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Consumers' use of the Internet for health insurance.

Bundorf MK, Singer SJ, Wagner TH, Baker L. Consumers' use of the Internet for health insurance. The American journal of managed care. 2004 Sep 1; 10(9):609-16.

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Abstract:

OBJECTIVES: We examined consumers' search for information about health insurance choices and their use of the Internet for that search and to manage health benefits. STUDY DESIGN: We surveyed a random sample of more than 4500 individuals aged 21 years and older who were members of a survey research panel during December 2001 and January 2002. METHODS: The survey included questions about searching for health insurance information in 3 health insurance markets: Medicare, individual or nongroup, and employer-sponsored group. We also asked questions about use of the Internet to manage health benefits. We tabulated means of responses to each question by market and tested for independence across demographic groups using the Pearson chi-square test. RESULTS: We identified important differences across and within markets in the extent to which people look for information about health insurance alternatives and the role of the Internet in their search. Although many individuals were unaware of whether their employer or health plan provided a website to manage health benefits, those who used the sites generally evaluated them favorably. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that the Internet is an important source of health insurance information, particularly for individuals purchasing coverage individually in the nongroup and Medicare markets relative to those obtaining coverage from an employer. In the case of Medicare coverage, studies focusing on beneficiaries' use of Internet resources may underestimate the Internet's importance by neglecting caregivers who use the Internet. Many individuals may be unaware of the valuable resources available through employers or health plans.





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