Are Discount Prescription Drug Plans a Scam?

You’ve seen the ads, heard the claims: Save hundreds on prescription medicines- if you enroll in a discount prescription drug plan. There are even discount retail chains offering special “pharmacy clubs” for commonly prescribed generics as low as $4 per script. And many of these discount cards are free!

Even if you already have prescription coverage through your health insurance or Medicare, with the costs for prescription drugs skyrocketing over the last decade, lower costs sounds awfully inviting. But should you believe the claims? Are they really all they’re cracked up to be? Or are they just one more opportunity for unscrupulous companies or criminal con men to take advantage of the trusting consumer?

In all honesty, it’s a little bit of both. So, be wary. There are legitimate discount prescription drug plans. But there are also crooks attempting to scam those in need by mimicking the marketing tactics of real discount providers.


The best defense a consumer has is “due diligence.” That’s a fancy term for researching the company that’s offering the plan before you sign anything or provide them with any information about you. Call the Better Business Bureau. Ask for references. Look them up on the Internet and see if other consumers have been happy with their plan and its performance.

Tips for Making the Right Choice

Here are a few things to consider to determine if a discount prescription plan is the real deal:

  • There’s no such thing as “free” - That’s not necessarily true. Retail stores such as Wal-Mart and K-Mart are currently offering free discount prescription plans for commonly prescribed medicines. Covered drugs can cost as little as $4! But depending on your specific needs, a fee-based plan may be in order. Despite the up-front cost, you can save in the end with expensive brand name prescriptions.
  • Sorry, but that’s not covered - Legitimate discount cards often vary in which prescriptions they cover and at what level of savings. So consider the kinds of medications you or your family are regularly prescribed. See if a particular plan covers those. If they aren’t covered, you should look elsewhere.
  • Ring-ring! Have we got a card for you! - Companies offering discount drug plans are not allowed by law to call you uninvited, email you, or sell cards door-to-door. They are allowed to advertise on the Internet, by mail, on TV or radio, or in the newspaper or other print media such as magazines and pamphlets.
  • If you can’t decide, why’d you even call? High pressure sales tactics are always a bad sign, especially when a careful examination of a plan’s benefits require time and consideration. Look for a company that demonstrates good customer service and concern for their customers.
  • All I need now is your bank account number Some scammers are actually identity thieves using the demand for discount prescription cards to obtain information from unsuspecting consumers. As a rule, never give out your Social Security number, a credit card number, or bank account numbers unless you are absolutely sure that the company asking for it is legitimate.

For some, a discount prescription card can mean hundreds of dollars worth of savings. But as with any financial decision, it is wise to do some research. And do the math: if the enrollment fees outweigh the savings offered or that you are likely to gain, then that obviously isn’t the card for you. And only consider cards that offer you guaranteed savings or your money back.

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