Buyers Club Memberships Bring Discount Health Care
Many Americans are turning to health "buyers clubs" to get discounts on services and prescription drugs "not typically paid for by health insurance," U.S. News and World Report explains. Under these plans, which have emerged in the last 10 years, members pay a monthly fee in exchange for "deep discounts" with dentists, physicians, vision centers and other providers associated with the plan. One buyer's club, for example, offers cost reductions of 20% for laser eye surgery and 80% for dental cleaning. Another gives members 40% discounts on brand-name medicines ordered by mail. Dennis Bloom, operator of AmeriPlan, likens his company to the grocery discount chains Price Club and Sam's Club. AmeriPlan covers 1 million people who pay $12 a month for individual discounts or $20 a month for households. Other plans, such as HealthAllies.com, charge subscribers a fee for each procedure or purchase instead of asking for a membership fee. According to U.S. News, buyers clubs "make sense" for people with high expenses not covered by their health insurance and those with high deductibles for drugs and services. However, Thomas Rice, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Public Health, warns that consumers should examine closely any discount plan before enrolling. "With these businesses, there's no telling who these providers are," he said, adding that "doctors with the best reputations and busiest practices might not need to drum up businesses by joining a discount plan" (Marcus, U.S. News & World Report, 11/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.