Medical Groupons called symptom of healthcare's woes

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U.S. patients have been using Groupons to keep their medical costs down — a trend that elicited shock and dismay from the medical community on Twitter, according to a Kaiser Health News report. 

The medical Groupons, which have been around for years, have been especially popular for outpatient imaging services, preventive scans, dental work and eye care. They are often used by uninsured patients. 

The coupons, while offering patients a good and predictable price, signal that the U.S. healthcare system is broken, according to Paul Ketchel,  founder of MDsave, a site that offers discount price vouchers to patients. 

Mr. Ketchel said that the use of Groupons and the success of his own company reflect the general lack of price transparency in the industry and the growing cost responsibility placed on patients. 

Supporters of medical Groupons say they offer patients cost-saving deals, more pricing transparency and control over their healthcare bills. Without the coupons, they would have to comparison shop among several hospitals and outpatient providers. 

But using Groupons for healthcare may also pose risks, Andrew Bierhals, PhD, a radiology safety expert at St. Louis-based Washington University told Kaiser Health News. 

Dr. Bierhals warned that the deals may be leading patients to spend money on tests that expose them to radiation and may be unnecessary.  

"If you're going to have any type of medical testing done, I would make sure you discuss with your primary care provider or practitioner," he told Kaiser Health News. 

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