But not all discount plans available are legitimate. The cost of medical and dental work keeps going up, and patients are getting slammed with exorbitant bills. This makes it easy for scam companies to swoop in and offer too-good-to-be-true offers to reduce or eliminate your bills.
The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on health discount plans and fake insurance policies taking advantage of people in tough financial situations.
Our hope is that this information will not deter you from finding and using a discount plan but drive you to thoroughly research a plan before signing up.
Know Your Plan
Health Insurance vs. Health Discounts
Everyone needs health insurance. Not only is it required by law, but it genuinely protects you and your family against catastrophic loss. Any alternative that claims to save you money at the doctor does not fulfill the same requirements.
That said, you might be able to find a supplemental health discount plan that helps with some things your insurance does not, such as chiropractic work and hearing aids. Another option for saving money on alternative healthcare is a site like Groupon, where you can often find savings at chiropractors, nutritionists, health clubs or masseuses. While alternative health discount plans and sites can be a great supplement to health insurance, they should never replace it.
Dental Insurance vs. Dental Discounts
Dental insurance is structured very differently from health insurance and isn’t required by the government. While health insurance has a maximum you have to pay (commonly referred to as a deductible) before they’ll pay the rest, dental insurance has a maximum they have to pay (and you have to pay the rest, no matter what).
For example, we all dislike paying deductibles (they’re like a force field that protects the insurance company from little claims so they don’t have to pay unless things are really bad), but what if the insurance company turned it around on you and only paid the first $1,500 of your claim and you had to pay the rest—not just for one occasion, but for the entire year, no matter what else happened to you? That’s how dental insurance works.
Because of the difference between health insurance and dental insurance, many have concluded that the best option is paying for dental work out-of-pocket. However, a dental discount plan can save you a lot more money than paying cash at the dentist—as long as you join a legitimate, proven plan. Here’s how you can make sure you’re joining a dental discount plan that really works.
How Do I Find a Legitimate Discount Dental Plan?
1) Check Reviews
No company has perfect reviews—and we’d be skeptical of those who do. That said, here are a few things to look for when you’re checking discount plan reviews.
Do the good reviews outweigh the bad?
Every company is going to have both good and bad reviews, but it’s a pretty safe bet to go with a company whose positive reviews greatly outweigh the negative.
Check multiple review sites
Some websites are designed to get objective, mixed reviews (like Facebook, Google, Shopper Approved, Retirement Living, Consumer’s Advocate and Yelp). Others are designed specifically for complaints. If you’re seeing mostly negative reviews, it might be good to double-check other review sites.
How does the company respond?
A good rule of thumb when checking reviews is to see how the company responds when a customer has a bad experience. Do they do everything they can to help the customer resolve the issue? For example, a company can’t get an A+ with the Better Business Bureau unless they have a timely response rate and satisfying resolution for customers.
Bottom line: If a discount company has been scamming their members, the reviews will show it.
2) Look for Clear, Honest Savings
One of the biggest problems the FTC mentions about discount scams is misleading members about promised savings.
One way to ensure your discount plan saves you money on your procedures is if you have access to the full price list before signing up. If the company tries to hide its prices, you could face a lot of hidden fees whenever you try to use the plan.
3) Risk-Free Cancellation Policy
Check the cancellation/refund policy before you sign up. Do you have to jump through numerous hoops to receive even a small percentage of what you originally paid? If so, it may be a scam, because the company wants to keep your money once they’ve got it—even after you figure them out.
Look for something like what 1Dental offers: a 30-day money-back guarantee with no additional cancellation fee (minus the initial setup fee). We think you’ll really benefit from the plan, but we also don’t want to trap you if it’s just not working out for some reason.
Which Discount Plans Can I Trust?
For an example of a legitimate company, the Careington Care 500 Series dental discount plan gives you access to its full list of dental discounts online before you even start an application, so you can know exactly what you’re signing up for. Careington has been around since 1979 and was the first company to invent this kind of dental discount plan. Other reputable companies like Aetna and Cigna soon began following their example.
Is 1Dental a Scam?
Short answer: No, we’re not! Sometimes customers tell us our plan—the Careington Care 500 Series—sounds too good to be true. At 1Dental, we try to be as transparent as we can about plan pricing, dental discounts with our full price list and how our plans work so members enjoy the best savings on dental care and don’t have to worry about getting ripped off.
Hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. have chosen to use these dental savings plans because they truly believe they are the best way to save on dental care. Here are just a few stories that show why:
Common Concerns & 1Dental’s Responses
What if I’m charged more than advertised?
Our dentists are contracted to provide our members with the prices listed on the discounted price lists. We encourage all our members to call us at 800-372-7615 or email us at email@example.com if they are charged incorrectly so we can speak to the dental office and see what’s going on.
For the Careington Care 500 plan (our most popular plan), we also provide the full list of discounts on our website and our app, so members can pull up the list at the dental office to make sure they are charging them the correct pricing.
Some reasons the dentist you visited didn’t honor the discounts can include:
- The dentist isn’t in our network of providers
- You’re visiting a specialist (orthodontist, periodontist, endodontist, pediatric dentist, etc.) who is contracted to offer 20% off their services. General dentists are contracted to discount much more—usually around 50% off their normal rates.
What if their dentists aren’t good dentists?
Our dentists go through a thorough vetting process before being added to our list of providers:
Additionally, we welcome feedback and follow up with member complaints. If our members have complaints about a dentist on our list, we are open to feedback and will look into anything we find suspect to make sure we maintain a list of highly qualified dental providers who take care of our members’ dental needs.
The “discounted prices” are the same as normal dental prices
The American Dental Association (ADA) releases updated dental codes every year to the dental industry. Our “average prices” listed on our website are updated to reflect these prices, and our discounts are adjusted accordingly to offer our members the savings you see listed for each plan.
Occasionally, members come across dental offices near them who offer similar discounts for their patients, but this is the exception and not the rule. Our dental plan guarantees members can save at the approved dental offices in our network.
Their list of dentists is not accurate. The dentists have never heard of the plan.
We strive to make sure our list is as up-to-date as possible, but with thousands of dental access points nationwide, it’s bound to be inaccurate at times.
Sometimes when dentists retire, close their office, move or simply change phone numbers, we don’t hear about the change. We appreciate our members who email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know about dentists who have moved, are no longer in business or no longer take our plan. We update our list accordingly.
Likewise, there can sometimes be confusion when speaking to dental offices about dental plans.
For example, some members call a dentist on our list and let them know they have the “1Dental plan.” Many dentists aren’t familiar with our company name because we’re just the company who sells the plans, not the one who created them. Dental offices are familiar with the plan names that we sell (i.e. the Careington Care 500 plan).
While it’s disheartening to think that some companies have stooped to scamming their customers, know that there are good companies out there who genuinely want to help their customers with a good product and plan.
Just remember these things as you search for a legitimate discount plan:
- Know the type of plan you want (health vs. dental)
- Check for good and bad reviews and look for how the company responds to complaints
- Look for clear, honest pricing so you aren’t taken by surprise and know what you’re going to pay before you visit the dentist or other health provider
- See if there is a risk-free cancellation policy or free trial period to try out the plan for yourself
Discount plans (health and dental plans) are doing great things for families and individuals on a budget. We hope you find the plan that’s right for you and saves you and your family money on your health and dental needs. A good discount plan can make your health and dental work much more affordable.