One of the first companies to sell preferred provider organization-style discounts separately from health insurance is fighting with a former distributor.[@@]

Equal Access Health Inc., Arlington, Texas, a distributor of non-insurance health discount programs, says it has filed a suit accusing Precis Inc., Grand Prairie, Texas, the developer of the Care Entr?e medical care discount program, of providing bad service.

Precis has issued a statement of its own suggesting that Equal Access may have contributed to problems it is facing with Texas regulators by leading consumers to believe that the Care Entr?e card provides insurance rather than discounts on medical care.

The Texas attorney general has filed a suit asking Precis to improve customer service and make more of an effort to ensure that consumers understand that its Care Entr?e card is simply a discount card and not a source of health insurance.

Equal Access says it has stopped selling Precis care discount programs but continues to sell other non-insurance programs for health care consumers.

Equal Access says it is publicizing its suit, which was filed in February, in part because out-of-court negotiations with Precis have stalled.

“We have been asking them to improve for nearly 2 years and our patience has expired,” Equal Access Chief Executive Brady Speers says in a statement.

Representatives from Precis were not immediately available to comment on the Equal Access statement, but Precis has responded to the Texas attorney general’s suit with a statement contending that the company already complies with most of the standards described as remedies in the suit.

The other allegations in the suit concern logistical problems that Precis is in the process of trying to solve, Precis says.

“We are disappointed with the lawsuit filed by the state of Texas against Care Entr?e and believe it to be without merit,” Precis says in its statement. “We sincerely believe that Care Entree can resolve the remaining issues without a protracted legal battle, but we plan to vigorously defend ourselves.”

The Care Entr?e program started in 1997, and the program’s parent company merged with Precis, a company that trades on Nasdaq, in 2001.

Precis helped found the Consumer Health Alliance, a discount card group that has established a code of conduct for discount card programs, and the company says it is serious about providing good service for its 50,000 discount card holders.

“The small percentage of illegitimate companies in this industry receives almost 100% of today’s news coverage,” Precis says. “We are not one of those companies!”