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Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: 'NH' drug discount card arrives, courtesy of Florida company

By MIKE COTE
March 03. 2018 6:29PM




My free Pharmacy Discount Card from the New Hampshire Prescription Assistance Program arrived in the mail Monday promising savings of up to "75 percent on more than 50,000 branded and generic prescription drugs at over 60,000 participating pharmacies nationwide."

The official looking seal on the letter and the Concord P.O. box address made me wonder whether the program was associated with a government agency or was connected to one of my health care providers.

But only for a second or two.

Among the participating pharmacies mentioned in the letter are some you can find in the Granite State - Walgreens, CVS, Target, Walmart - and some you would have to travel hundreds of miles to visit, like Publix, Winn Dixie and Safeway. I haven't shopped at Publix or Winn Dixie since I left Florida about 20 years ago, and I used to live next door to a Safeway in Colorado.

Does Jordan Sessler, who signed the letter as "director of card membership," know that? I doubt it, but I do wonder how he got my address and why he sent me a pair of discount cards.

"George B." had the same reaction when his wife received a similar "USA Medical Card" from the same company a couple of years ago. He told the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Florida about it.

"I ran a check on the company and what I found was that it was very hard to find information about them!" according to George's comments posted at BBB.org. "Discounts? Possible but not real probable. What I believe happens is that the company gets paid for you to use the card at a pharmacy."

By George, I think he's on to something.

While the company's mailings are deceptive, USA Medical Card is more transparent on its website. In a "frequently asked questions" section, the company explains how it makes money.

"Through our partnerships with the nation's leading prescription claims administrators (known as Pharmacy Benefit Managers or PBMS), we have bulk buying power on prescriptions and can negotiate the deepest possible discounts. Our partners pay us when you use the card - that's why it's free."

So why not put that kind of information in the mailing?

Nothing on the letter indicates that the New Hampshire Prescription Assistance Program is affiliated with USA Medical. The only clue is the www.PrescriptionAssistance.Info website listed at the bottom. Visit that and you'll see a landing page branded USA Medical Prescription Assistance Program. Only there will you see disclaimers that the program is not affiliated with the government or Medicare and that it's not a substitute for insurance.

Because USA Medical provides its cards for free, the company doesn't fall under the jurisdiction of the New Hampshire Insurance Department, which regulates discount providers only when there is a fee associated with the program, the department said.

"New Hampshire residents should do their own research about prescription assistance cards they receive in the mail and be aware of the organizations they provide their personal information to," Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny said in a statement provided to the Sunday News. "If someone ever has a question about a prescription assistance card, they can call the Insurance Department for answers."

To his credit, Jordan Sessler responded to George B.'s complaint to the BBB, identifying himself as founder and president of USA Medical Card. He thanked George for bringing to his attention that the card's privacy policy was difficult to read. He said the average savings on the card in 2015 was 44 percent.

"That reflects average discounts of 15% to 75% on generics and 15% to 25% on brand name medicines," Sessler wrote.

I reached out to Sessler via phone and email Thursday, but he did not respond. Sessler's LinkedIn account says that since 2011 he's been president and co-founder of Acquire Health LLC, which is listed as an alternate business name for USA Medical Card by the BBB. The bureau lists the company's address as 465 Grand Blvd., Suite 206, Miramar, FL 32550-1897.

The BBB listed eight complaints against USA Medical, to which the company responded. All the complaints were basically same: that consumers had received the cards unsolicited and did not want them. Some expressed concerns about privacy.

USA Medical mailed out 7.5 million cards in a single year, the company told the BBB in 2016, suggesting that a handful of complaints was not statistically significant.

The company may be right about that, but the only "New Hampshire" in the New Hampshire Prescription Assistance Program appears to be a post office box in Concord.

Contact Business Editor Mike Cote at 206-7724 or mcote@unionleader.com.


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