What Discount Medical Programs Mean to The Consumer

The Consumer Health Alliance is the national trade association of the discount healthcare industry. They serve more than 28 million consumers in the United States through its member companies. There are more than 45 major companies who serve consumers throughout the US. Most of these business names are very familiar, such as, AIG, AT& T, AVON, Bank of America and Colorado State University, provide the use of discount medical programs to many members. These programs provide some release to the troublesome situation that is the healthcare crisis. These programs enable consumers to purchase healthcare products and services at discounted rates.

Discount healthcare programs are not insurance. These programs are designed for a wide spectrum of individuals. For individuals without insurance, they provide a way to obtain adequate care and provide substantial savings. For those with limited insurance, they can be offered discounts for services not covered by their insurance plans. One program, AmeriPlan, has been providing these services for approximately 15 years. AmeriPlan can offer its members up to 80% discount on dental services, up to 60% discount on vision services, and up to 50% discount on chiropractic services.

In addition, members can save up to 50% on generic prescriptions and up to 25% on brand-name prescriptions. Monthly fees start at $19.95 per month, per household. There are no waiting periods, no paperwork and the savings are immediate. All ongoing medical problems are accepted and there is no age limit for members. They offer so much for so little, including, Ancillary Services, Hospital Advocacy, 24/7 Nurses Line, and Podiatry Services. These services are all offered at a fraction of the cost of most major insurance plans. The Consumer Health Alliance insures an industry-wide code of conduct for its members. Discount Healthcare programs are, supposedly closely monitored by the CHA, If you are going to place your trust in a program, it is better to put your trust in a company that has a proven track record.

Corporate Behemoths in Healthcare: Will the Patient Win?

The past several weeks have been abuzz with the mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare arena. CVS has purchased Aetna for a cool 69 billion dollars and went through the regulatory process with flying colors. Amazon (on their quest for world domination) has teamed up with Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and financial powerhouse J.P. Morgan to use their resources, influence and power to, according to Buffett, “tackle healthcare costs in our nation.” Buffet also said that because the U.S., at 18% of our gross domestic product, the U.S. is at a competitive disadvantage, at 3.3 trillion dollars annually. He believes the private sector can handle healthcare better than the government.

Albertson’s, a grocery company, is ready to acquire retail pharmacy giant Rite Aid. And now, Cigna, the insurance behemoth, is buying Express Scripts in a deal for upwards of 50 billion. Software giant Apple is dipping their toe into employee health, while things are starting to rumble at Wal-Mart, the retail monster.

After all of that information, you need a breather. But will a disruption by these companies be the thing that makes healthcare better in the U.S.?

Yet, as a patient advocate and caregiver supporter, my main concern is this: Will all of this be a win for patients, caregivers and families? You know – the healthcare customers?

While the shake-up in healthcare is oh-so-long overdue, is the combination of behemoths the right way?

First, this healthcare shake-up won’t be the last of the behemoths to combine. I would be willing to bet on that. We have yet to hear from the likes of Microsoft, Walgreens, Google or any of the Generals (Electric, Motors, Mills). What about other insurers? Where is Humana or United Healthcare in this game?

Many companies will follow suit. It’s just a matter of time. I liken it to the most popular girl in high school getting into a relationship with the most popular boy and becoming a force to be reckoned with. Everyone will see the trend, its benefits and potential, and jump into it. Sorry for the high school analogy.

The point is everyone sees that it is time for change in healthcare.

So what’s in it for patients/customers?

Something we must question is this: Are these corporations in it for the billions of dollars that healthcare is worth or do they really want better conditions, cost and efficiency for patients? Will the combination of all these behemoths reach past their employees and meet the needs of all patients in our nation? What are their motives?

My mission is to empower patients and caregivers to navigate healthcare confidently and correctly, to save them and all parties involved time, money and frustration. I show them that they have rights and responsibilities in their Healthcare journey and must take a strong and active role in their care. Patients are the lifeblood of the healthcare system.

None of these behemoth combinations will be successful without patient/customer buy-in. They’d better put all of their goals into a nice and helpful package for patients so they feel supported and empowered. If these corporations can show how the patient will be helped and how their alliances can save money for all parties involved, they should have no trouble in the regulatory processes they face.

But I implore all of you behemoths… DO SOMETHING.

Do something for the 64% of Americans who avoid getting care because they are afraid of the costs.

Do something for the working poor who make too much for Medicaid and not enough to afford skyrocketing healthcare premiums.

Do something that shows how healthcare can actually be affordable and where service prices do not have to be excessive.