Benefitfocus(R) Introduces Market-Changing Technology Enabling Insurance Carriers To Sell Directly To Consumers

Early Adopter Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City Says Experience Fundamentally Changed Their Individual Market Approach

CHARLESTON, S.C., Dec. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Benefitfocus(R) announced today a revolutionary new technology that completely transforms consumers' online shopping experience for the direct purchase of health insurance. Benefitfocus eDirect(TM) is a market-changing technology which enables health insurance carriers to profitably offer individual health plan offerings in new and unique ways while tracking the ROI for specific marketing campaigns. Simultaneously, a Web-based storefront is quickly created which allows consumers to shop, compare and purchase the best health insurance plan for themselves and their family.

Recent analysts' reports highlight the growing need to reach individuals with health insurance. A Forrester report by analyst Carlton Doty states that "approximately one in ten U.S. consumers purchase health insurance individually." This is driven in part by the growing uninsured population in the U.S. and a decrease in the level of employer-sponsored insurance, especially among smaller employers.

As early adopters, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City says that the numbers are nothing short of amazing. "The individual market we have captured using Benefitfocus eDirect(TM) represents 18 percent of our total block of business. The norm for this market in the Blue plans is 8 percent," stated Roger Foreman, EVP of Sales and Chief Marketing Officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City.

"The process to reach individuals from a marketing campaign and/or broker to application submission and underwriting review used to be completely paper driven," shared Foreman. "With this new automated technology, we've not only experienced a rapid growth in the ability to reach the individual market, but a reduction in processing time from over four days to less than twenty-four hours."

In an industry characterized by slow change of pace, it is rare for a rapid introduction of technology to have such a fundamental impact on business. Benefitfocus eDirect(TM) is fulfilling a need while becoming that rare case. As people become personally impacted by the ever-increasing costs of healthcare they are beginning to look for options. They want to go online and compare prices and features just as they shop for computers, electronics and automobiles.

The statistics for online shopping alone indicate the growing purchasing power of consumers through retail electronic commerce. With such strong numbers and other healthcare trends afoot, it is clear the time for online healthcare consumerism is now. Online retail holiday trends alone predict an increase in sales totaling $30 billion which is 29 percent over ecommerce purchases this time last year, according to research firm ComScore Networks. Current research by iCrossing Inc. shows 42 percent of all consumers perceive information they find online about brands and products to influence their online purchasing decisions. And search engines are used by 65 percent of online shoppers to conduct product research. According to iCrossing Inc.'s August 2007 survey, "39 percent of online adults make a purchase on the Internet at least once a month." Online retail is obviously one of the most significant ways to connect with consumers.

"For several years people inside the healthcare industry have been discussing 'consumerism' in healthcare and wondering if it will be long-term influencer or just a passing fad," says Shawn Jenkins Benefitfocus president and CEO. "Most of this discussion has been around a very narrowly defined aspect of consumerism, namely High Deductible Health Plans and Health Savings Accounts. These products and their adoption alone are not significant enough to influence market sweeping transformation to consumerism. What we are introducing with Benefitfocus eDirect(TM) is a complete engagement of the consumer on all levels of their healthcare decision-making. It is so much bigger than simply the uptick in certain products."

Benefitfocus eDirect(TM) allows a carrier to track the return on investment for each sale made through specific marketing campaigns. "Through the marketing campaign management component, we've been able to decrease our advertising spend by 19 percent while increasing our sales by 14 percent," shared Foreman. This technology provides an integrated solution for direct marketing, sales, underwriting and enrollment to the individual market segment.

Benefitfocus eDirect(TM) provides consumers a retail experience with a dynamic plan comparison tool and multi-media education about plan terms and options. After comparing options online, consumers can apply electronically and be quoted a personal rate within 24-hours or less. Through the automated billing component, first-time and recurring payments can be made by credit card or checking accounts. In addition, monthly bill presentment and payment is easily accessible for policyholders.

Healthcare insurance brokers and carriers can use Benefitfocus eDirect(TM) for multiple purposes. Tracking prospects, the status of applications, or shoppers who abandon their shopping process is simplified with this software solution. Proper commissions for sales can now be easily maintained through reporting and management tools. A significant market advantage can also be found as Benefitfocus eDirect(TM) offers the capability to up-sell additional products, such as life and dental.

"The individual market is frankly the only market that will grow substantially in opportunity in the next few years. This system will help capture this opportunity," offered Foreman. "Benefitfocus eDirect(TM) provides the product perspective and technology that makes it extremely efficient and effective in the marketplace to capture the individual sales with an outstanding return on investment."

"This is a significant day for our customers and will allow them to leap into the new world of direct to consumer with confidence," Jenkins exclaimed. "We are excited to provide the tools and resources which will play a significant roll in the future of healthcare technology and consumerism."

About Benefitfocus

Benefitfocus is the leader in software and services for the healthcare benefits market providing "Quote to Claim" technology for both enterprise and consumer applications. By developing leading technology solutions, Benefitfocus allows consumers, employers and benefit providers to manage complex decisions in an ever-changing healthcare environment. Benefitfocus can be reached at 843-849-7476 or via the Internet at

Joy Capps
843-849-7476 | [email protected]

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CONTACT: Joy Capps, Benefitfocus, +1-843-849-7476,
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