The rising number of unemployed and uninsured Americans over the past year has caused a substantial decline in visits to large health-insurance provider websites, and has spurred a corresponding jump in searches related to finding and obtaining basic health coverage, according to data from comScore.
Health Insurer Sites Decline, Info Sites on the Rise
The number of visitors to major, well-known health-insurance company websites has declined during the past year as a result of employees losing coverage and cutting back on discretionary medical procedures that involve co-pays and co-insurance.
UnitedHealth Group saw visits decline 29% during the past year to 3.2 million visitors in June. The number of visitors to Aetna Inc. (down 12% to 1.9 million), WellPoint, Inc. (down 11% to 1.6 million), and CIGNA.com (down 19% to 944,000) also decreased.
Visitor gains were experienced by smaller organizations, many of which provide individual policies and short-term insurance or help consumers find it. eHealthInsurance.com (up 10% to 930,000 visitors), USInsuranceOnline.com (up 119 %to 844,000 visitors) and AssurantHealth.com (up 254% to 253,000 visitors).
Health Insurance Searches on the Rise
Though unemployment dipped slightly in July, to 9.4%, US Department of Labor data indicates that the rate remains historically high. This, according to comScore, is causing the millions of Americans without health care coverage or with inadequate or no coverage to increasingly turn online for information about and assistance with a variety of insurance issues.
In June 2009, more than 67,000 people searched for information related to COBRA coverage, the temporary coverage offered to those who have recently transitioned from their jobs. This represents a 176% gain vs. the same period a year ago. The number of people searching for affordable health insurance (up 41%), applying for Medicaid (up 104%) and health insurance quotes (up 45%) also increased substantially in the past year.
comScore noted that having a presence on the web during these difficult economic times can help insurance companies and consumers find each other. “Many Americans have an urgent need for health coverage right now, and it’s important for providers to be in front of consumers online where they are seeking out that information,”? said Kevin Levitt, comScore VP.
As another by-product of rising unemployment, comScore recently reported a 10% increase in visits to job-search websites over the past year.