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The Power of Group Purchasing--A Dental Insurance Alternative

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I confess, when anyone starts talking about insurance, my eyes glaze over. With that said, I know it's important. And, of course, it's been all the talk lately with the Affordable Care Act and the various bumps in the road on that front (but I digress).

In an effort to overcome my aversion to talk about insurance, I recently read an article in Venturebeat that describes a new Los Angeles-based private business called Brighter. According to the article, "Through Brighter, people without dental coverage have access to preset prices for services from hundreds of certified, vetted dentists. Brighter negotiates with dentists to offer the "best possible" rates for over 500 procedures and claims to save members an average of 50 percent on their dental costs." This online service has over 600 dentists and thousands of patients already enrolled. The business, which recently closed on $15 million in financing, is described as an alternative to dental insurance that relies instead on group purchasing power.

One of the chief aims of the service is to help patients become more informed about dental pricing and procedures (something I should spend more time doing). With close to $50 billion spent by Americans out of pocket each year on dental care, Brighter finds that many patients often learn about dental products and pricing in the dentist's chair either right before the start of a procedure or while they're trying to decide which treatment to choose. The article notes that, with Brighter, "patients can search through information about pricing, available appointment times, education and credentials, reviews, office amenities, and pictures and videos of the dentist. They book online and pay after their appointment."

The private venture is run by founder and CEO Jake Winebaum, who prior to founding Brighter, founded and worked as chairman of the Disney Internet Group.

What do you think? Does group purchasing and online information sharing have a future outside of California?

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