Nightly News   |  January 28, 2012

US coupon craze turns to medical care

Patients may be paying with their health as they search for online doctor discounts, making some health experts ask if the medical bargains are worth it. NBC’s Tom Llamas reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now with a sign of the times and an increasing popular way to get healthcare these days online coupons. some who can't afford health insurance and are in desperate need of healthcare say sites like groupon and living social can be a life saver , but that has some health experts worried and they're issuing a word of caution.

>> reporter: in this economy, who isn't looking for a good deal?

>> thank you.

>> reporter: matthew marco with its found one at a place that doesn't usually screen discounts -- the dentist.

>> cleaning, x-ray and examination, you know, immediately i thought well, this is too good to be true.

>> reporter: but it was true. at dr. greg diamond's office. these three procedures should have cost matthew more than $500 but he got them for less than $60.

>> it was like any other cleaning and x-ray and examination experience i have had. if not better. something that i would consider for other healthcare needs.

>> reporter: a deal and part of a new trend. coupon sites expanding from travel and restaurant offers to include checkups and other health care procedures.

>> this would about providing a service to people who don't feel that they could afford dentistry.

>> reporter: for dr. diamond, it produced volume.

>> approximately 1,300 new patients over a 24-hour period.

>> reporter: according to a company that tracks data on websites, consumers saved between $500,000 and $700,000 and the number of weight loss offers sky rocketed. but is it safe when it comes to your well-being? some fear people will look for deals without doing the research.

>> we do not know -- at least i don't know what sort of credentials, what sort of vetting these groups have when they're recruiting a healthcare provider .

>> reporter: living social and groupon, two popular discount websites, say they have procedures in place to screen all merchants including doctors before a deal reaches your in box.

>> getting that e-mail was a second chance for me.

>> reporter: for this woman who has no health insurance and a tight budget, the decision was simple.

>> i was putting it off. there were medical issues that were starting to develop. i needed this to take myself to the next level.

>> reporter: proof that next checkup could be well worth it in more ways than one.