NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Internet Empowers Health Care Consumers

July 27, 2000

The Internet is changing the entire health care environment for physicians, insurers and patients, say analysts. It offers consumers the possibility of one-stop shopping for health care, and health insurers the opportunity to develop new products and reduce administrative costs.

Opponents of empowerment argue that consumers lack the expertise or desire to manage their own health care spending. However, data about Internet usage refute that contention:

  • A recent Harris Poll estimated that up to 70 million people looked on the Internet for health information during a recent 12-month period.
  • Forrester Research recently found that nearly one-third of online consumers already shop for health products on the Web.
  • According to Cyber Dialogue, an Internet research firm, of the 90 percent of Internet users who have health insurance, 78 percent said they would be interested in managing their benefits through an insurance carrier's Web site.

Insurers are developing new products tailored to consumers who want to manage their own health care, utilizing the Internet's cost-saving capabilites.

  • For example, a new venture,, offers high-deductible, catastrophic insurance policies for 80 percent less than low deductible policies in some cases.
  • Another new health insurance company -- -- plans to offer a medical savings account (MSA) specifically designed for consumers who want to manage their health care via the Internet.

The Internet will break barriers to real competition in the health care marketplace, say experts, giving patients more say in the quality and cost of their health care.

Source: Devon Herrick (NCPA research manager), "Managing Health Care with the Internet," Brief Analysis No. 330, July 27, 2000, National Center for Policy Analysis, 12770 Coit Rd., Suite 800, Dallas, Texas 75251, (972) 386-6272.

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