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Counterattack

If the telemarketer got to you, if the sales guy wore you down, if you think you’ve been scammed, know you are not alone, nor are you doomed.  Here are some suggestions for fighting back.

Before you sign up for any health discount card or other ‘insurance’ type of product, ask the right questions:

  • Discount or insurance?  You need to be clear about the difference between a discount card and health insurance.  Is the card really insurance, meaning that it covers your treatment, or is it rather a discount card that requires you to pay all the bills yourself?
  • What about the fine print? The sales pitch promises and the fine print (the sales brochure or product paperwork) need to agree –  completely.
  • Prices clearly listed? Are prices clearly spelled out?  Do these prices actually offer you a real discount over what you now pay? Take your time and work it out.
  • What are your treatment options?  Determine precisely what medical services, treatments, conditions and medications are included in your plan.  Are the discounts on medicines and treatments you actually need?  Even if there are Rx discounts, check to see if generics would be cheaper still.  You might be surprised.
  • Shady sales pitches: Here are some warning signals of sideways sales pitches:  “Save up to 60% on healthcare“…the term ‘up to’ is without meaning.  “Longterm care” discounts…do not ever mistake this for longterm health insurance, an entirely different concept.  “Guaranteed” benefits…this sounds a lot like insurance; most cards cannot deliver any of their promises.  “Affordable health coverage”…again, the use of the word ‘coverage’ is deliberate; it makes you think you are buying real insurance.
  • Hidden Fees? Check the administration fees tucked into the fine print.  They are often very high, especially if there is a charge every time you use the card.  These fees erode any ‘discount’ benefits you might receive.
  • Evasive pitches? We have all endured the telemarketer or other sales person  who clearly has no idea what he or she is selling.  They are vague, evasive and reluctant to provide any details.  They simply do not answer any questions.  If you ask a specific question, that question merits a specific answer.  Do not let them manipulate you.  And they will try!
  • Delivering the promises: One of the real shames about all of this mock insurance is that you are really being sold access to a list of medical providers – that’s it.  Just a list.  The providers probably have no idea they’ve been listed.  They never contracted to provide the discounts.  The list may well be hopelessly outdated.  Do not believe you have access to a provider network simply because the network’s logo is on a brochure.  Consider who gave you that brochure.  So before you sign anything, or give up any personal details, ask those specific questions: Do the doctors and pharmacies and health care facilities listed currently participate?  Can they prove this?  Is there a professional available to explain how the card works?  Pin them down!
  • Credit card fraud: Do not give your credit card and bank account information to strangers selling discount cards or other products over the phone or online.  Period.
  • Refundable?  Know before you sign up for anything whether your membership fee is refundable should you decide to cancel, whether you can cancel at any time, and what the mechanics of cancelling membership entail.  We repeat: before you sign up for anything!
  • Are others complaining? Contact your state insurance department to see if there are complaints about the discount card you are thinking about buying.  Again, before you sign up!  Do not be afraid to bother the insurance department, by the way.  They are there to protect and educate us…call!
  • Contact the authorities:  Even if you just suspect a scam.  These cards are not regulated, but call the insurance department anyway.  They may be able to direct you to the right authorities.
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