Although insurance carriers have been slower than banks in adopting e-billing and e-payment technologies (see "Carriers Have Some Catching Up to Do), two insurers recently have taken a lead in this area.Esurance, a San Francisco-based direct-to-consumer auto insurer, has added a PayPal payment option to its Web site. PayPal is one of the leading forms of online payment, with approximately 79 million accounts worldwide.
Also forging new ground is Great-West Healthcare, a division of Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co., Greenwood, Colo.
Great-West Healthcare, a national employee benefits provider, launched a pilot program in October with E-Duction, Philadelphia, to issue a payroll deduction credit card for employers with consumer-driven or other high-deductible health care plans.
Called the CLEAR Card, it is processed like any other credit, debit or check card, enabling health care plan members to pay out-of-pocket health care expenses, which are then deducted from their paychecks.
"Members enrolled in consumer-driven health care plans typically pay lower premiums, but may pay higher, variable out-of-pocket expenses, which can create issues for many who might have limited resources," says Cindy Donohoe, vice president of marketing and product development at Great-West Healthcare. "Too often, if consumers cannot make payments, they shift the outstanding costs to providers, which creates bad debt for the providers. The CLEAR Card will help the industry avoid that scenario," she says.
Members enroll in the CLEAR Card program through a dedicated Web site or a toll-free number and make purchases on the card anywhere that MasterCard is accepted. The employee then pays for purchases in equal installments via automatic payroll deduction. For medical expenses that are greater than $199, CLEAR Card members receive interest free financing for six months. Medical expenses below this threshold and other non-medical expenses are paid interest-free via automatic payroll deduction over two months.
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