Wis. Files Lawsuit Against Health Card Issuer MedLife

April 24, 2007

Dawn Domain signed up as a member of MedLife Plus to receive its card that promised discounts on medical services of up to 80 percent from local providers in Burlington.

But all of the doctors MedLife said would take the card rejected it.

She said she eventually found a dentist who stated he would accept it, but the fee he would charge for taking the discount card would actually be higher than what he normally charges.

Domain and two other Wisconsin residents with similar stories are named in a lawsuit filed Thursday by the state attorney general’s office alleging that MedLife Plus and Full Access Medical, both based in Tennessee, violated state consumer laws.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of issuing discount health care cards to more than 1,000 Wisconsin consumers at a cost of up to $49, including a registration fee.

The companies’ Web sites list offices in Atlanta and Marietta, Ga., but both are registered in Smyrna, Tenn.

State records show Rudick J. Murphy II of Brentwood, Tenn., as both companies’ registered agent. His listed phone number rang to a fax machine on Friday.

The cards purported to give holders medical discounts of up to 80 percent from local providers, but the complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court alleges that few, if any, of the providers listed on the companies’ Web sites or membership materials actually gave price breaks.

Even when discounts were extended, they were not as generous as the companies said they would be, the lawsuit said.

A message left with MedLife Plus at its Marietta, Ga., office was not immediately returned.

The lawsuit claims the company used an entity called “The Journal of American Medicine & Health Care” to promote its scheme, but no such organization exists. The organization figures prominently on the company’s Web site.

“The defendants have designed this Web site to deceive consumers into believing they are dealing with an organization related to the American Medical Association,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit claims the companies broke a Wisconsin law prohibiting unfair trade practices or competition or misrepresenting goods and services being offered.

“Companies may not misrepresent the nature and quality of their products or services in order to make a sale,” Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a prepared statement.

On its Web site, Full Access Medical promotes the card as a medical benefit plan that eliminates red tape and payment delays.

“Our simple plan now provides everyone an opportunity to access quality health care at an affordable price…for just $49 per month. And that’s for the whole family!” the Web site says.

It claims that savings of up to 60 percent are available from more than 425,000 medical professionals nationwide.

The lawsuit seeks damages against the companies and a court order prohibiting them from engaging in the alleged illegal activity. According to the state Department of Justice, the companies face penalties of up to $10,000 for many of the violations. The state also is seeking restitution for affected consumers.

The lawsuit does not specify an amount of damages or the number of alleged violations.

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