The retail health landscape continues to grow, now with GNC Health offering a new program featuring telehealth and “curated set” of 40+ generic prescription drugs commonly used in urgent care settings.
The services are available to members of GNC’s new-and-improved loyalty program, GNC PRO Access, which is priced at a fixed fee of $39.99 for one year’s membership. This is available to consumers 18 years of age and older.
“As a trusted brand in the health and wellness space, we are thrilled to expand our efforts in helping our customers Live Well by offering free healthcare services to give them the care they need,” Allison Bentley, the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at GNC, explains in the company’s press release.
You can read more about GNC Health’s details here on the website.
Before we explore the details and what’s under the hood of the offer, note the price and how it’s communicated in this snippet from the program’s website: the health consumer can “unlock $400 in value for just $39.99.”
Here’s how GNC gets to the $400 in benefits.
“Seriously,” the text begins, “you get access to all of this:”
- 10% cash back from all GNC purchases
- 15% cash back on “PRO Days,” special offers throughout the year with bonus points
- A free GNC-branded bar or drink each of 12 months
- Free expedited shipping (think: Amazon Prime-Meets-GNC)
- Other annual savings, and the biggest news beyond general loyalty programs at retail,
- Free Virtual Care with GNC Health, valued at $250. The website notes that there is a 12-visit maximum under this plan.
The virtual care/telehealth services will tie to another “free” aspect of care: medicines, specific to men and to women, and to acute and urgent care.
Here’s a list of the four categories of medicines on the GNC PRO “free formulary,” as it were. These are commonly-prescribed generic medications — for women and men, focused on hair loss, sexual health, skin health and oral contraceptives.
For general health, a broad range of conditions addressing dermatology and skin health, anti-inflammatories, cholesterol, hepatitis, GI issues, migraine, allergy, weight management, and mental health.
For acute care, antibiotics aplenty, pain relief, GI, respiratory/cough, corticosteroids among others commonly prescribed in urgent care clinics and visits.
Based on GNC’s website FAQ fine print, telehealth consultations are conducted with licensed physicians board-certified in the U.S. GNC has been partnering with PursueCare for their telehealth provider network.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: That’s a lot of “free” for $39.99 in any one’s definition of value-based health care — most especially, a consumer’s.
As patients continue to play the role of medical bill payor, the prospect of 12 urgent care or primary care visits, coupled with free generic prescriptions for a range of common complaints offered via a convenient digital front door (via GNC app) will be attractive to some consumers who lack insurance or have health plans with deductibles that people don’t feel they can (or are willing) to meet.
In the program’s FAQs, one question clearly addresses this, transparently and in layperson’s terms:
Q: “Do I need health insurance to use GNC Health?”
A: “Nope — insurance isn’t needed or accepted.”
The great economist Milton Friedman would remind us at this point that “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” and I’ll remind us that there is no such thing as “free healthcare.”
The quid pro quo value exchange is that GNC ramps up its membership list of consumers for the program and the promise of other purchases from the virtual or brick-and-mortar “front of the store.” The loyalty program of cash back and other bonus sales is another benefit, and the once-a-month “free” bar or drink which can also induce a consumer into the retail store close to home that can also generate further purchases for vitamins, minerals, supplements, food replacements, and other goods sold at the GNC store.
GNC also, in a HIPAA-certified manner (explained on the website) that they will be collecting users’ information which consumer-members can access — in the form of visit notes and prescription data, and be able to download and save this information. Over time, such data can be useful to GNC in formulating new programs, promoting services and products to members, and bolster loyalty along the way.
This program raises the bar of services in such direct-to-consumer telehealth and retail health programs, which we’ll continue to see offered to health consumers keen to do more self-care and care at home — including receiving generic medications delivered quickly, Amazon Prime style, once prescribed.
Health care costs continue to be top five health care issues of most importance to U.S. adults.
Here’s the list of those top-of-mind healthcare worries for U.S. consumers, found in the latest Beryl Institute-Ipsos Px Pulse survey published for July 2023.
Out-of-pocket healthcare costs rank top (for 41% of people), followed by affordable health insurance options (39%), cost of health insurance premiums (36%), cost of hospital care (30%), and cost of prescription drugs (29%).
Cost, cost, cost, cost, and cost — above quality of care.
GNC is channeling to the current concerns of health consumers….value in the eye of the beholder and medical bill payer.