New legislation in Oklahoma that defines discount medical plans and protects consumers against high-pressure sales tactics and misleading information is welcome, according to Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland.
Companies are selling the discount health cards to Oklahomans seeking affordable health care. Usually for a monthly fee, the cards claim to save subscribers money by offering discounts on physician visits, hospital stays or other medical treatment.
“These programs are sometimes confusing because they are not insurance, although they are often presented to consumers as insurance or as a substitute for insurance,” Holland said.
A recent complaint came to the Oklahoma Department of Insurance from a woman who purchased a “Maternity Card” from a company promising a discount that would cut her hospital expenses in half. The company issuing the card refused to return her money after the hospital denied the card.
“Consumers have fallen into the trap of purchasing this product without realizing there are a limited amount of providers out there who have agreed to the discount, or even know about the program,” Holland added.
SB 729, which goes into effect Nov. 1, 2005, requires discount medical plan organizations to keep an updated Web site of health care providers who have contracted with them to provide the discounts.
Companies must also register and pay an annual fee with the Oklahoma Insurance Department before doing business in Oklahoma. The department will have authority to regulate discount plan providers and stop them from conducting business if they are found to be fraudulent or practice deceptive sales tactics.
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