MANAGED CARE: Six Insurers Plot Online Venture
Hoping to stem the tide of patients and doctors who have turned to Internet health care companies, six of the nation's largest health insurers are uniting to develop their own online venture, the New York Times reports. Members of the alliance -- Aetna U.S. Healthcare, the Cigna Corporation, WellPoint Health Systems, Oxford Health Plans, Foundation Health Systems and PacifiCare Health Systems -- hope the project will "make it easier for patients to enroll in health plans and choose doctors and hospitals by replacing paperwork and telephone calls with online channels; smooth relations with disaffected physicians by speeding communications; and cut business costs." Tentatively called MedUnite, the online system also would deal with administrative services, such as approving or denying medical procedures and process claims. The online effort is intended to challenge Healtheon/WebMD's status as the largest Internet health care company. SG Cowen health care analyst Ed Kroll explained, "The health plan companies want to stake out their claim. They have very important relationships with doctors and patients and lots of data and information that they have aggregated. They want to be participants in this connectivity process, rather than risk being left out of the loops." Although representatives for the companies refused to confirm or deny the plans, the New York Times reports that the project should be announced formally "in the next 60 days or so" (Freudenheim, 3/30).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.