How bad is GoodRx for your privacy?
Sad to Say, We’re Number One
Healthcare, in general, is a topic that perplexes most. Somehow, amongst the wave of confusion, it still managed to become a secret weapon people use when defending the love of their country. The United States is number one in per capita healthcare spending, close to double the amount of the runner-up. Maybe this means that we as Americans might have the upper hand in quality, resulting in being more knowledgeable on the subject and so earning proper boasting rights.
Not exactly, approximately 90 million adults in the United States lack proper health literacy. We are also used to assuming that higher costs and spending means better results, but unfortunately, healthcare is an exception to that rule. Compared to other developed countries, though America’s healthcare spending is the highest, we still fall short when it comes to life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, quality of primary care, and quality of acute care. To make matters worse, the drugs required to sustain a quality life for many of those needing to use any kind of primary care or acute care have hard decisions to make about their spending because of the high cost.
This is not a lesson on America’s healthcare, but knowing this information can put you in a position to better understand the anger that may result from healthcare companies building a foundation centered around purposefully abusing people’s vulnerability. With the high prices of prescriptions, lack of understanding of the healthcare system, and media outlets seeming to repeatedly remind you that you’re kind of on your own, it’s no shocker that most individuals are going to willingly do their own research to find a solution. Big-name companies know this, and some are willing to go as far as bending and redefining the law to take advantage.
Your Prescription Drugs Need You
Let’s focus specifically on prescription drugs. An estimated 70% of Americans have prescribed drugs for one reason or another. Almost 50% of that bunch are estimated to not take their medication, the reasons behind it being an influx list of deeper rooted issues in the healthcare system which among them lies cost. The majority of the prescription cost climbs alongside its victims, with statistics revealing that the older you get, the more you are burdened with its impact.
The older generation is paying for more than half the overall out-of-pocket costs for the prescribed drugs with their average annual out-of-pocket cost more than doubling the amount paid by the previous generation. There are many options people will default to when it comes to their health concerns. Ignoring it, highly unrecommended by experts and non-experts, taking the holistic approach, or like most Americans, medicating. Medicine is a convenience to most; to some, it’s a daily decision between life and death. There are people that are choosing between buying groceries or medication and folks who are working well past retirement in order to afford their prescriptions.
This is because medicine, like food and shelter, is an inelastic good, meaning that no matter the price hike, the demand for the good will not drop significantly. Of course, businesses are fully aware of that, and if the American healthcare system’s morals were tossed in the air as a coin, it would be magnetically pulled towards the side labeled profit with the other end, empty, labeled well-being. These businesses need you and are dependent on your lack of better options. When healthcare companies like GoodRx begin to plaster their advertisements stating their goal is to save you money on prescriptions, everyone flocks to it, hoping it’s the saving grace they have been searching for.
How is GoodRx making money, Bad Rx?
As millions of users begin using GoodRx and realize that their prescription can in fact be bought cheaper; some even compared to the prices they pay for medication through their insurance, found that GoodRx is able to save them more money for the same prescription than their insurance. Eventually, a question begins to arise, and it’s only natural to wonder how a business can be profitable when its main service is to provide its clients with a cheaper alternative. How is GoodRx making money?
A simple search can show that advertisements on their platform and payment from the over 70,000 pharmacies that they work with to bring them new clients are what make up most of their profits. There were, however, suspicions that selling client data to third-party companies, like Facebook, is another method of earning revenue. The suspicions began to solidify in mind further when the connections were realized that the co-founder of GoodRx, Doug Hirsch, was an executive at Facebook, though they were never condemned for it.
In 2019, it was reported that GoodRx was giving their user data and information which includes names, birthdates, and health information to third-party companies such as Facebook, for marketing and advertising purposes. Risking your privacy and confidentiality for partnership and profit. There is no need to lecture on the importance of your privacy and the reasons it’s meant to be kept safe. This practice was criticized because it was said to go against regulations such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Since GoodRx was technically not covered by HIPAA and the CCPA does not cover all types of data sharing, the legality of the situation was blurred enough for GoodRx to remain in business.
Though this may first sound like it is to their benefit, their advertisements feature a seal to showcase that GoodRx is “HIPPA secure” when it is not. Overall, GoodRx did not follow the rules set in stone to ensure that users must be notified that their information will be disclosed to third parties without their consent. This criticism and a class action lawsuit raised the concerns of millions of GoodRx users and in return, GoodRx argued to reassure its users that the shared data was considered “de-identified” data.
A settlement was announced in December 2020 relating to the allegations surrounding GoodRx. When it came to a close, GoodRx was responsible for paying $1.5 million in civil penalties and to change their compliance with that of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act.
How To Protect Yourself
We have established businesses like schools to teach our children while we work and provide for the family. We have mechanics that we trust to fix our homes and vehicles so we don’t have to research every part and venture involved in the processes. We are not against paying for service, especially when it is of quality. When it comes to healthcare, not many of us are properly educated, and though it is beneficial to be, we want to trust the hospitals, doctors, and everyone else involved in medicine, to make the decision based on our needs and not take advantage when we are most vulnerable.
Even for those that have adequate education, there seems to be a bit of a compromise when it comes to health may it be via price, being left out of the decision-making, or not being provided the best approach but instead being given options between their expensive solutions. The best way to protect ourselves is to stay educated and do proper research on any healthcare companies we want to trust, especially when they are outside of your insurance. Taking good care of ourselves is always a great option and to also not allow any of our asymptomatic conditions to persist or grow to become a greater challenge later.