The Consumer Health Alliance says employers help pay for 73 percent of discount vision plan memberships. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The Consumer Health Alliance, a group for health discount programs, says 27 million U.S. residents use stand-alone dental or vision discount programs.

About 10 percent of dental patients, and 16 percent of vision care patients, use stand-alone discount programs when paying for care, the CHA says. 

Related: The case for dental discount plans [Infographic]

Discount program managers formed the group in 2001, partly in response to consumer complaints about fake discount card programs. The early members are also responding to health care provider complaints about programs that used “silent” provider networks, or provider networks sublet from traditional insurance plans, without any notice given to the providers.

The CHA says in a new industry report that it developed a code of conduct to try to prevent those kinds of problems. More than 25 states have adopted a model law based on that standard, which was approved for use by the Kansas City, Missouri-based National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2006.

Today, employers pay at least part of the discount program cost for 57 percent of dental discount plan users and 73 percent of vision discount plan users, the group says.

Some of the health plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program offer optional discount plans.

The Federal Employee Dental and Vision Benefits Enhancement Act of 2004 requires the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to offer discount dental and vision plans along with insured dental and vision plans. OPM has not yet added the discount plans to the dental and vision plan menu, according to the CHA.

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