Dear Consumer Ed:
I have been seeing pop-up ads and mail solicitations for prescription discount cards. They aren’t asking for money, but it seems too good to be true. Are such cards legitimate?
Consumer Ed says:
Although prescription discount cards can be legitimate, they can also be misleading in what they advertise and are not always beneficial to the consumer. Prescription discount cards are sent out by organizations or companies that have negotiated price discounts with various pharmacies. These companies receive a small fee from the pharmacy each time you buy a prescription drug with the card, which is why they are able to offer the discount card free of charge. The cards are typically accompanied by advertisements that claim to be able to save you “up to 75 percent” or more on your prescriptions. The problem is that they often do not work as advertised.
It is important to understand that prescription discount cards are not a substitute for your health insurance. The cards do not combine with your health insurance, and, most of the time, your health insurance will result in a lower cost to you than the discount cards. The discount card gives you a discount off of the cash price of the prescription drug. The discount can vary significantly from one pharmacy to the next, but often does not come close to the advertised discount. If you do not have health insurance, the discount cards can potentially save you some money, but it is still beneficial to shop around pharmacies to try and find the lowest price.
If you choose to use one of these discount cards, you should ask the pharmacist to compare the price of the drug under your health insurance to that of the discount card. In the majority of cases, your health insurance will be the better price, but in some instances the discount card can have the better price. The way to get the best deal is to compare prices at multiple drug stores.
When contemplating using a prescription discount card, keep in mind that different cards have different rules and benefits. Using a free discount card to compare pricing with your health insurance can potentially be useful, but you shouldn’t pay any fees for a discount card.
In Georgia, prescription discount cards are regulated under the Fair Business Practices Act. There are certain disclosures that providers of these cards must make in order to comply with the law. These include a disclosure notice prominently stating that such discounts are not insurance, or that such discounts are not specifically authorized under a separate contract with a health care provider to which such discounts are purported to be applicable.
If you believe a company failed to make adequate disclosures, or that you have been the victim of a discount card scam, you should contact the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit by visiting www.consumer.ga.gov, or by calling 404-651-8600. You can also report a scam to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.
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