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Health Insurance Web Searches Spike, Says ComShare

If there ever was a proof-positive sign the economy and its lingering layoffs are driving people to find their own health insurance plans, this is a big one.

ComScore, the people who measure all-things-online (working behind the iron curtains at Google, Yahoo! and other search engines) just released a study of online health insurance activity in 2009. The study found that nearly 24 million Americans visited a health insurance company Web site during the fourth quarter of 2009, representing 10 percent of the total U.S. online population.

Aetna led the pack of health insurance companies that attracted the most traffic with nearly 5 million visitors during October, November and December of 2009, followed by Blue Cross Blue Shield sites with 4.1 million visitors (17.4 percent penetration). Kaiser Permanente clocked in with 3.1 million; UnitedHealthcare snatched 2.2 million visitors; CIGNA got 2.6 million and Wellpoint sites attracted a combined count of 2.2 million homepage hits.

All things considered, the Web is growing as the primary source of information people turn to first about everything. Internet searching has grown to 175 million per hour, according to comScore stats. In December 2009 alone, there were 131 billion Internet searches conducted around the globe. Health insurance companies comprise a small piece of the whole Internet search world, but significant nonetheless.

“Consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet as one of their first destinations to research health insurance, whether it is gathering information to evaluate options or seeking answers to questions concerning their current provider,” said comScore director Susan Engleson in a press release accompanying the stats. “Having a strong online presence serves as both a gateway to consumers as well as an important branding opportunity for health insurance organizations.”

A Stanford University study following some 66,000 Americans and their use of the Internet for individual health insurance found very similar results. An excerpt of “Consumers’ Use of the Internet for Health Insurance” reveals greater opportunities for health insurance companies to attract more traffic to their Web sites:

“Analysis of Internet applications for consumer health has focused on the extent to which people use the Internet for information about health and healthcare. The role of the Internet in the relationship between consumers and health plans has received considerably less attention. Nevertheless, the potential impact of Internet applications in this area is large. Health insurance is a complex and information-intensive product, requiring extensive coordination among consumers, patients, insurers, and providers. In theory, consumers, purchasers, and health plans could benefit substantially from technological innovation that either improved the ability of consumers to obtain information about the types of health insurance available to them or reduced the cost or increased the quality of health insurance products.”

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One Response to “Health Insurance Web Searches Spike, Says ComShare”

  1. Geilt says:

    Interesting Question: How much of this increase is attributed to greater market awareness of their own, and their competitors online presence? Are all those searches really for Health Insurance, or is the market just looking at itself in the mirror more and more each day.

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