Along with solicitations from Flying magazine (I’m not a pilot) and North Carolina Game and Fish (I’m not a hunter) and an outfit named EWS offering an extended vehicle warranty (I don’t need one), the recent mail also brought two plastic cards from American Prescription Discounts (who?).
The cards came addressed to Resident Code #HB-8315-78923. That’s me in computer-speak worthy of the Enigma Machine, the fabled German encryption device of World War II.
A letter accompanying the cards spoke glowingly of prescription discounts up to 75 percent for anyone without health insurance. Yes, even with ObamaCare, millions remain without prescription drug coverage, particularly “documented and non-documented Americans.”
I am not one of them, thanks to Medicare Part D and a Medicare Advantage Plan from United Health Care. And neither are the people in my neighborhood, all of whom have health insurance.
Nonetheless, the neighborhood telegraph lit up with questions about these prescription savings cards from an unknown vendor. Actually, many of us have heard from American Prescription Discounts, though under other names.
That’s by design. The same organization operates U.S. Prescription Discounts, Help Rx, National Prescription Savings Network, Rx Relief and The Healthcare Alliance. Which card you get depends on how you’ve been identified through marketing wizardry.
The cards come from the most successful marketing outfit you’ve never heard of, Loeb Enterprises. The New York City-based firm is the brains behind Priceline.com, among other ventures. Prescription savings cards are new territory for Loeb, which partnered with pharmacy benefits manager Catamaran Inc. to market the cards.
Now, if you got a savings card from American Prescription Discounts cum Loeb, your first question was: Is this thing real?
Yes, it is. It’s not a scam, though I’d put it into doubtful territory, and so should you. In fact, the Better Business Bureau in New York gives the cards a C rating, describing them as the equivalent of coupons without expiration dates.
The cards are marketing vehicles. They imply savings from 50 percent to 75 percent, but you’re more likely to find a five-pound gold nugget in your backyard than reap a bushel of savings at your neighborhood CVS or Walgreens.
Pharmacies accept the cards in return for a pittance from Loeb Enterprises – your coupon, so to speak – hoping that you will make impulse purchases of other items while in the store.
That’s much the way supermarket cards work. The money comes from buying more than you planned.
Supermarket cards are one of the great feats of marketing. They scoop up reams of information about our buying habits. Notice that the product coupons you get at Harris-Teeter and Food Lion are geared to your consumption.
The millions of prescription savings cards issued under manifold names by Loeb Enterprises do the same thing. And, just like supermarket cards, using them surrenders a measure of your privacy.
The panoply of names associated with the prescription cards includes ScriptRelief, yet another facet of Loeb Enterprises. ScriptRelief is the umbrella name for the various guises of Loeb’s prescription cards.
On its Website, ScriptRelief vows to never sell or trade your personal data to a third party. However, it freely admits to gleaning data, including Internet addresses and Web browsing habits, for its entities.
ScriptRelief claims that 7.5 million Americans have saved more than $750 million with its prescription cards. Maybe so, but that’s an average of only $100 per person, far from what the cards imply.
The cards work, in the sense that something is better than nothing. But caveat emptor:That something is thin gruel in return for what you give up.
Bob Wilson lives in southwest Durham.