How do I know if this is a scam?

My elderly mom signed up with a company that is going to send her some kind of discount card to use for prescriptions and doctors visits. I googled the phone numbers and got a couple of vague references to it being a scam, but that was all. There’s a street address and website. Not an organization I’ve ever heard of (it’s from out of state). I don’t know if her doctor(s), mail order pharmacy, or our local pharmacy will accept this discount card (she has pretty good insurance, Medicare, etc.). … What I want to know is how can I find out if this is a legitimate deal, that is, who should I call? The drugstore where she gets her meds? The mail order pharmacy? Better Business Bureau? The state, the county, the feds? It promises 5% off on ‘participating’ pharmacies, so I guess I’ll start there…

Are you sure that your Mom doesn’t have to pay first a membership fee or similar, which is rather high compared to dubious/ slim benefits?

The usual way for non-scam cards is to collect data about purchases from the customers and sell that data for “individually tailored ads”. Sometimes even more. To some people, the amount of money the company makes from selling your data, and potential trouble down the road (10 years later, a health insurance denies you for unhealthy lifestyle, because you buy a lot of chips and beer) is very one-sided compared to the measly paybacks the customers get, so in a certain sense, it could be considered a scam.

And some clubs just charge a high membership fee that never pays out in rebates.

Also, with the weird US health insurance system, could this be a new Health insurance, and the card is her membership/ insurance card, hence the discount for certain pharmacies and doctors? And the bill will arrive seperatly, one month later?

I actually heard about these on NPR. It’s a way for name-brand drug companies to steal business away from generics.

Let’s say Lipitor sells for $200 a pill, and the generic sells for $10 a pill. Insurance wants to pass on $2 per pill to the patient, but if it did that, nobody would buy the generic. So it covers $8 of the generic, and only $190 of the name brand. The patient can decide between paying $2/pill for the generic, or $10/pill for the name brand.

The drug companies caught wise to this, so they send out these discount cards, often through intermediaries. The card discounts the price of the name brand pill by $8, which means both pills cost the same to the patient. The patient naturally chooses the name brand pill for $2, the drug company pays $8 to the pharmacy, and the insurance company still pays $200 per pill.

It’s not a scam, insofar as the patient isn’t getting screwed. It’s not good for the insurance companies, and they’re trying to figure out how to combat this now. The net effect on health care costs is left as an exercise to the reader.

Oh, there most definitely is a great big fee! Someone called her on the phone (that’s why I think it’s a scam) and talked her into the great, great savings she’ll be getting, and she “thinks” she put it on her credit card but can’t be sure until the statement comes in. :rolleyes: I don’t have the material they sent her in front of me now, but from what I read it’s paying a big fee to get a discount card. (seems like something they would offer people who have little or no medical insurance).

Call her pharmacy with the name of this this program and see if they honor it, and what the actual savings are if they do. If you email me with the name of this program, I’ll do a quick check on it.

I’m no expert on medical insurance, but when I was helping my mom, I remember reading something about conflicting plans, i.e. if you sign up for X, then you’re not eligible for Y. So make sure that whatever this is doesn’t screw up her primary insurance.

You don’t have to wait for the bill to arrive - call her credit card company (actually have her call, she’s the cardholder), ask if there was indeed a charge, then have her stop it or dispute it until you can get more information.

My county offers a discount card to all county residents for prescriptions (I don’t know the details as I have prescription coverage through my employeer), but it is free, the county does not charge a fee.

The drug discount card I got in the mail claimed that it was “not an insurance plan”, but of course YMMV and not everything companies claim is accurate.

Here is some solid info about ABA and all its sister corporations.

When you say “scam” what exactly did the people say?

There is a “scam” where people take your money and give you nothing, and there is a “scam” where you buy something and get it, but what you buy is pretty worthless.

If your mum is on regular meds, it’s better to go directly to the website of the “name brand” manufacturer of the drug and look THRERE for discount programs.

Most drug companies have reduced rates or even free rates. But you really have to jump through hoops to get them, you have to have next to nothing to get it and it has to be a maintence drug, (Like blood pressure meds) as opposed to a one time thing (such as antibiotics for an infection).

Thank you for your help, Czarcasm, I appreciate it.

I called the local drugstore, the mail order pharmacy, and one of her doctors and the name of this place did not ring a bell with any of them. It doesn’t mean this company does not do what it says - they just don’t have any providers who accept their discount card in this area! For example, there may be a drugstore 50 miles away that will give mom 5% off her Lipitor, so technically they aren’t a scam - “see?? pharmacies do so accept our card, you just have to look hard for them!”

I can just imagine some fast talker calling Mom and she thinking, “5% to 40% off meds, doctors visits, eyeglasses, for a moderate fee? Sweet!”