Couple In Debt After Thinking Discount Program Was Insurance

When Amanda Duncan was pregnant, she went online and registered with a company that she thought provided insurance that would cover her hospital stay for childbirth.

But Duncan says that a month before the birth, she learned that the company, International Association of Benefits, offered a medical discount program, not insurance. And the doctor she was using -- one that the company said would accept the program -- turned out not to be a participant, Duncan says.

Duncan and her husband then stopped paying their monthly fee to the company and dropped the program. She had the baby without insurance, and the Duncans say they are now $15,000 in debt.

"To this day, I can't believe we fell for it," Duncan's husband told Call 6 for Help's Rafael Sanchez.

IAB told Call 6 that it is an association whose members get discount prices at hundreds of facilities. The Duncans dropped the program before it could help them, IAB said.

Healthcare industry advocates say lawmakers need to regulate medical discount programs and to make such programs take steps to ensure people don’t confuse them for insurance.

In recent weeks, Hancock Memorial Hospital said it has seen a wave of medical discount cards that it does not accept. Last year, the hospital provided $66,000 in medical services to people who were wrongly told that such cards could be used there, Sanchez reported.

Some of the discount plans left people with large bills include Affordable Healthcare Options, Healthcorp International, Heartland Alliance of America, and Family Choice Health Care, Sanchez reported.

As for IAB, it said it plans to refund the membership fees paid by the Duncans. The company also plans to help the Duncans with their outstanding bills, Sanchez reported.

Sanchez said some good health discount programs are monitored by the Consumer Health Alliance. To find out about those programs, visit the CHA's Web site.

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