Scam and fraud tactics employed by unscrupulous companies in the health care industry seem to be on the rise, partly because of the rise in medical costs.
Although I believe the majority of companies offering discount health and dental plans are honest and legitimate, more and more of them are out to rip off the uneducated consumer with their money making scams. And these are the ones you have to look out for.
(If I sound a bit harsh, it's because I don't have any respect for a person or company whose sole purpose is to take advantage of another person, period. And I want to make sure you know the tactics they use to bilk hundreds of people out of their hard-earned money.
To lessen your chances of becoming the victim of a discount health plan or dental plan scam artist, here are some things you should look out for.
(But first, a quick definition of “discount plans")
Discount plans work by memberships. You apply for membership with a company that offers the plan and agree to pay a monthly fee. In return, your health care provider offers deep discounts on health dental services.
When you visit your doctor or dentist, you simply present your discount card for an instant discount. Since discount plans are not the same as insurance, you are responsible for paying for all services, but you're able to get health care at savings up to 50% or more, depending on the plan you choose.
Now back to some of the ripoff tactics scam artists use. I have investigated more than 30 companies offering discount health and dental plans and here are just a few of the schemes I've noted.
The “Confirm Your Information" Approach
Be wary of companies who say they want to “confirm" your credit card or checking account information, as if they already have the information. Don't fall for this one. With your financial information in hand, they're now free to make unauthorized charges to your account. But if they already have your information, there's no need to “confirm" anything. Just hang up on them. . . and keep on pushing.
Ghosts in the Closet?
Legitimate companies have legitimate discount plans that include medical, dental, prescription, chiropractic and other health related services. But beware of a company that inflates your savings, hides “administrative" costs and inflates the number of providers (doctors, dentists) in its network. With this company you're probably not getting all you bargained for.
They Won't Put it in Writing?
Before you sign on the dotted line for a discount plan, get the details in writing. Make sure you know exactly how much you're paying for your discount “privilege. " Steer clear of companies that are not willing to give a list of providers with addresses and phone numbers. If for any reason you ‘re not able to drag this information out of them, it's probably a fraud, so. . . keep on pushing.
But It's Not “Insurance?"
Be suspicious if a discount plan company rep attempts to mislead you into believing the discount plan is insurance.
Here's a dead giveaway. . .
They try to confuse you with insurance-related terms like premiums, coverage, and benefits. Signing up for a legitimate plan is one of the smartest moves you can make, but you have to remember that discount plans are not insurance.
This one could be one of those insurance scams recently reported in the news. And if the company doesn't make this crystal clear at the beginning, then. . . by now you know what to do.
True Discount or Just a “Plan"?
This one's a given. If the monthly fee you're paying for the plan exceeds the discount you receive, don't sign up for that class. It could be another internet scam.
Don't pay more than $39 a month for a combination medical/dental discount plan that includes the entire household. And don't pay more than $20 a month for a dental plan that includes vision, pharmacy and chiropractic.
Absent From the Web?. . . Not Good
Legitimate discount plans have a web site with information about the company, the plan's benefits and a list of providers. If the company doesn't have a website don't sign up for that class! Check out another company.
Here's why. . .
Because any legitimate company selling health plans has no real excuse for not having a web site. And you should also be suspicious if an ad you're reading doesn't include a web address. The first thing that should pop into your mind is. . .
"Is it a scam"?
Mike Griffith is a freelance writer of 22 years from Dallas, TX. He's also an independent distributor for a major discount plan company. He has researched and investigated more than 30 companies selling discount health and dental plans and has written his findings in more than 40 articles on his website, including how to avoid being scammed by an unscrupulous company. For more information about discount dental and health plans, including his recommendations for a good plan, visit him at http://www.ourdiscountdentalplan.com