Raising Women’s Voices

Discount Cards and Limited-Benefit Plans: a good solution for those who cannot afford full insurance, or just another part of the problem with American health care?

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on December 2, 2008

The Miami Herald reported on Sunday about some of the big-name health insurance companies’ expansion into a market previously occupied by fringe companies – that of “discount health care.”  The new products include discount cards that can cut the cost of visits to providers who accept the card by 5 to 40 percent, and limited-benefit insurance plans that help cover routine care but not catastrophic care or hospital costs.

Discount cards are not new to the state; Floridians have encountered problems with the cards in the past, many of the complaints coming from people who had thought they were purchasing an insurance plan.  One card, offered by FamilyBlue, just became available in September and has been marketed thus far to hispanic families in Miami-Dade County, many of whom are uninsured and 400 of which have since signed up.

While providing a cheaper option to families who would otherwise go uninsured, the cards do not prove easy for many who use them, even when purchased from brand name insurance companies:

“When a reporter tried the offices of 10 South Florida doctors listed as providers for the FamilyBlue card, one said she accepted the card.

Two of the 10 had never heard of the card or Coverdell, the company that administers it. Two weren’t sure. One was a wrong number. One phone was disconnected. Two didn’t return the call. And one said if the doctor was listed, it meant they probably accepted it.”

The question one is left with after reading the article — Are such programs, designed and administered by insurance companies, the best way to approach the country’s problems of rising health care costs and millions of uninsured Americans?  Or are they band-aid solutions when a comprehensive approach backed by national policy reform is what’s really needed?


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