Make us your home page
Instagram

Uninsured turn to daily-deal websites for health care

Daily deal sites, best known for discounts at local restaurants and spas, are helping people fill holes in health insurance coverage with coupons, such as this one offered by Groupon.com.

Associated Press

Daily deal sites, best known for discounts at local restaurants and spas, are helping people fill holes in health insurance coverage with coupons, such as this one offered by Groupon.com.

NEW YORK — 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 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.

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 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 restaurant meals, wine tastings, spa visits and hotel stays. The discounts are paid for up front 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 health insurance coverage. Visitors to these sites are finding a growing number of markdowns on health care services 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 Botox injections and vision-correcting Lasik eye surgery. About one out of every 11 deals offered online is for a health care 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.

Uninsured turn to daily-deal websites for health care 12/31/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 31, 2011 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  2. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims

    Banking

    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  3. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza

    Retail

    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  4. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code

    Banking

    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  5. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]