Consumer Health
Alliance (CHA)
Resource Center
Discount Healthcare Programs
Discount Healthcare Programs:
A Consumer's Guide to Choosing the Best Program
About the Consumer Health Alliance
The Consumer Health Alliance (CHA) is the national trade association of the discount healthcare industry. Our member companies make healthcare products and services, including prescription drugs, dental, chiropractic, eye care, hearing, and laboratory services, affordable and available to millions of Americans. They do so by providing opportunities for consumers to directly purchase healthcare services and products at discounted rates. The programs they offer are not insurance.

CHA was founded in 2002. Its member companies serve more than 30 million consumers nationwide. Its mission is to educate consumers and regulators about the benefits of discount healthcare programs, promote consumer-friendly business practices and work with state legislators and regulators to ensure that regulation of the industry protects consumers' right to access affordable healthcare services and products.

The discount healthcare industry has grown to serve more than 30 million consumers across the U.S. because consumers seek cost-effective solutions to their basic healthcare needs.

CHA created this guide to help you identify reliable discount healthcare programs.

Why Choose a Discount Healthcare Program?
Discount healthcare programs are NOT insurance.
Discount healthcare programs enable consumers to purchase healthcare products and services from providers at discounted prices.

Many consumers choose a discount healthcare program to complement their health insurance plans by providing discounts on services, such as chiropractic, dental and vision care that are often not covered under insurance plans.

Discount healthcare programs have gained popularity because they provide consumers with low-cost access to the healthcare they need and the opportunity for savings that greatly exceed the cost of the program - all with the flexibility of monthly membership.

In addition, membership in discount healthcare programs typically includes the member's entire household.

How You Benefit with a Discount Healthcare Program
Discount health programs were created to help consumers burdened by the increasing cost of healthcare by providing opportunities to directly purchase healthcare services and products at discounted rates.

Discount healthcare programs offer:
Access: Everyone can use discount programs to receive access to substantial savings on healthcare services - such as prescription drugs, eyeglasses and dental care - that they might otherwise not be able to afford.

Savings: Whether you are someone without insurance, with limited insurance, or even with full health insurance that does not cover all healthcare services, you can save money on your additional healthcare needs with a discount program.

Convenience: Some of the nation's largest healthcare retailers, including national pharmacy and optical chains, participate in discount programs. Many companies offer discount programs that include discounted services offered by:
* Pearle * LensCrafters * Medicine Shoppe
* Safeway * Wal-Mart * Target

Affordability: While the cost of healthcare has risen rapidly in recent years, discount healthcare programs have kept their monthly charges virtually unchanged.
9 Tips for Shopping for a Discount Healthcare Program.
1. Shop around. Every program is different. Find the program that offers the benefits and services that best suit your needs at a reasonable price.

2. Make sure the discount program has clear and understandable disclosure materials that specifically define the terms and conditions of the program.

3. Look for programs that provide toll free numbers and/or websites where you can obtain additional information about the program's' benefits and the healthcare providers who are participating in them.

4. Read the program's complaint and refund policies carefully to determine if they are reasonable. The company should offer a 30-day refund policy for your membership fee.

5. Make sure the program's materials clearly state that the discount program is not insurance.

6. Be sure the program's benefits do not duplicate your current healthcare insurance policy or other health benefits offered by your employer.

7. Be wary of any program that requires large up-front fees.

8. Read all materials carefully.

9. When in doubt about a discount healthcare program, check the company out with your local Better Business Bureau, State Insurance Department, or State Attorney General's office.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are discount healthcare programs?

Discount healthcare programs provide one part of the solution to the nation's healthcare crisis by enabling consumers to purchase healthcare products and services at discounted rates. Discount healthcare programs are not insurance and are not intended to replace insurance. In fact, many consumers choose a discount healthcare program to complement their health insurance plans by providing discounts on services such as vision, chiropractic, and dental care - which are often not covered by insurance plans.

What types of services are typically included by discount healthcare programs?

Discount healthcare programs offer a wide range of services and products including dental services, prescription drugs, vision care, chiropractic procedures, hearing care, laboratory services, nurse information lines, vitamins and alternative medicine. You can choose a program that offers discounts on the services that you need.

Who should use discount healthcare programs?

The wide array of choices in the discount healthcare industry and the many discounts available make it possible for everyone to enjoy the benefits of discount healthcare programs. Discount healthcare programs are designed to provide benefits for a wide-range of consumers. Discount healthcare programs offer substantial savings on everyday health-related expenses such as prescription drugs, eyeglasses and dental care - that they might otherwise not be able to afford.

For those with limited insurance, discount healthcare programs can offer discounts for services that may not be covered by insurance such as vision, dental, and chiropractic care.

How do consumers join discount healthcare programs and how do they work?

You can join discount healthcare programs through an association, union, or other entity with which you are involved. In addition, many of the country's large companies now offer discount healthcare programs to their employees as part of their benefits packages. You can also join directly through a reputable discount healthcare company, such as those associated with the Consumer Health Alliance.

Signing up for a program is easy. Complete an application and pay a monthly fee. You will receive a discount card and membership materials explaining the program. To access care and receive savings, a member must simply provide the discount card to a participating provider at the time health services are rendered and pay the discounted fee.

How do discount healthcare programs offer such benefits?

Discount healthcare programs contract with networks of healthcare providers who have agreed to charge members a discounted rate. These rates are similar to the rates that healthcare providers charge other large customers.

What is the difference between discount healthcare programs and health insurance?

Discount healthcare programs are not insurance. Discount healthcare companies that indicate otherwise are not being truthful. Unlike health insurance, there are no payments made to the provider by the discount healthcare company.

Discount healthcare programs afford consumers the opportunity to directly purchase healthcare services and products from providers at rates discounted below their retail rates. Members are required to pay the providers' discounted fees in full at the time healthcare services are rendered. Consumers are free to make their own choices about which services to purchase and from which participating providers to make those purchases.

Insurance plans, on the other hand, may limit or deny coverage for certain procedures. Insurance plans also pay healthcare providers on behalf of the consumer, while a discount healthcare program member is responsible for paying the entire discounted rate directly to the healthcare provider.

I recently opened a Health Savings Account ("HSA") in conjunction with my high deductible insurance plan. Why would I consider also having a discount health card?

If your high-deductible insurance plan does not provide dental, vision, pharmaceutical benefits or coverage for family members, then a discount healthcare program could be complementary to your insurance plan.

Do I still need insurance if I have a discount healthcare program?

Discount healthcare programs are not intended as a substitute for insurance. Discount programs and insurance plans frequently provide complementary benefits. That is why many of the nation's leading companies offer their employees both insurance plans and discount programs. CHA strongly recommends that each individual evaluate his or her own health needs and the benefits offered by each type of program.

How can consumers be assured the discounts they are receiving are real?

CHA member companies enter into contracts with providers or networks of providers who have agreed to charge our members discounted rates. These rates, which are often substantially lower than the providers' retail rates, must be accurately described in the discount programs' membership materials. Members can always ask their providers to verify the savings that the discount program provides.

How is CHA educating consumers about discount healthcare programs and companies?

CHA has developed background informational and educational materials for consumers and media.These materials are available on our website at www.consumerhealthalliance.org.

How can you tell if a discount healthcare program is reputable?

In addition to this checklist, we recommend consumers look for the Consumer Health Alliance (CHA) logo on the company's marketing materials. CHA helps protect consumers' rights to choose affordable and reputable healthcare programs and products through education and advocacy, and has established an industry-wide Code of Conduct.

Each CHA member company is required to abide by CHA's Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is the centerpiece of our efforts to promote good business practices within the discount healthcare industry, secure and protect consumers' rights to access affordable healthcare and inform the public about the benefits that discount healthcare programs offer to millions of Americans.

What specifically does the Code of Conduct cover?

The Code of Conduct sets baseline standards to help ensure that discount healthcare companies conduct their activities with integrity, fairness and accountability.

The Code of Conduct mandates that member companies describe the terms and conditions of the program, including the nature and range of discounts made available to program members. It requires all participating providers to be under contract to offer discounted rates to members. In addition, the Code of Conduct outlines acceptable practices related to consumer marketing, customer service, complaint resolution, and cancellation policies, among other matters.

CHA hopes that membership in the association is a sign that consumers can look to with confidence in determining the integrity of discount healthcare programs.

Who belongs to CHA?

A current list of CHA member companies that offer discount programs is posted on the CHA website at: www.consumerhealthalliance.org. Click on the "About" tab.

Questions about CHA?

Visit our website at: www.consumerhealthalliance.org to learn more about our member companies and the vital role they play in helping to reduce healthcare costs for you and your family.
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