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Deal-of-the-day websites begin offering medical services

Groupon customer.JPG

Elective health-related services such as teeth whitening, Lasik surgery and skin rejuvenation treatments have started cropping up on deal-of-the-day websites such as Groupon - and an American Medical News article published online today takes a closer look at this developing trend. Although some health-care providers have found the approach useful to build a client base or increase bookings during slow periods, there are potential drawbacks and legal risks:

David Harlow, an attorney from Newton, Mass., said the service is not for everyone. Physicians need to be careful of the line between elective, out-of-pocket services and those covered by traditional or federally funded insurance. Crossing the line could violate anti-kickback laws, he said.

Because of the split of revenue between the physician and the advertiser, like Groupon, revenue would vary based on volume of business, "and that is basically a no-no if the payer were a federal health care program," Harlow said. Even if it's a federally covered individual paying for the treatment out of pocket and the physician is enrolled in a federally funded program, there could be legal risks, he said.

Photo by Groupon

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