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 deals 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 eye surgery 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 health insurance 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."
Joseph Pisani can be reached at http://twitter.com/josephpisani.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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