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Groupon’s Discount Medical Scans Raises Controversy

Groupon Offers Discounted Medical Scans

Groupon is selling body scans and ultrasounds in a move that highlights the state of modern healthcare, according to a report by NPR.

"Whether or not a person may philosophically agree that medicine is a business, it is a market," said Steven Howard, leader of Saint Louis University's health administration program.

Howard said medical companies are “meeting people where they are” by offering discounted services through Groupon.

MDSave is a company that contracts with providers to give people discounted vouchers for bundled medical treatment. Company CEO Paul Ketchel said the model has been successful so far.

"All we are really doing is applying the eCommerce concepts and engineering concepts that have been applied to other industries to healthcare," he said. "We are like transacting with Expedia or Kayak, while the rest of the healthcare industry is working with an old-school travel agent."

Groupon said it sets the price for a deal based on competition in the area and then takes a large portion of the money.

"They take about half. It's kind of brutal. It's a tough place to market," said Sami Beydoun, owner of an imaging practice. "But the way I look at it is you're getting decent marketing."

When asked, Groupon didn’t reveal the number of medical procedures it offers or how it prices them.

"Groupon is pleased any time we can save customers time and money on elective services that are important to their daily lives," spokesman Nicholas Halliwell said. "Our marketplace of local services brings affordable dental, chiropractic and eye care, among other procedures and treatments, to our more than 46 million customers daily and helps thousands of medical professional[s] advertise and grow their practices."

Some in the field think the discounted services are filling a need for those who fall through the insurance gap. For example, there is a Groupon for a $99 mammogram. Brittany Swanson, who works in an imaging center in Atlanta, said these types of services are very popular. Mammograms are typically covered by insurance, and the cost of the screening can vary widely when a person doesn’t have coverage, Swanson said.

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