New IPP report shows reality of ‘discount’ health

“The future of discount medical plans, in the wake of health reform, is unclear. What is clear is the legion of problems than accompany this sprawling and unevenly regulated industry.”

Five years ago, our “Nonstandard Jobs, Substandard Benefits” report illustrated that Americans in temporary, contract and part-time jobs without health insurance turned to medical discount cards as a substitute, many mistakenly believing they had health coverage.

Colin Gordon
Colin Gordon

Today, the Iowa Policy Project released a new report from Senior Research Consultant Colin Gordon, Not Your Father’s Health Insurance,” which examines the problems emerging with the growth of discount plans in an increasingly expensive and confusing health-care market. “In some cases, states are stepping in to protect consumers,” Gordon says. From the executive summary:

The future of these plans, in the wake of health reform, is unclear — and will depend largely on the pace and terms of its implementation. What is clear, as of this report, is the legion of problems that accompany this sprawling and unevenly regulated industry. These include:

  • Aggressive and deceptive marketing practices which suggest or imply conventional insurance coverage, or exaggerate the savings or discounts offered;
  • Sweeping claims of access to “participating providers,” often in the absence of any clear agreement or commitment by listed providers to honor the plan’s discounts or commitments; and
  • Elusive benefits — given plan costs and provider participation — for most plan members.

Click here to read the one-page executive summary online.
Click here for the 15-page full report in PDF form (19 pages total including cover, executive summary, etc.).


This IPP report is the first among four being produced as part of a $335,043 contract with the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration for research on employment and training costs of uninsurance and the impact on contingent workers. “Not Your Father’s Health Insurance” was funded totally from this federal contract.

Posted by Mike Owen, Assistant Director

Author: iowapolicypoints

Iowa Policy Points is a blog of Common Good Iowa, a new organization built on a collective 50 years of experience of two respected Iowa organizations — the Child and Family Policy Center and the Iowa Policy Project. Learn more at

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