Saturday, June 30, 2012

Priceline for Medical Tests

A family Doctor here in Arizona has set up a company that mimics Priceline,but for medical tests.

So Hastings took a routine part of his job -- negotiating rates with labs and medical imaging offices -- and launched a startup business. His Internet-based company,, is modeled after the consumer-travel website Priceline.

It allows consumers to shop for discounted rates for routine blood tests or medical-imaging services such as MRIs and CT scans.

I always knew that you could negotiate prices for medical care. (Especially if you are paying real live cash money now as opposed to an insurance payment at an uncertain date in the future.) But this service would seem to simplify the process as well as provide you with some baseline prices.

Counter Cyclical Companies

Twenty years ago, when I worked for DEC in Dallas, one of my customers was Mary Kay. As you work with a company you have to get to know how, when and why they make money - otherwise you can't sell them anything. What was interesting about Mary Kay was that their sales went up during a recession. The IT folks I worked with attributed this to an increase in independent sales reps during hard times and a subsequent decrease when times were better.

I found this argument persuasive, but perhaps we were wrong.

Although consumer spending typically declines in economic recessions, some observers have noted that recessions appear to increase women’s spending on beauty products—the so-called lipstick effect. Using both historical spending data and rigorous experiments, the authors examine how and why economic recessions influence women’s consumer behavior. Findings revealed that recessionary cues—whether naturally occurring or experimentally primed—decreased desire for most products (e.g., electronics, household items). However, these cues consistently increased women’s desire for products that increase attractiveness to mates—the first experimental demonstration of the lipstick effect.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Summary article here.

HT: Marginal Revolution