ARE GROUPONS WORTH THE RISK?
By: Albert R. Meyer, JD, MHA
Many consumers are utilizing discount or coupon websites to take advantage of deals offered by businesses. The deals range from half price meals to surf board rentals to facials. Sites such are Groupon and Living Social offer daily deals local business at deep discounts that may be anywhere from 25% to 75% off standard retail pricing. The goal of business participants, of course, is draw a new and expanded customer bases.
However, unlike restaurants, quick lube facilities and hair salons, physicians are urged to use caution when considering using these sites to promote their businesses. In most cases, the coupon promoter collects a fee from the health care provider for each coupon purchased. The fees are typically in the form of a percentage of the coupon fee collected, which may be a violation of federal or state law. This compensation scheme may result in potentially unlawful transactions that involve prohibitions for payment for referrals.
Additionally, there are other state and federal that prohibit physicians from splitting fees. Physicians are encouraged to consult with experienced legal counsel before entering a coupon marketing agreement.
Mr. Meyer is an attorney with over 20 years’ experience in health care law focusing on regulatory and transactional matters. His clients include physicians, medical equipment companies, surgery centers and diagnostic centers. Mr. Meyer works with chiropractors and other similar professionals throughout the country in integrating their practices. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.