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Karen Ignagni, President and CEO, America's Health Insurance Plans
Karen Ignagni, President and CEO, America's Health Insurance Plans
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Technology, Innovation Enable Health Insurers To Address Challenges

Health insurers are integrating new technology tools, such as personal health records (PHRs) and e-prescribing, to deliver information quickly and lessen administrative burdens.

From catastrophe risk to consumer-directed healthcare to an optional federal charter, the insurance industry faces a number of critical issues in 2008. Executives from the industry associations that represent each insurance sector -- property and casualty, life, health, and reinsurance -- speculate on the most urgent issues facing their lines of business in 2008 and provide insight into how technology can help meet those challenges.

Editor's note: This contributed commentary is part of a larger compilation on the financial outlook of the insurance industry. For links to the other guest commentaries, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Lifestyle choices, government mandates and the rising costs of medical services have strained the healthcare system and made it difficult for many americans to access affordable coverage. The health insurance industry will continue to innovate and provide new tools to improve the quality of care and contain costs while working with government leaders to ensure Americans have greater access to affordable coverage.

The healthcare system is challenged to deliver health information quickly and securely when and where it is needed -- a physician's office, hospital emergency room, health clinic, disaster site or consumer's personal home computer. In 2007, we developed a model health-plan-based personal health record (PHR) and standards that will enable it to be portable. As a result, consumers will now be able to build up a health history over time without having to start over when they change insurers. Further, in 2008 more and more Americans will have access to PHRs through their health insurance plans, including sophisticated tools to manage chronic diseases, financial tools to manage healthcare costs and tools to share medical history information with their physician.

A key challenge for our industry is to establish the tools that will encourage providers to integrate technology into their practices. For example, electronic prescribing of medications, if done correctly, will give physicians and pharmacists the most accurate information about the course of treatment for a patient. Moreover, moving to e-prescribing will help prevent harmful drug interactions and empower patients and physicians with information on the most affordable prescription drug options available. Like other industries, however, our industry must continue to adapt to remain on the forefront of information technology security, ensuring systems are secure and data is kept private.

In addition, health plans continue to work to reduce the administrative burden of processing claims for all providers. Our industry is stepping up to the challenge through real-time claims adjudication, provider portals and claims estimator tools that providers can use to submit, track and process their claims. Moving to a system of electronically processed claims is showing results -- more claims are paid faster today through electronic means than ever before.

P&C Industry Focuses on Catastrophe Issues
-- By David A. Sampson, President & CEO, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America

Life Insurance Industry Needs Optional Federal Charter
-- By Kim Dorgan, EVP, American Council of Life Insurers

Reinsurers Address Natural Catastrope Risk
-- By Frank Nutter, President, Reinsurance Association of America

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