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Regence Pushes Direct Sales

Health insurer launches online shopping for individual customer niche.

Targeting customers without health insurance, The Regence Group (TRG, $6 billion annual premium revenue, Portland, OR) is launching online direct sales capability for its affiliated companies. Regence Blue Shield of Washington and Regence Blue Cross of Oregon (RBCBSO) launched their sites in late February, and the company's Idaho and Utah affiliate sites were scheduled to launch by early April, says Janet Camelio,manager, individual marketing, RBCBSO. The sites are accessible through the affiliates' principal sites (, www.or.regence. com,,

TRG moved to craft its own online capability for individual sales with help from Portland-based software and consulting firm MyHealthBank, Inc., having previously taken individual applications through its online agency partner (Sunnyvale, CA). "eHealthInsurance became our number-one seller of new individual contracts pretty quickly," says Camelio, prompting TRG to recognize the viability of direct sales to an individual customer niche.

The current rollouts represent a first phase of functionality, enabling customers to anonymously compare six traditional preferred provider and two HMO products by price, product type, deductible, office visit cost or co-payment levels, says Camelio. After registering, customers can print out an application form, which they must mail in, she explains. TRG is planning to roll out "phase two" functionality in late spring, which will enable the customers "to submit an electronic signature and apply online," Camelio says.

Slower Than P&C

TRG's "phase two" functionality will enable a customer to secure coverage in days rather than weeks, but that will still compare unfavorably with the direct sales functionality available in "the auto insurance industry, where they're using real-time motor vehicle reports and credit reporting" to deliver coverage within a day, says Tim Carpenter, an analyst with Waltham, MA-based Gomez, Inc. Nevertheless, by targeting a segment of the population that might otherwise be uninsured, companies such as eHealthInsurance and TRG provide "a definite service to a definite market," according to Carpenter.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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