Steer clear of health insurance scams

Medical discount card scams
Medical discount card scams © Mega Pixel/

A few years ago, the state of California joined Massachusetts in taking on the sellers of unscrupulous medical discount cards. Presented as a substitute for health insurance or a way to obtain discounts for everything from eye exams to dental work, the cards target mostly poor communities and are often useless. Experts say they expect to see more of these offers in the future.

These cards provide fake lists of providers, phony discounts, and high fees that aren't readily apparent and often mimic health insurance but provide no actual benefits. Ads for them can be found all over the Internet and in print and televised media. Dr. Deborah C. Peel, a physician and founder of the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights, says beware when those selling such cards try and get you to divulge personal information, like your Social Security number.

"Always question why someone needs that information," Peel warns.

How to spot the scam: If you find a discount card you like, research it. If you discover complaints, hidden fees, false or overblown promises, or exorbitant costs, run fast in the opposite direction.

What to do: If you've already signed on with a company that's sold you a bogus discount card, contact your local state department of insurance.


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