Are Social Deals Legal for Physicians?
A number of California physicians have received a letter dated November 6, 2013, on the medical board’s letterhead to immediately “cease and desist.” The letter warned physicians to cease from conducting any daily deal marketing arrangements with sites such as Groupon, Living Social and Amazon.
The Medical Board of California issued a statement that it did not author a letter apparently coming from its Discipline Coordination Unit. According to the medical board, these letters are fraudulent and were not generated by the medical board. The medical board also stated that when it receives any complaint regarding a physician—including the use of daily deal marketing or internet-based coupon sites—the complaints are evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether there is a violation of the law.
Physicians should, however, use caution when using such sites. While each deal varies, typically the physician agrees to give the coupon company a percentage of the revenue obtained from patients using the coupon in return for the marketing company’s promotion of the practice through various types of coupons or “daily deals.”
Even if patients using such coupons are cash-paying and non-insured, the activity raises significant legal issues for physicians. Accordingly, physicians should act with extreme caution in this area, after obtaining the advice of an attorney experienced in health care fraud and abuse laws.
See the letter sent to physicians at http://www.mbc.ca.gov/fraudulent_cease_and_desist.pdf