What is wrong with Ameriplan?

TA | January 8, 2009

Q: Why were you so negative on the person who had a complaint about Ameriplan?

A: We receive many complaints from people who find that they are enrolled in a health plan that does not provide adequate coverage for medical expenses. While there is nothing wrong with Ameriplan 'per se', there are compelling reasons why this plan is not an attractive choice in any imaginable circumstance. We are sympathetic to consumers who did not understand the limitations of this plan when they enrolled but we believe that the consumer shares responsibility with the marketer and Ameriplan for the damages. There are several quite obvious and compelling reasons why consumers need to pay more attention to this any all other health plans before they enroll. MedSave.com supports PPO discount plan enrollments at ehealthdiscountplan.com enrollments (as well as with several other providers) and these well-established plans are used to contrast the services of Ameriplan.

First, Ameriplan is not a health insurance plan. Ameriplan is a multilevel marketing company promoting a discount pricing plan that might help some consumers save money. The company is clear about this fact on its official marketing materials, unfortunately some of Ameriplan's unlicensed marketing representatives fail to mention this very important fact up front in their marketing. The Ameriplan marketing we often see tends to focus on the emotion-packed issue of health care affordability so that consumers lose sight of what they are buying.

Some people have suggested that Ameriplan is actually a scam (just google "Ameriplan scam" for plenty of examples) but we would not go that far. We believe it is simply a weak business with the problems typical of multi-level marketing and, in any case, a bad consumer choice.

It seems obvious that when low cost health insurance is available in the same price as a discount plan, the insurance is always a better option. Low priced limited benefit health insurance plans like Basic Health Insurance, short term medical insurance, Value Med and Value Hospitalization already include the full benefits of a PPO discount plan so in a sense these plans contain two types of benefits - insurance and discount PPO pricing. Intermediate priced plans like Core Health Insurance provide even better values.

The main shortcoming of Ameriplan as a discount plan is that consumers must pay for medical treatment at the time of service and then submit the bill for re-pricing at a later date. (This consumer warning is clearly printed in bold red ink on Ameriplan's Web site). In contrast, health insurance contracts typically allow the patient to defer their portion of the payment (other than deductible of co-payment) for at least as long as it takes for the insurance company to process the claim. This helps consumers "buy time" and budget their medical expenses, especially when treatment is needed on an emergency basis.

If a discount plan is desired and health insurance is unavailable or unaffordable, there are plenty of more reputable and lower priced choices available throughout the United States. 

Second, discount pricing should follow a code of conduct that is fair to consumers. Some of this conduct is required by law and some is just good business policy. It is our opinion based on Internet advertisements that some Ameriplan marketing published by its unlicensed marketers does not meet state laws and may be deemed misleading by state regulators.

Third, we believe that PPO discount plans should be offered for free with insurance or at a minimal cost outside of insurance. It makes no sense to spend a lot of money on a benefit plan that is supposed to save you money! The cost of the PPO plan enrollment directly reduces your net savings on health care. The best PPO discount plans tend to be the least expensive ones; we cover this topic in more detail in other PPO plan reviews.

Fourth,  it appears that Ameriplan marketers named in complaints are not licensed health benefit professionals. Instead, we suspect they might be part-time contractors attracted by the "get rich quick" recruitment efforts of Internet-based pyramid schemes. Even those marketers who are motivated by good intention appear to lack the education and training to make valuable recommendations to the public. From our perspective, it makes sense to get health benefits advice from licensed, trained and experienced professionals.

Fifth, the Ameriplan discount provider network is inadequate in many locations and clearly inferior with other available PPO discount plans. In contrast consider the PPO discount plans offered by Careington, the nations largest provider of these benefit plans. Careington offers access to the nation's highly praised Private Health Care Systems Inc. (PHCS) network of providers. Based on our spot check of a few random zip codes, It appears that in many locations the number of PHCS providers outnumber the Ameriplan providers by at least 10 to 1. To see a list of PHCS providers in your area, go to www.ehealthdscountplan.com and click "Find a Provider".

Sixth, Ameriplan network does not include any hospitals. Since such a large portion of catastrophic medical bills come from hospitals rather than physicians' practices, this cripples the effectiveness of Ameriplan. In contrast, all of the medical PPO plans (with the exception of Rx or dental only plans) listed at MedSave.com include a hospital network.

Seventh, to our knowledge, all reputable PPO discount plans (including all of the discount plans offered here at MedSave.com) offer a risk-free trial period so that consumers can evaluate the benefits of this service without financial risk. In some states, this risk-free trial provision is required by law. Placing a time limit (for example 30 days) tends to prompt consumers to check out the plan early as possible rather than wait until a more serious medical problem arises (and they discover inadequate coverage). We see no mention of the risk-free trial on Ameriplan's Web site. While we have no knowledge of their internal operating procedures, we can conclude that the company does not choose to advertise this risk-free trial as a "front and center" basis like other prominent providers of PPO discount plans. See www.ehealthdiscountplan.com for a contrast in how this risk-free trial is clearly explained prior to enrollment.

Eighth, we believe that the close similarities between the name and swirling red stripes logo of "Amerihealth" (a reputable and well-established health care company) and "Ameriplan" (a more recent marketing company) is confusing to consumers. Regardless of whether this is a legal similarity or an illegal copyright infringement, it is potentially damaging to consumers who may attribute the good consumer reputation of Amerihealth to the less reputable company.

The reasons to avoid Ameriplan might continue, but we believe this is more than adequate reason to convince any consumer to steer clear or this company.


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