HEALTH INSURANCE: Online Access Will Benefit Consumers, Study Says
Small businesses and consumers searching for health insurance will benefit from online access, as Web sites "improve their offerings and better address privacy concerns," according to a new eHealth study released by the California HealthCare Foundation. Titled "Health Insurance: Purchasing and Privacy Online for Individuals and Small Groups," the report evaluated three sites that provide price quotes from multiple health insurance plans -- eHealthInsurance.com, HealthAxis.com and Quotesmith.com. Although only one health plan through one Web site currently offers complete online enrollment, the study found that all three provided some services, including cost quotes and applications. Some of the sites allowed consumers to conduct "side-by-side cost comparisons" of various health plans, but the study warns that the information was not always "completely balanced." The sites still lack evaluation tools that would allow consumers to identify and compare plans based on specific needs and preferences. The study also reviewed the sites' ability to protect consumers' privacy, and found that all three sites promised some level of confidentiality, although none of the sites fully disclosed arrangements with business partners or gave consumers information on how to opt out of information sharing. Still, as ecommerce grows, the sites offer potential. CHCF Program Officer Marian Mulkey said, "These sites hold promise for becoming a convenient and cost-effective vehicle allowing Californians to evaluate their health insurance options and enroll quickly and easily in plans tailored to their needs" (CHCF release, 7/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.