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Groupon and Living Social Replace Affordable Health Insurance

Ernie Shannon's picture
Gropuon affordable health insurance

While the exact number of Americans who carry no health insurance varies depending on the research being done, many of those who lack coverage are not content to have no medical care options. Instead, they are turning more frequently to online daily deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social, which are, in away, replacing affordable health insurance

What the uninsured are finding are coupons for medical and dental exams and other health care services that are significantly less than what they would otherwise pay or their monthly premium, if they carried insurance.

For instance, a check of Groupon in Columbus, Ohio revealed an offer for spinal-decompression treatments or laser pain therapy at a chiropractic and wellness center near Columbus. The visit normally costs $545 that might or might not be covered by health insurance. With Groupon, one can purchase a coupon for the same treatment for only $49. And the deal is good through June 2012.

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In Cleveland, just two hours north of Columbus, a dental practice is offering a comprehensive dental exam and custom take-home whitening kit or full cleaning exam and x-rays for only $69. Down from what would normally cost $350. Even with the cost of gas, a Columbus resident could save money by visiting Cleveland for this dental visit. In fact, the Associated Press reported this week that nine percent of al offers on daily deal websites are for dental services.

Groupon was launched in November 2008 in the Chicago area covering “deal of the day” offers in Chicago. The company soon expanded to Boston, New York City, and Toronto and as of today covers some 150 markets in North America and another 100 in Europe, Asia, and South America. Groupon was created by Pittsburgh native Andrew Mason who now serves as its chief executive officer and was valued at more than $1.35 billion in 2010. Living Social, by contrast, started in 2007 and gradually immigrated to a daily deals site by 2009.

While many customers of these online deal companies see the offers as a way to save money, more and more of the medically uninsured rely on these online companies to provide “deals” for medical exams, test, and other procedures they could normally never afford.

In the Associated Press article this week, Dr. Gregg Feinerman, an ophthalmalogist who runs Feinerman Vision Center in Newport Beach, California, offered a 59 percent discount on Lasik eye surgery through Groupon. Feinerman contact Groupon about listing the surgery for $3,000, but the online site pressed him to lower the cost to $2,100, which he did. At the same time, Thomas Cho was looking for the Lasik procedure, but was looking at a huge fee of which he would have been responsible for nearly $4,000. As it was, Cho bought the Groupon offer, upgraded his surgery with Feinerman, took advantage of a credit card deal for a 20 percent cash back promotion of Groupon and saved himself more than $1,300.



No question that affordable health insurance is thing of a past. Coverage is not accessible to many, despite the mandate to buy medical coverage. Yet, I am wondering if health insurance providers may one day use group buying websites to provide affordable health insurance to employees, families and individuals.