Uninsured turn to daily deal sites for health care

Dec 31, 2011 By JOSEPH PISANI , AP Business Writer
This screen shot shows eyewear coupons for the New York City area offered by Groupon.com. Daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, best known for discounts at local restaurants and spas, are helping some people fill holes in health insurance coverage. (AP Photo/Groupon.com)

(AP) -- The last time Mark Stella went to the dentist he didn't need an insurance card. Instead, he pulled out a Groupon.

Stella, a small business owner, canceled his more than three years ago when his premium rose to more than $400 a month. He considered himself healthy and decided that he was wasting money on something that he rarely used.

So when a deal popped up on daily deals site Groupon for a teeth cleaning, exam and an X-ray at a nearby dentist, Stella, 55, bought the deal - which the company calls a "Groupon" - for himself and another for his daughter. He paid $39 for each, $151 below what the dentist normally charges.

Daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are best known for offering limited-time discounts on a variety of discretionary goods and services including , wine tastings, spa visits and hotel stays. The discounts are paid for upfront and then it's up to the customer to book an appointment and redeem a coupon before it expires. Merchants like the deals because it gives them exposure and a pop in business. Customers use them to try something new, to save money on something they already use, or both.

The sites are increasingly moving beyond little luxuries like facials and vacations and offering deals that are helping some people fill holes in their . Visitors to these sites are finding a growing number of markdowns on such as teeth cleanings, eye exams, chiropractic care and even medical checkups. They're also offering deals on elective procedures not commonly covered by health insurers, such as wrinkle-reducing and vision-correcting Lasik eye surgery. About one out of every 11 deals offered online is for a service, according to data compiled by DealRadar.com, a site that gathers and lists 20,000 deals a day from different websites.

"I was accustomed to going to the dentist every six months," said Stella who owns SmartPhones, a store and wholesale business in Miami that sells mobile phone covers and accessories. "This filled the gap."

The deals are popping up across the nation. In New York, a full medical checkup with blood, stool and urinalysis testing sold for $69 in December on Groupon - below the regular price of $200. In Seattle, a flu shot was offered on AmazonLocal for $17, down from $35. In Chicago, LivingSocial sold a dental exam, cleaning, X-rays and teeth whitening trays for $99, a savings of $142.

About 9 percent of all offers on daily deal websites in November were for dental work or some kind of medical treatment, up from 4.5 percent in the beginning of 2011, said Dan Hess, CEO and founder of Local Offer Network, which runs DealRadar.com. The growth in health-related deals is good news for millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 46.3 million Americans under 65 have no health coverage.

The number of health care deals began rising as copycat websites attempted to get a piece of the market. Search leader Google and shopping site Amazon.com have recently gotten into the game.

Not all have been successful. In August, social networking site Facebook dropped its plan to start a daily deal business, and Yelp, a site that allows customers to write reviews of restaurants and other businesses, scaled back its daily deal efforts. Many smaller sites have closed. But the shakeout in the industry hasn't hurt the number of health deals being offered since the industry leaders, like Groupon, are offering more deals and are moving into more markets, Hess said.

The health care deals may be attractive for people with gaps in their coverage or no insurance, but jumping from one health care provider to the next isn't ideal. Visiting the same doctor or dentist makes it easier to monitor how a patient's health is progressing, said David Williams, co-founder of medical consultancy group MedPharma Partners and author of HealthBusinessBlog.com.

Also, it's important for patients to do their own research before buying a medical or dental deal, Williams said. "A referral from someone you trust is the best path," said Williams.

Dental deals are the most popular among users of local deal websites - likely because even more people lack dental insurance than health insurance. Among the 172 million people under 65 who have private health insurance in the U.S., about 45 million don't have dental coverage, according to the CDC.

Dentists have traditionally offered by mailing out coupons, but paper coupons have a low redemption rate, Williams said. Local deal sites are more attractive to doctors and dentists because they get paid up front and they reach new clients.

"We reached a whole new demographic who otherwise wouldn't find us," said Dr. Gregg Feinerman, an ophthalmologist who runs Feinerman Vision Center in Newport Beach, Calif. He offered a 58 percent discount on Lasik eye surgery through Groupon. "It's a better way to market," he said.

He used Groupon as a way to bring in patients under 30-years old with the hope that they would recommend his services to friends and rate him on review website Yelp. A good review might persuade someone else to visit his office, Feinerman said. He charges $5,000 for the surgery on both eyes; a price that he said can be "overwhelming for 20-to 30-year-olds."

Feinerman approached Groupon about listing the for $3,000. Groupon, which is based in Chicago, pushed him to lower the price to $2,100.

Feinerman got exactly the type of patient he was looking for in Thomas Cho. Cho, 29, bought the offer and after the surgery wrote a review on Yelp. He gave the vision center five stars - the highest rating on the website.

Cho said in an interview that his plan only covers 20 percent of the regular price of Lasik since it is considered a cosmetic procedure. He would have paid about $4,000 if he had used his insurance discount.

Cho decided to buy the Groupon, paying $2,100 initially. After consulting with the doctor, he upgraded his surgery to an all-laser procedure for $1,000 more. At the time, Cho's credit card issuer was offering a 20 percent cash back promotion on Groupon purchases. In all, he saved more than $1,300.

"I had my post-op checkup and I am seeing 20/20," Cho wrote on Yelp. "I couldn't be happier."

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User comments : 32

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Hev
5 / 5 (7) Dec 31, 2011
horrifying - that is our future in the UK if we don't take action to prevent the government from continuing to erode our NHS -
epsi00
5 / 5 (6) Dec 31, 2011
thank god I live in canada where basic healthcare is free. And yes sometimes we wait a bit longer but we are covered and there is always the emergency room for emergency situations. If we lose our job, we do not lose basic coverage, we only lose the extra coverage. But even here there are those who want to privatize healthcare, something that should be a basic human right.
nayTall
4.5 / 5 (2) Dec 31, 2011
american ingenuity at its finest..?
plasticpower
1.6 / 5 (5) Dec 31, 2011
I agree the healthcare system in the US is terribly organized, but I've come to realize there's a reason for this. The healthcare professionals in the US have a lot more incentive to do a better job than those in countries with free healthcare. Reason being, they can get sued into oblivion or plain lose customers. In Canada, while I'm sure you can sue your doctor just as easily, the doctors have no incentive to provide outstanding service because they could care less if they had customers or not, they still get paid. I'm not defending the US system, I think it's completely f-d up, just saying that I can see where the original idea might have come from..
Telekinetic
4.2 / 5 (6) Dec 31, 2011
Finding a good doctor in any field is "luck of the draw." I'm a bit phobic about medical offices, so I rarely go. My health insurance has a $5,000. deductible, which means if I accidently cut off a limb, I'll have to pick up the tab (with my remaining limb). The idea of seeking medical care via a coupon should make legislators take a hard look at the health of the health care system. It's evidence that the U.S, is becoming a Third World country. I plan on paying for my next checkup with two chickens. Maybe Groupon has a deal for just one hen.
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 31, 2011
100,000 Americans die yearly from flesh-eating bacteria they contract at hospitals. Not sure what the big rush is all about. Popping wheelies on a bike at 170 kph on a major freeway is safer than undergoing surgery in the USA. In fact only 33,808 died on the road in 2009 so playing chicken or running red lights nonstop is THREE TIMES SAFER than letting doc cut you up.
Vendicar_Decarian
Dec 31, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.7 / 5 (39) Dec 31, 2011
"In Canada, while I'm sure you can sue your doctor just as easily, the doctors have no incentive to provide outstanding service because they could care less if they had customers or not, they still get paid." - Plastic

Bzzzt.. Wrong.. Sorry...

Canadian doctors are paid by the patient and by the procedure.

No "customers", no money.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (39) Dec 31, 2011
One thing for Americans to Remember is that anything you hear about Canadian Health Care that comes from the lips of an American Republican, or an American Libertarian, and especially anything that comes from a Libertarian propaganda organ such as the CATO institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, etc. etc. etc, are invariably nothing but a tapestry of lies.

The Republican/Libertarian hasn't yet existed who wasn't a congenital and Perpetual liar.

You know the type. Those like the Lying scum bucket Libertarian Rand Paul, who has claimed on the U.S. senate floor that health care paid by a single payer is "pure slavery" when that single payer is government.

Libertarian Filth.
kochevnik
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 31, 2011
Those like the Lying scum bucket Libertarian Rand Paul, who has claimed on the U.S. senate floor that health care paid by a single payer is "pure slavery" when that single payer is government.
Ron Paul said that society should allow uninsured people to just die. Ron let his presidential campaign manager die uninsured without treatment for pneumonia. 49-year-old Ken Snyder was seemingly healthy when the illness struck.

For conservatives death is the ultimate freedom. Unless it's a fertilized egg. Then it should only be neglected and left to die AFTER birth.
epsi00
5 / 5 (3) Dec 31, 2011
The funny thing is that Americans think they have the best of the best in every field. Look at all the ranking by country to get an idea of where the US really stands.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (34) Dec 31, 2011
"Then it should only be neglected and left to die AFTER birth." - Kochevnik

Or actively murdered by the U.S. for political gain.

http://pics109bc....d-03.jpg

http://pics109bc....pg?w=600

http://pics109bc....pg?w=600

Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (37) Dec 31, 2011
U.S. ranks low for newborn survival

Babies born in Cuba, Malaysia, Portugal, and the United Kingdom have a better chance of surviving the first month compared to those born in the United States, according to researchers at the World Health Organization and Save the Children.

In a 20 year analysis of newborn death rates around the world, the study published in PLoS Medicine revealed the number of infants who die before they are 4 weeks old account for 41% of child deaths worldwide. Newborn deaths in the United States ranked 41 out of 45 among industrialized countries, on par with Qatar and Croatia.

http://thechart.b...urvival/
Tseihta
5 / 5 (1) Jan 01, 2012
I agree the healthcare system in the US is terribly organized, but I've come to realize there's a reason for this. The healthcare professionals in the US have a lot more incentive to do a better job than those in countries with free healthcare. Reason being, they can get sued into oblivion or plain lose customers. In Canada, while I'm sure you can sue your doctor just as easily, the doctors have no incentive to provide outstanding service because they could care less if they had customers or not, they still get paid. I'm not defending the US system, I think it's completely f-d up, just saying that I can see where the original idea might have come from..


If you need a monetary incentive to hold some sort of standard you really are not a true professional. Everyone likes to throw around the 'professional' title but if you ask yourself if you'd hold the same standard for the same job but half the pay... if the answer is 'no'... then you are NOT a professional.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Jan 01, 2012
Its not like private healthcare is not available in countries with public option, so it is not one or the other. And with competition from public system, there is strong pressure to keep prices low and quality high in private alternatives.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Jan 01, 2012
How does any insurance reduce the cost of actual care?
The medical industry is the last to enter the free market. Where it has, it has done so because insurance would not pay for the service, like Lasik eye surgery.
Ultra-sound diagnostic services travel around the country providing package deals (Lifeline screening).
epsi00
5 / 5 (3) Jan 01, 2012
In a 20 year analysis of newborn death rates around the world, the study published in PLoS Medicine revealed the number of infants who die before they are 4 weeks old account for 41% of child deaths worldwide. Newborn deaths in the United States ranked 41 out of 45 among industrialized countries, on par with Qatar and Croatia.


that says it all, the sorry state of the American healthcare model.
the rate of incarceration in the US is the highest in the world, just about the same as North Korea. And I am not talking about the slavery practices inside the prisons, something that is well documented.
But to give credit to the US where credit is due, it has the best of the best weapon technology. The US has reached a technological level where it can kill people by the 1000's without suffering a single casualty!! The sad thing is that the US is doing it, remember Libya. Now if the US could spend just as much on health care, education, social housing ...
ryggesogn2
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 01, 2012
"$695 billion (+4.9%) Social Security
$571 billion (+58.6%) Unemployment/Welfare/Other mandatory spending
$453 billion (+6.6%) Medicare
$290 billion (+12.0%) Medicaid"

Most of the US budget IS spent on health care, education, housing,... and other socialist causes.
epsi00
5 / 5 (3) Jan 01, 2012
Most of the US budget IS spent on health care, education, housing,... and other socialist causes.


not true. Most the US budget is spent on defense, weapons, bombs...and wars. That is probably why you have not even mentioned it.
ShotmanMaslo
4 / 5 (4) Jan 01, 2012
Military spending makes 20% of the US budget.

That said, if all the wars ended and military was used solely for defense of the US, I am sure it could be cut in half, or more.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.6 / 5 (38) Jan 01, 2012
The U.S. spends more money on it's military than all other countries combined.

That is one measure of the extent of American Evil.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Jan 01, 2012
Most of the US budget IS spent on health care, education, housing,... and other socialist causes.
BS. Entitlements in USA are 11% of the budget. US ranks 49th in entitlement spending, the lowest of any developed nation.
ShotmanMaslo
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 02, 2012
Most of the US budget IS spent on health care, education, housing,... and other socialist causes.
BS. Entitlements in USA are 11% of the budget. US ranks 49th in entitlement spending, the lowest of any developed nation.


Year 2010:

Medicare and medicaid: 23 %
Social security: 20 %
DoD: 20 %
Discretionary: 19 %
Other mandatory: 12 %
Net interest: 6 %
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (11) Jan 02, 2012
Most of the US budget IS spent on health care, education, housing,... and other socialist causes.
BS. Entitlements in USA are 11% of the budget. US ranks 49th in entitlement spending, the lowest of any developed nation.


Year 2010:

Medicare and medicaid: 23 %
Social security: 20 %
DoD: 20 %
Discretionary: 19 %
Other mandatory: 12 %
Net interest: 6 %


Data is irrelevant to the socialists.
SocialDentalNet
not rated yet Jan 02, 2012
I thought this article was about daily dental deals...and their place in either a digital dental marketing plan, or a patient's decision making process when seeking dental care.

Daily deal type respondees usually amount to 'one and done' type patients...but if the practice designs their deal/system knowing that ahead of time, a successful deal is easier to maximize.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (9) Jan 03, 2012
"The number of new prescription drug shortages in 2011 shot up to 267, well above the prior record and about four times the number of medication shortages in the middle of the last decade."
http://hosted.ap....18-27-31

If there is no profit motive to manufacture drugs, who will do it?
FrankHerbert
1.3 / 5 (60) Jan 03, 2012
If there is no profit motive to manufacture drugs, who will do it?

The government maybe?

I know you aren't appreciating that so I'll give you a kinder answer.

http://www.maps.org/

Founded in 1986, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization. MAPS functions as a non-profit pharmaceutical company working to make psychedelics and medical marijuana available to patients, physicians, and therapists on a legal, prescription, generic basis for public health benefits and health care cost savings.
kochevnik
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 04, 2012
Most of the US budget IS spent on health care, education, housing,... and other socialist causes.
From the OECD:

2011: United States 25th out of 34 social spending as share of GDP: 16.2 percent http://www.busine...1-4?op=1

In 1998, the United States government's expenditures on subsidies and transfers constituted 11 percent of its GDP, whereas the average government expenditures on subsidies and transfers constituted 19% GDP in countries in the European Union(Alesina, Glaeser, Sacerdote (2000)).
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (10) Jan 04, 2012
Stella, a small business owner, canceled his health insurance plan more than three years ago when his premium rose to more than $400 a month. He considered himself healthy and decided that he was wasting money on something that he rarely used.


Well, that certainly won't be happening in America under Obamacare. The over 2,000 pages of legislation governing this health care debacle has a provision to tax/fine a person for each and every uncovered member of the family for doing that until adequate insurance coverage meeting the minimum government standard imposed by Obamacare is purchased.

Whether the Supreme Court actually and permanently overturns that provision as unconstitutional is yet to be seen.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (10) Jan 04, 2012
Stella, a small business owner, canceled his health insurance plan more than three years ago when his premium rose to more than $400 a month. He considered himself healthy and decided that he was wasting money on something that he rarely used.


Well, that certainly won't be happening in America under Obamacare. The over 2,000 pages of legislation governing this health care debacle has a provision to tax/fine a person for each and every uncovered member of the family for doing that until adequate insurance coverage meeting the minimum government standard imposed by Obamacare is purchased.

Whether the Supreme Court actually and permanently overturns that provision as unconstitutional is yet to be seen.

In MA, either you have a state approved insurance plan or you pay a fine.
Thanks to Mitt Romney.
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (10) Jan 05, 2012
Actually, from what I understand about it, in Massachusetts it is an income tax penalty rather than an actual fine. This means that you lose a tax exemption at tax time. In addition, there are exemptions for those within certain guidelines. One can also apply for a certificate of exemption.

https://www.mahea...chetoken

Not so under Obamacare--at least not yet. We'll see what comes over the next couple years as more provisions become active and as the legislation is revised. :)
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (10) Jan 05, 2012
in Massachusetts it is an income tax penalty

Income tax returns are used to assess compliance.
A penalty is a fine.
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (9) Jan 06, 2012
No a tax penalty is not necessarily a fine. Remember the so-called "Marriage Penalty" that used to be assessed for people filing "married, filing..."?

It was a little extra taxation tacked on for married people. It was called the "Marriage Penalty" but it most certainly was not a fine.

Bush did away with it years ago. I am wondering whether it will be coming back in the near future, however. The way things are going it may be coming sooner than we think. Or, I have been out of the loop and it already has been done and we haven't seen it yet.