, the Bureau conducts
80% ON ALL marketing companies take an existing card,
statewide community outreach programs to increase
HEALTHCARE aids – even veterinary care. At a time when package it under a new name, and charge
AND Rx COSTS consumer awareness and provides educational
consumers are looking to save on their health double for the new card.
assistance through informational brochures. The
care bills, these offers may sound too good to be
Over 50,000 healthcare providers, more than Bureau also drafts legislation, studies emerging
100 board-certified specialties and 150 Metro true. And they sometimes are - the Attorney consumer problems and releases in-depth reports on • Be wary of paying large sums in advance for a
area hospitals to choose from. Plus, all major General has found that some companies' claims of issues affecting consumers. In 2001, the Bureau discount card. The fees for most discount
chain drug stores and pharmacies savings of up to 80% are misleading. received over 55,000 complaints and successfully
cards are usually fairly low. Always check the
nationwide... refund policy.
recovered $7,666,380 for consumers.
However, reputable discount cards can
SIGN UP FOR [NAME OF DISCOUNT
provide savings on health care services and To obtain a complaint form to begin your mediation • Ask your doctor, local hospital, pharmacy and
CARD] AND START SAVING process, call the Attorney General's Consumer other providers if they accept the card before
prescription drugs. This guide can help you
decide whether a discount card program fits your Helpline at 1-800-771-7755 option 2 or visit you sign up.
Have you seen this ad?
health needs. And, if you choose to enroll in one www.oag.ny.gov
Ms. C, a 67-year-old wheelchair-bound heart • Watch out
of these programs, this guide also provides tips to for any claims
patient, saw an ad like it. She paid $110 to enroll help you get the best value for your money. THE HEALTH CARE BUREAU
in a prescription drug discount card program that The Attorney General's Health Care Bureau that suggest a
listed her neighborhood drugstore in its network protects - and advocates for - the rights of all health discount card
of pharmacies. When Ms. C went to use her card, care consumers statewide. The Bureau operates a toll- is sponsored
however, her pharmacist refused to accept it, HOW DO DISCOUNT CARDS WORK? by a
saying that he had never heard of it. Ms. C's free Health Care Helpline that assists New Yorkers
complaint along with several others triggered an with individual problems. Helpline mediators and
Discount card programs usually offer a agency or a
investigation by the Attorney General's office. intake staff are trained in alternative dispute resolution
"membership" for a monthly or annual fee and well-known
The company agreed to discontinue its deceptive and work directly with all parties to assist consumers organization. Some
practice of listing pharmacies as members of its members are typically required to have a debit or in receiving the care they are entitled to under state
network when they were not. credit card. In return for the fee, you get a discount cards use names or "seals of
law. The Bureau tracks consumer complaints statewide approval" that closely resemble such
discount card that is accepted by a network of and investigates systemic problems in the operation of
In another case, a telemarketer described a doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and other health organizations. Remember, most discount cards
health discount card program to Mr. W, a 45- the health care system. Where appropriate, the programs are run by private for-profit
care providers. The network providers accept the Bureau's attorneys bring law enforcement actions businesses.
year-old uninsured Brooklyn resident. Mr. W
agreed to review more information after being reduced rates to reach more customers. Typically, against health care entities. The Bureau also drafts and
told that a packet would be mailed to him if he when you see a doctor or other provider in the proposes legislation to enhance health care quality and • Carefully read all materials - especially the
gave his checking account number. Two weeks network, you present your discount card and pay availability in New York State. The Bureau has fine print. Unlike insurance, discount cards
later, Mr. W discovered a withdrawal of $349 a discounted fee-for- service with a debit or credit successfully obtained access to health care for are largely unregulated. Check if you can
without his authorization. Mr. W repeatedly card or cash. Sometimes you pay the doctor's full thousands of New Yorkers and estimates that it has cancel your membership at any time and get
called the company to demand a refund. The fee, but receive the discount as a credit to your a refund. Also, some cards offering discounts
company denied Mr. W a refund, saying he had helped consumers save over $5 million by resolving
signed up for the program, and played back a credit card account. The amount of discount can their coverage disputes with health plans. on hospital care require you to make a
recording of Mr. W providing his checking vary by provider and service. For example, one deposit ranging from several hundreds to
To obtain direct assistance in resolving disputes with thousands of dollars before you can get any
account number to support its claim. Mr. W dentist may discount a check-up by 20% and a
called the Attorney General's Health Care your health plan or to file a complaint, contact the discount on hospital services.
filling by 10% but another may only discount the Attorney General's Health Care Helpline at
Bureau, which intervened on his behalf. The same services by 15% and 5%, respectively.
company gave Mr. W a full refund. 1-800-771-7755 option 3.