Groupons have been in the medical news lately (for example “Groupons For Medical Treatment? Welcome To Today’s U.S. Health Care” and “Groupons for medical care are helping patients save money“) with stories of deeply discounted rates for some medical tests in several local markets across the country.
Here’s the net of the good and bad from a smattering of the news reports.
Good because the lower rates may make the tests affordable for some who need them and who may otherwise pass because they simply can’t afford. In other words, if you have to have a test and don’t have coverage or if you have coverage but your plan’s deductible coupled with your network’s contracted rate for the test are out of reach, the Groupon rate may make it affordable.
Bad because the discounted rates sometimes prompt people to undergo testing unnecessarily and often without their doctor’s input or supervision. In some respects, it could be a cousin to a practice known as “predatory testing” (offering free initial tests designed to encourage more not so free tests and/or costly treatments…….when they may not be necessary or advisable in the first place.)
And, bad because the quality is sometimes not up to par leading to a retest which usually ends up being performed somewhere else at an additional cost. Essentially, patients end up having to pay multiple times to have the test done right.
According to one of the reports “Groupon dictates the price for its deals based on the competition in the area — and then takes a substantial cut”…
‘They take about half. It’s kind of brutal. It’s a tough place to market,’ said a provider that signed on with Groupon to market for his testing facility.”
Makes me think we could do just as well or even better fending for ourselves with a qualified provider of our choosing without Groupon as the middleman. If a test is needed, first talk to your doc and ask for a list of multiple qualified providers. And/or, check your insurance carrier’s online provider network directory for participating providers. Most insurance carriers now have online cost comparison tools that you can access by logging into your account. They are simple to use and allow you to shop for where you receive your healthcare. Once you have your lists of providers, check for quality ratings and pricing information.
After you do a little homework, select a few qualified providers. Ask each of the providers for their best rates; and, what kind of break they’ll give you for pre-payment or paying in cash.