Yes, it is safe to look and shop for health insurance online if you know what you are doing and who you are dealing with. There are three main types of websites you can visit to compare and shop on. Knowing the right website to use is critical.
There are also some general computer security concerns you should be aware of. Make sure that you take the necessary steps to be safe online. Familiarize yourself with the common fraud alerts all consumer should know.
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Before surfing for health insurance rates you will need to put a few basic security features in place. Follow some common sense rules of online shopping to protect yourself and your family from some of the dangers of the internet.
Three Types of Health Insurance Websites
What are the three types of health insurance websites found on the internet? There are websites operated by insurance companies called carrier sites. There are also health insurance websites run by agencies who represent a variety of insurance companies. There are the referral websites, which are also called lead generating sites.
Each of these types of health insurance websites has a specific agenda and purpose.
Knowing the players makes the job of online insurance shopping easier and safer.
Yes, you can buy health insurance safely online, if you know a few simple facts and follow a few simple rules.
What is a carrier site and what do they offer? A carrier site belongs to an insurance company that issues health insurance policies. At these sites you will only see policies that the carrier itself offers. There is no way to compare these online health insurance rates, features and premium costs with those of other companies without going to other carrier sites and making notes of what the others offer. This can be clumsy and time consuming.
You can tell if the site is a carrier site by the fact that they only offer their own plans, feature their distinctive company logo, and the contact information points to their corporate or regional headquarters. There will be phone numbers you can call to verify that you are indeed dealing with an actual insurance company. You can use the A.M. Best website to find some online ratings of health insurance companies and see how they stack up.
What do agency sites offer and how do they work? A health insurance agency or agency website represents several health insurance companies. On these sites you can make comparisons of features and rate without surfing around to other websites. These health insurance agents are licensed to sell health insurance products on behalf of the companies they represent and must be licensed to do business in your state. They have a legal obligation to prominently post their license number on the website and in any literature they distribute.
These agency websites usually have a contact page linked to the main page where the names and photos of individual health insurance agents are featured along with short bios. They want you to see their faces and know what type of professional certifications they hold in the field. They will list office hours, phone numbers and mailing addresses.
Lead Generating Websites
What are lead generating websites?
Lead generating sites are the ones to watch out for.
While some are good sources of information, many of these websites collect and sell your information to other companies who will then bombard you with offers for all types of products and services. Lead generating websites will often have a quote service as well, but the selling of your information is their main business.
These sites will have very little in the way of contact information and may be heavily loaded with advertisements. If it isn’t easy to contact them by telephone or mail, then be on guard. This may be a lead generating site that will not be helpful to you.
Guidelines For Buying Health Insurance Online
What are some guidelines for buying health insurance online? Once you have established that you are doing business with a reputable firm, there are a few things to look for that will make your transactions safer online. A Better Business Bureau (BBB) seal on the site tells you that they meet BBB standards. You can check for complaints against the company at the BBB website.
Another safety feature to look for is if the site uses strong encryption to protect your personal information. Services such as Verisign provide this. The security feature will be noted on any websites you visit that use it.
Additionally, when visiting websites you will notice the name for the site begins with the letters HTTP. When you see a site that begins with HTTPS you know that extra security is used in the transfer of data between you and the website operators. A good explanation of this and how to spot it can be found at the How Stuff Works website.
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