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Medical discount coupons ruled illegal

Downloading discount coupons from social commerce business websites for medical treatments is a violation of the Medical Law, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Monday.

However, it is not illegal for hospitals or medical facilities to offer price cuts directly to patients on services not covered by insurance, it said.

The conclusion was reached upon request from Seoul Metropolitan Government, which viewed such coupons from plastic surgeons, dentists and small businesses as a gray area. From health checkups to teeth bleaching, liposuction and stem cell therapies, social commerce websites have been selling discount coupons, charging hospitals and clinics commissions.

“The social commerce coupons seem tempting to customers but as time goes by, they will bring down the overall quality of medical services. This phenomenon has already been seen among restaurants and other business sectors,” a ministry official said.

“As competition among social commerce companies overheats, the overrun will become fierce, too.”

However, the ministry said it was OK for hospitals and clinics to directly contact patients seeking plastic surgery, skin peels, teeth bleaching and other procedures that aren’t covered by national health insurance to give certain discounts.

“It is tolerable unless it is specifically related to a certain disease or harmful to the human body,” the ministry said.

The city government will decide whether to seek administrative regulations on social commerce companies in the meantime.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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