Higher deductible health plans which allow an individual to pay a lower premium
in exchange for potentially incurring higher out-of-pocket expenses are popular. They are also becoming a factor relative to the extent of coverage under the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Plans. Traditional stand-alone supplemental insurance plans are products that can help fill the voids, but they are expensive and contain many restrictions, limitations, and hefty cost sharing components.
Emerging as the "White Knight" and becoming the shining star in tackling non-covered items and the AFFORDABILITY piece of our health reform puzzle are Discount Health Plans. Companies who market these plans clearly point out they are NOT INSURANCE and DO NOT replace any major medical plans. Rather, discount medical plans are supplemental to what individuals have or don't have and can fill in the gaps that health plans often create. Discount plans are simple and easy to understand. For a modest monthly membership fee (under $20 per month for a family), members receive lower prices (usually from 15% up to 50% lower)--at participating service providers. The concept is similar to being a member of an auto or warehouse club except the focus is on health and wellness.
One such company, Benefit Together, (www.benefittogether.com) a national leader in providing a wide range of discounted health-related products and services with well known, national companies, was formed to help people and companies save money on their spiraling healthcare costs. Its founder, a healthcare expert of 35 years, most recently as the Chief Administrative Officer and head of the healthcare division at J. D. Power and Associates, saw the critical need and put together a list of recognizable, national partners for their members to utilize. Telemedicine, dental, vision, chiropractic, acupuncture, hearing, labs and imaging, and even veterinary care all are included in the bundled package. National partners such as: Aetna Dental Access, VSP Vision, American Specialty Health, Call MD, and Pet Assure are all included in the company's basic plan which goes for $19.95 per month for the entire family. The discount plans are not intended to be just for underinsured or the noninsured individuals. Many of the items that a person can receive savings are excluded in many of the traditional insurance plans. For instance, in the dental field, both the crown and the tooth implant are rarely considered a covered item under the plan's terms and conditions. They are deemed to be cosmetic in nature. Not the case when the patient is a member of a discount health plan. Savings usually in the 30% range are realized on this single procedure alone saving a member hundreds of dollars. A win-win for all.
At the end of the day, our country's health reforms were intended to bring affordable healthcare to all Americans including the approximate 40 million people who had no insurance whatsoever. Whether or not the lofty goals of such legislation are ever achieved or not, time will tell. One thing is for certain. The Affordable Care Act is the piece that is getting all the attention and headlines.
They are many other players in the game that contribute towards making all aspects of a family's healthcare needs affordable.
Now that the next open enrollment period for the ACA doesn't begin again until November 1st, we can all step back and examine what we actually have bought and take the necessary steps to fill the voids. Discount Health Plans are an emerging and affordable option worth looking at.
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