Wis. Office Warns of Discount Health Plans

February 5, 2004

The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) is warning all Wisconsin residents to be leery of faxes and advertisements that offer health care for an entire family or small business for very low monthly payments.

“Rates that sound too good to be true, almost always are,” said Jorge Gomez, Commissioner of Insurance. “These $50-70 offers are not health insurance policies. Instead, they provide discounts off health care services. These discount plans often make grossly inflated promises about savings and benefits. Some providers are not even aware that they are listed in these plan advertisements, and therefore may not agree to accept the discount cards.”

Typical advertisements for the discount plans utilize bold type announcing “HEALTH CARE for your whole family or small business” covering “medical, dental and prescriptions.” The ads also use language that is commonly associated with insurance, such as “coverage” and “premiums.” The text of the ads lists a toll-free number to call, and many of the ads emphasize that consumers must call by a specified day to lock in the advertised rate.

“The red flag is that the ads do not list the name of the company or provider offering these plans. You should always be suspicious of any ad, anywhere, that does not list the name of the company or provider,” said Gomez.

Though the discount plans claim to offer coverage in a variety of areas such as dental, chiropractors, hearing and emergency care, they are not a viable alternative to comprehensive health insurance coverage. Discount plans can be cancelled at any time, do not guarantee advertised services or access to providers, and in the long run, cover only a small percent of medical expenses.

Consumers who have questions concerning discount plan advertisements they have received or who are evaluating similar offers are encouraged to call the OCI Information and Complaints Hotline at 1-800-236-8517 for information about the limitations of the cut-rate plans.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.