Unlicensed Health “Insurance”

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Image by Salim Virji via Flickr

Health insurance is–without a doubt–expensive.

As much as I hate the idea of socialized health care, it does have one shiny selling point to counter its absolute immorality: it’s cheap.  Assuming, of course, you ignore the higher taxes and skewed supply/demand balance.

Here in the US, we’re free from that burdensome contrivance.  Instead, we have health care and health insurance industries that are heavily regulated and ultimately run by people who have A) never held a job outside of government or academia, and B) have no idea how to run either a hospital or a business.  That works so much better.    Some days, I think our health system would be better run by giving syringes and band-aids to drunken monkeys.   The high-level decision making wouldn’t be worse.

Thanks to that mess and the high unemployment rate that somehow hasn’t been remedied by the 27 bazillion imaginary jobs that have been save or created in the last 2 years, some people are hurting.    Not the poor.  We have so many “safety net” programs that the poor are covered.  I’m talking about the “too rich to be considered poor, but too poor to be comfortable”, the middle class.

If are much above the poverty line, you will stop qualifying for some of the affordable programs.  The higher above the line you go, the less you qualify for.  That makes sense, but the fact that we have so many safety net programs means there is a lot of demand created by all of the people who are getting their health care “free”.

That drives the prices up for the people who actually have to pay for their own care.  Yes, even if you have an employer-sponsored plan, you are paying for the health insurance.   That insurance is a benefit that is a part of your total compensation.  If employers weren’t paying that, they could afford higher wages.

As the price goes up, employers are moving to a high-deductible plans, which puts a squeeze on the employees’ budgets.   Employees–you and I, the people who actually have to pay these bills–are looking for ways to save money on the care, so they can actually afford to see a doctor.

In response to that squeeze, some unscrupulous people(#$%#@%! scammers) are capitalizing on the financial pain and selling “health discount plans” which promise extensive discounts for a cheap membership fee.   These plans are not insurance.   In a best-case scenario, the discount plans will get you a small discount from a tiny network of doctors and clinics.  Prescription drug plans are no better.  You may get a 60% discount, but only if you use a back-alley pharmacy in Nome, Alaska between the hours of 8 AM and 8:15 AM on January 32nd of odd leap years.

How can you tell it’s a scam?

The scammers will try to sell you on false scarcity. They’ll say the plan is filling up fast and you have to buy now if you want to get in on it.   For all major purchases, if you aren’t going to be allowed time to research your options, assume it’s a scam.  Good deals won’t evaporate.

They aren’t licensed. Call the Department of Commerce for your state and see if the company is a licensed insurance provider.  Pro tip: they aren’t.

They don’t want you to read the plan until after you’ve paid.   That’s a flashing, screaming, electro-shock warning sign for anything.  Once you’ve given them your money, your options are reduced.

The price is amazingly low.  Of course it is.  They aren’t actually providing any services, so their overhead is nonexistent.  They only have to pay for gas to get to the bank to cash your checks.

Really, the best way to judge if something is a scam is to go with your gut. Does it feel like a scam?  Do you feel like you’re getting away with something? Does it sound too good to be true?

To recap: health care/prescription discount plans = bad juju.

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  • 1 comment

    Comments

    1. I thankfully have not come across this yet. Thanks for the heads up. As with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…

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