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Groupons are particularly common for imaging services like MRIs. Photo: Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

If you're looking for some certainty about how much a health care test will cost you, the best solution may be a maddening one — buying a Groupon.

Why it matters: These coupons do often give patients a good and predictable price, which can be hard to come by, especially for the uninsured. But they're also a signal that volume — not value — is the driving force in the business of health care.

Details: NPR has a close look at this trend, which first started bubbling up on Twitter late last month.

  • Groupons seem to be especially popular for outpatient imaging services, like MRIs and CT scans — tests that are already susceptible to overuse.
  • In Atlanta, you can get a heart CT scan for as little as $26. The coupons sell well, and NPR quotes providers saying they started offering the discounts simply because their competitors were.

Medical Groupons can help fill gaps in insurance coverage — that’s a big selling point for dental Groupons, and could also help explain the popularity of Groupons for services like mammograms. Insurance usually covers those, but that only helps you if you have insurance.

My thought bubble: There is only one reason for providers to offer up complex medical testing on Groupon — to generate volume. Big-name hospital systems may not be offering online coupons, but they, too, are trying to drive volume

  • Everybody loves to talk about value and patient-centered care and the right care in the right context and so on. But Groupons are not the sign of a system that's trying very hard to do any of those things.
  • They're a sign of a system that still rewards doing more stuff, whether it's necessary or not.

Go deeper

Educators face fines, harassment over critical race theory

People talk before the start of a rally against critical race theory being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Va. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Elementary school teachers, administrators and college professors are facing fines, physical threats, and fear of firing because of an organized push from the right to remove classroom discussions of systemic racism.

Why it matters: Moves to ban critical race theory are raising free speech concerns amid an absence of consistent parameters about what teachings are in or out of bounds.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

1 dead after pickup truck hits Pride spectators in Florida

Police investigate the scene where a pickup truck drove into a crowd of people at a Pride parade in Wilton Manors, Florida, on Saturday. Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

A driver in a pickup truck hit spectators at a Pride festival in Wilton Manors, Florida, killing a man and leaving another person hospitalized Saturday, authorities said.

Details: Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told reporters police had "apprehended the driver" and that the vehicle missed a parade car carrying Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) "by inches."

Updated 9 hours ago - Sports

Uganda Olympic team member tests positive for COVID in Tokyo

The Uganda National boxing team's Catherine Nanziri (L) and others arrive for check-in at Entebbe international airport in Wakiso, Uganda on Friday, ahead of their departure to participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games. Photo: Badru Katumba/AFP via Getty Images

A Uganda Olympic team member tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Japan late Saturday, officials said.

Why it matters: Japan's government has faced criticism for vowing to host the Tokyo Games next month as coronavirus cases rise. The Ugandan team is the second to arrive in Japan after the Australian women's softball players, and this is the first COVID-19 infection detected among the Olympic athletes, Al Jazeera notes.