Sep 6, 2019

A new way to pay for health care: Groupon

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

Health care dominates 2019 ad spending

Data: Advertising Analytics; Chart: Axios Visuals

More than half of all issue advertising this year has been on health care, and that spending will only increase as the 2020 campaign gets closer.

Between the lines: Most of the top health care spenders are focused on issues like surprise medical bills and drug prices — many of which would cut into the health care industry's profits.

Go deeperArrowSep 11, 2019

Trump admin wants to require immigrants to get health insurance

Security forces patrol the US-Mexico border on September 18, 2019. Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration on Friday issued a proclamation requiring immigrant-visa applicants to prove they can obtain health insurance within 30 days of entering the U.S. or cover their own health care expenses.

The big picture: A recent increase in the number of people without health insurance has coincided with the Trump administration discouraging immigrants from applying for and using government health care programs, like Medicaid.

Go deeperArrowOct 5, 2019

Automakers could use vehicle data to compete with auto insurers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Automakers are beginning to offer subscription packages that include insurance, typically via a third-party provider. Tesla has gone a step further, recently announcing it will offer its own policies, which may signal a larger shift in auto insurance.

Why it matters: The volume of vehicle behavioral data that connected vehicles will generate could be leveraged by automakers to edge into the insurance market, while enabling them to proactively protect drivers by recommending safer routes.

Go deeperArrowSep 20, 2019