ONLINE PURCHASING: New Venture to Offer Web-Based Insurance Plan
As early as this fall, the new Web-based purchasing exchange and health plan HealthMarket Inc. expects to allow consumers to purchase a "wide range" of health care services, including health insurance, the Wall Street Journal reports. Spearheaded by former Oxford Health Plans Inc. Chief Stephen Wiggins, the venture plans to "give control of health care ... to consumers and providers without losing control of health care costs." Wiggins said, "We're creating an alternative to managed care. There has to be more accountability by the patient and more involvement and understanding by the physician." HealthMarket's insurance plan relies upon the "defined contribution approach," in which employers give their workers a set amount of money for health benefits. The plan sets payment caps for about 80 conditions, ranging from bypass surgery to hip replacement, and participating doctors and other care providers list their prices for the same procedures. Consumers can choose which team and corresponding price they want, but if the option the patient selects goes over the plan's price limit, the patient pays the difference. About 175,000 doctors have signed up to participate in the health plan and HealthMarket hopes to add hospitals and alternative medicine providers. The company also is developing a prescription drug plan. Wiggins said he expects Centre Insurance Co. to underwrite the plan and also intends to make deals with managed care companies to offer the plan in some markets (Winslow, 7/24).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.