Chicago — They'll look, but will they buy?

A new study says that although consumers seeking health insurance will use the Web to research their purchase, only a small percentage will consummate the transaction online.
The study was performed by Chicago-based Norvax Inc., which analyzed data from more than 446,500 online insurance shoppers who voluntarily requested a quote or contact from insurance agents between June and August of 2008. The data was analyzed for trends in five different categories: geography, current insurance status, insurability, gender and age.
"While there is a growing number of people looking for insurance online, we see that only about 5-10% are really confident enough to complete the purchase online," says Clint Jones, CEO of Norvax. "The remaining 90% want guidance. That's where the important role of brokers and agents comes in. They are the trusted advisers to whom consumers can turn to get the advice and counsel they need to select the best plan for their situation."

The results seem to dovetail with the findings of a 2007 study conducted by BuzzBack Market Research for Dayton, Ohio-based NCR Corp., which found that 73% of respondents would prefer to speak with someone when purchasing insurance.
The Norvax study reveals a clear gender gap in the online health insurance marketplace, women in their 20s and 30s showing the greatest interest in purchasing individual health insurance coverage online. Specifically, almost two-thirds of online health insurance shoppers surveyed were women, with women in their 20s accounting for one-third of all women in the study.

Overall, the surveyed respondents skewed young, with more than 53% of the study group reported their ages as being between 20 and 49. They also found curiosity among consumers already insured, with one in five respondents having coverage, but shopping for better options or preparing for the loss of their current plan.
The study gave a glimpse of a shifting marketplace as more Americans take on the responsibility of purchasing their own health insurance. 
"It is a wake-up call that the insurance market of the future is going to be individuals and they are going to use the Internet to find the right plan for them," says Farren Ross, VP of education at the National Association of Health Underwriters. "This study provides a clearer insight on the current dynamics and expanding role of the agent who in turn identifies the uninsured, those who are currently insured with inadequate policies and consumers shopping for competitive rates."
Sources: Norvax Inc., INN archives

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