I just received a Groupon for dental services. I have seen Groupon’s in the past for medical services and I can’t figure out how selling medical services via a social coupon (the generic name for Groupon like sites) is legal. This is dangerous, uncharted territory. Consult your attorney before running a Groupon.
As I run practices in New York, I will focus on the their statutes. New York has some of the strictest “corporate practice of medicine laws,” but almost all states have similar laws prohibiting fee-splitting and all states (and the Fed’s) prohibit kick-backs.
First lets look at the body of law that prohibits a medical professional from entering into a fee splitting arrangement with a third party.
New York’s State Department of Education (the governing body for “health professionals,” a very broad category including Physical Therapists, Doctors, Podiatrists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Athletic Trainers and Massage Therapist – among many others) clearly defines fee splitting as professional misconduct:
29.1 General Provisions – Unprofessional Conduct – Rules of the NY Board of Regents
Unprofessional conduct in the practice of any profession licensed, certified or registered pursuant to title VIII of the Education Law, shall include:
- directly or indirectly offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving or agreeing to receive, any fee or other consideration to or from a third party for the referral of a patient or client or in connection with the performance of professional services;
- permitting any person to share in the fees for professional services, other than: a partner, employee, associate in a professional firm or corporation, professional subcontractor or consultant authorized to practice the same profession, or a legally authorized trainee practicing under the supervision of a licensed practitioner.
This prohibition shall include any arrangement or agreement whereby the amount received in payment for furnishing space, facilities, equipment or personnel services used by a professional licensee constitutes a percentage of, or is otherwise dependent upon, the income or receipts of the licensee from such practice.
It is considered fee splitting when a physician pays a fee on a per patient basis or a percentage basis (most social coupons are structured on a 50/50 split of the total amount sold). It would be legal to pay a flat rate for marketing, such as an ad in a phone book (sorry for the antiquated reference), all advertisers pay the same rates, and there is no differentiation in price for the number of patients that are generated from the ad. Read More...