Medical Savings Programs

Written by Sarah Provost
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Self-paid medical savings programs usually take the form of membership plans. You pay an annual fee, and in return receive a card that entitles you to a discount on medical services. You must use providers who are contracted with the program.

The program administrators negotiate with member providers. The providers agree to discount their services, anywhere from 10 to 50 percent, in return for the program's referrals. The providers get increased business, the consumer gets discounted care, and the program administration gets the fee.

Choose a Program According to Your Needs

Is a medical savings program a good option for your health care? If you have an "average" need for medical services, the answer is probably yes. If your needs tend toward either extreme, they may not be the best option for you.

If you have very few occasions to visit a doctor, don't need any medications for chronic conditions and are young and basically healthy, you may not use the services enough for the discounts received to be more than the fees you pay. You might do better with a limited insurance policy to cover major expenses from catastrophic illness or serious accident.

On the other hand, if you are older or in poor health, and there's a possibility you will need significant medical care, hospitalization, or long-term care, you will pay much more than you would with an insurance plan. In these situations, you might be better off paying a higher annual premium for more comprehensive insurance. One problem, however, is that you may not be able to get insurance. In this case, a medical savings program can be extremely helpful, since they seldom apply any restrictions such as excluding pre-existing conditions. Consider all your options and choose your health care plan wisely.

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