Health Discount Cards

Health discount cards can be a convenient way to save money on your medical, dental, and vision bills. But before you buy one, you should understand what you are getting.

Health discount cards are not a form of health insurance. If you own a health insurance policy, on your own or through your employer, it will pay for all or part of your health care costs. If you have your insurance through an HMO or PPO, you will have limits on which doctors and hospitals you can use, but there will definitely be doctors and hospitals in your area who are covered under your plan.

A health discount card offers discounts on treatment from providers who accept the card. You pay a monthly premium for the card. For the card to be worthwhile, you need to save at least the cost of these premiums on your health care bills. You can use the card only with providers who accept it. The company that issues your card will send you a list of participating providers. Before you invest in a card, you should make sure that the providers you want to use really do accept it. In some states it is illegal for certain provides to offer discounts. In Maryland, for example, hospitals are prohibited by law from offering discounts, so your discount card would not be as useful there.

Discount cards offer some definite advantages. When you use the card, you receive a discounted price for medical, dental, or vision services. Typically, there is no waiting period before you can use the card, and there are no restrictions on pre-existing conditions. There are also no deductibles. You receive the discounted price the first time you use your card. There is also no limit on how many times you can use the card in a given year.

Using a discount card is simple. There are no claim forms or other paperwork to fill out. There are no complicated reimbursement procedures for you or your provider. You simply give your card to your provider and pay the discounted fee that he or she has agreed to.

You can use a discount card as a supplement to your insurance plan. For example, if you belong to an HMO and you want to see a doctor who is not part of the HMO's network, you will probably end up paying all or most of the bill yourself. If this doctor accepts your discount plan, you can save a significant amount of money. You might also decide to use your card to pay for treatment if you have a pre-existing condition not covered by your insurance. Or you might use it for procedures not covered by your insurance, such as cosmetic surgery or experimental treatments.

The main drawback of discount cards is that the doctors you want to use might not accept them. Before you invest in a card, find out if your usual health care providers accept it. Before you receive treatment, call your doctor's office and find out if you can use your card to reduce the price. If you use them wisely, discount cards can save you money.

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