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Give the Gift of Health Care?

Looking for those last minute holiday gifts? For years, gift certificates have been growing in popularity in the holiday season as people overburdened by work and family choose the presents path of least resistance. Well now the gift card option has entered new realms – if you live in Pennsylvania, that is. One of the state’s largest health insurers, Pittsburgh-based Highmark, is offering the nation’s first “Healthcare Gift Card” to encourage loved ones to visit their doctor or finally fill that pesky prescripton.

For only $4.95, you can purchase the card with a dollar amount anywhere between $25 and $5,000. Forget the power tools – get your husband that much-needed surgery he’s been clamoring for! Your mom’s got cancer? Treat her to some chemo! Or here’s the perfect Secret Santa gift for that co-worker you barely know! Everyone needs health care, right?

Thanks to Highmark’s 18 months of market research, the target audience for these cards is “the sandwich generation” – largely women between 35 and 55. You know, the caregivers who might be dealing with both a college-age child as well as an aging parent. And what better way to make sure your kid doesn’t waste those Christmas greenbacks on a new IPOD; the card can only be used at VISA-certified health service providers.

One local resident responds with disgust. And lest you think Highmark has done this out of the goodness of its heart, the company has applied for a patent. Any other insurer that adopts the scheme would owe Highmark royalties.

by Bill Toland
November 02, 2007
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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