Thursday, February 27, 2014

National Prescription Savings Network?

You may receive an unsolicited "prescription savings card" in the mail from National Prescription Savings Network, or a similarly named company.   Toss it in the trash.

In the mail today,  a window envelope with "Cards XXX enclosed" (in that computerized font that VISA and MASTERCARD uses) and the hefty feel of a credit card enclosure.   My first reaction is "If these are real credit cards, this is not a very safe way to mail them!"

But I open it up and there is this letter from the "National Prescription Savings Network" promising me "up to 75% off" on my prescriptions if I just "present this card" when I get a prescription filled.

This is not insurance, the letter says.  It is not part of a government plan, either.   I don't have to pay a fee, or join or anything.

So what gives?  Why would someone give out a card for free that would give you a discount?

Well, they aren't giving out free money samples today at the bank.  And in fact, no one gives away things for free.

There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - TANSTAAFL!

So what are these people after?  Your money?  Maybe.  Personal information?  Maybe as well.   They are certainly after something, because no one - no one - just gives stuff away for free.

And of course, once again, we have a letter that is faked up to look like something from your insurance company, your credit card company, or the government, although if you read it carefully, it clearly is none of the above.

If you Google "national prescription savings network" you come up with some interesting hits.  In some instances, it seems they actually charge you more than the "cash price" for a prescription.   And if you have existing insurance, it is a far worse price.


"We showed the prescription cards to Tracie Mims at Family Pharmacy in Aiken. She says the cards offer little to no savings and only work for the uninsured.  We asked her if it was more of a trick than a treat when comparing the savings with the card to their own cash prices on various drugs.. "A trick," says Mims. While she is dressed for Halloween she also wants to dispel some myths about using some discount drug cards.  "If we submit a claim for that discount card it comes back close very close to our cash price. Sometimes more expensive than our cash price," says Mims."
"For example, Hydrochlorothiazide is $5.34 at Family Pharmacy and using the U.S. Prescription Discounts card it totaled 30 cents more. Even a more expensive drug like Nexium is $245 at Family Pharmacy and with the U.S. Prescription Discounts card the savings was only about $1.  "All your personal information that you give to the pharmacy is subject to go to these insurance companies," says Mims. Including what kind of medications you take. We investigated the company and discovered the Washington, D.C. address is just post office box inside a UPS store."
"The New York Better Business Bureau says the company name is Script Relief LLC which gets a C rating. The BBB says the company has these five alternate business names:
U..S. Prescription Discounts
Help Rx
National Prescription Savings Network
The Healthcare Alliance
"It submits to that discount card and they can know all the information about you," says Mims. Knowing this information now, Thelma Thornton says she knows what she will do with her cards. "I guess I will just throw them away," says Thornton."

The bottom line is that if you already have insurance you likely get a better deal with your co-pay than you do with this card, which might give a slight discount off the cash price of a drug.   By the way, it pays to ask what the cash price is, of any prescription, as it could be lower than your co-pay, and not all pharmacies automatically give you the lower price.

For example, I was a member of the Walgreens pharmacy plan (which had an annual fee) and my prescription under that plan was $9.99.   I wend to the pharmacy and they charged me the $15 co-pay that my insurance provided.   When I pointed out that I was part of the $9.99 plan, the pharmacist got all huffy and said, "well, you can't use both plans!"

To which I replied, "I'm not trying to.  I just want to use the one that costs less!"

I no longer shop at Walgreens or CVS.   Grocery store pharmacies are more convenient, easier to use, and cheaper.   I can now get that same prescription for $9.99 for a three month supply at Winn Dixie, and no annual fee is involved.

Many drugs are, in fact, cheap.   I went to the doctor for an antibiotic the other day, and she mentioned three pharmacies that would fill the prescription  for free -  without any insurance or co-pay.

So you have to watch pharmacies carefully and ask pointed questions, because they might not charge you the lowest possible price, unless you force the issue.   And if you present this "card" to a pharmacist, he may or may not point out to you that the cost is higher than your co-pay or the even the cash price.

Only an idiot would pay the "retail cash price" for a prescription at any pharmacy.  With prescription clubs offered by the pharmacies, you can get huge discounts automatically.  And if you already have insurance (which everyone should, now that Obamacare is here, right?) then you would likely get a better deal, using your insurance, than one of these cards.

So, the bottom line is this:  These people send you a card in a mailing that at first glance, looks like something from the government, your credit card company, or your insurance company.  This is deceptive and misleading.   Do you need to know any more?  They have telegraphed, up front, what sort of folks they are.  The relationship will not go uphill from there.

Second of all, they don't explain, in their letter, how their system works, or how, for no fee on your part that you are going to get something at a discount.    If someone can't explain, in ten words or less, what they do, they are likely trying to deceive you.

And if someone is operating under at least five different business names, you should think long and hard as to why they are doing this.

And I think the idea is this:  To get people to think this is their new insurance card, and to use this card in place of insurance and actually pay more for prescriptions.  The company gets a cut of this, and the pharmacy gets to charge more for the prescription.   They win, you lose.   No wonder it's free!

So, just toss it in the trash with the rest of the junk mail.  And walk away from free lunches.

Basically, anything that arrives in the mail, unsolicited, should be treated as junk mail and tossed.   You are never, ever, ever going to get a great deal from some unsolicited mailing, particularly one that is faked up to look "official".

UPDATE  May 2014:   A set of "prescription savings cards" arrives today in the junk mail - not even addressed to a named individual.  This time, they are in the name of "Healthcare Alliance".   Toss in the trash.


"How does the company make any money? They get a small amount, like a processing fee, from pharmaceutical companies when the cards are used; they’re aligned with this company to provide the discount the user receives."

In other words, they may or may not give you a "discount" from retail prices, but they get a small fee if you use the card.  If you mistakenly think this is your new insurance card and use it instead, you end up paying close to retail prices for prescriptions (instead of your co-pay) and get ripped off, and they get paid.

THAT is the gag...  They want confused people to think that this is their new Obamacare prescription card, when it ain't.