Health Insured Wary Of Online Privacy

The health insurance industry has recognized the advantage of offering online access to customers, but few have seized the opportunity. Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) estimates that 55 percent of the U.S. online population demand access to their health insurance, yet only 22 percent of online consumers with health insurance use the Internet monthly to access their provider’s site.

Those accessing their insurance information are typically over age 50, have annual incomes of $75,000 or more, and have been online for more than five years. Jupiter estimates that this demographic will experience significant growth between 2003 and 2007, and health insurance providers should have online initiatives deployed to capitalize on the swell of consumers.

Many health insurance Web sites do more than act as an online resource, allowing consumers to personalize their experience through customization capabilities. However, of the 604 users of health care sites that participated in a June 2003 Jupiter Research/Ipsos-Insight survey, 29 percent said they didnt customize their insurance site because they were worried that their personal information would be used for marketing purposes.


Reasons Users of Online Health Insurance Do Not Customize Web Sites
Not interested 31%
Worried that personal info will be used for marketing 29%
Takes too long 29%
Not useful 22%
Already like the way info is presented 22%
Concerned that other info will be missed 12%
No option for customization 8%
Don’t know how to customize 3%
Other 5%
Source: Jupiter Research/Ipsos-Insight

Online privacy was a significant concern to consumers during an August 2000 Pew Internet & American Life Project report when it was revealed that 85 percent of health seekers were concerned that an insurance company might raise their rates or deny coverage because of the health sites they have gone to online. Furthermore, 52 percent were concerned that their employer might find out what health sites they have gone to online.

The majority (60 percent) were against putting medical records online – even if they are on a secure, password-protected site – because they worried about other people seeing their personal information, and only 33 percent approved of having online access to their medical records.

In 2003, Pew found that 25 percent of Internet users searched online for information related to health insurance, and parents are more likely than non-parents to have searched for this type of information (29 percent compared to 23 percent).

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