Most people use Groupon to get two-for-one margaritas and half-off yoga classes. I used it for major eye surgery.
That’s right: I used Groupon to get LASIK. I’d been wanting to get LASIK for a while—years, actually. But I was afraid to because: A) I didn’t want to go blind. B) It’s expensive. C) I’m cheap. And D) I asked an optometrist about it once, and he discouraged me from getting it. So I continued wearing glasses ninety percent of my waking life.
Then a few weeks ago, I got an email from Groupon offering LASIK surgery at an eye clinic in midtown Manhattan (near where I live) at more than half off—$2,600 instead of the normal rate of $5,500. After a couple of days of hemming and hawing, I pulled the trigger. It was the first thing I ever bought on Groupon. A woman I was seeing couldn’t believe what I’d done. “You don’t use Groupon for LASIK!” she yelled. I got defensive. “This is exactly what I want to use Groupon for!” I yelled back. “Huge purchases that I’ve been wanting to get for a while that I can now get for a lot cheaper.” Or something like that.
Buying LASIK on Groupon was easy; it only took a minute or two. But I think, partly because I purchased it so quickly, in the same way other people buy window fashions and paintball experiences, I wasn’t quite ready for all that being a LASIK patient entailed. I thought I’d go in, they’d check out my eyes, turn on the lasers and I’d walk out 10 minutes later with perfect vision.
Not so. First I had to go in for a pre-operation visit, where they examined my eyes and I met the doctor, Howard Kornstein. (I took it as a good sign that his last name sounded kind of like cornea.) Then I had to go get a prescription filled for two kinds of eye drops plus some over-the-counter eye solution, which ran me about $220. (This wasn’t mentioned in the Groupon ad.)
Then I had the operation, which, to be blunt, was pretty fucking freaky. They lay you back, tell you to relax, plop one drop of anesthesia in each eye (imagine if they missed!), turn on the laser, slice off a piece of your eye and poke around your eyeball with what looks like the tool a dentist uses to scrape plaque from your teeth. Luckily, they gave me a Valium first. And even more luckily, Kornstein was as cool as Peyton Manning during the two-minute drill.
Then, four days of pain and blurriness.
Then you go back to the doctor, he checks your eyes again and prescribes more eye drops. These cost me $200, and I’ll probably have to buy one more round before I’m done. (Note to self: invest in Bausch & Lomb.) In the end, my impulse LASIK purchase off a daily deals site cost me around $3,250. Again, not what they tell you in the email.
But you know what? I’d still recommend LASIK—and Groupon. It’s been about a month since the surgery, and my vision is better now than it’s been in 12 years, and maybe better than it’s been my entire life. It’s like the world suddenly became HD. (Whether that’s Vizio HD or Sony HD, I’m still not sure.)
It also makes me think this: our health-care system is a mess and Groupon recently announced it’s not even making money (yet), but maybe there’s something here we can build on. Along with self-diagnosing via Google and crowd-sourcing medical advice via online forums, people are already using Groupon and LivingSocial and other deals sites for services like spider vein removal, botox and clear braces. Why can’t we start using them for more mainstream health-care procedures?
Maybe in the not-so-distant future, we’ll all be getting our MRIs and our CAT scans and our arthroscopic knee surgeries through Groupon. Forget the insurance companies—and the government. Let’s just team up, use our vast numbers—and our cumulative wallets—to get the medical care we want together. Need an X-ray? So do these 39 people. Boom, the deal has tipped. Tear your ACL? Maybe LivingSocial has a 30 percent off hook-up if you buy the surgery today. What’s that, you got knifed in a convenience store? Quick, go on Groupon Now! to see which hospital is running a special on puncture wounds.
And grab that two-for-one margarita deal while you’re at it.