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Pros and cons of online health records

Kim Morris | March 17, 2009

Like it or not, we will much more about online health records in coming months. The latest artice we viewed on this topic is included in today's Wall Street Journal. A large number of providers have entered this field while this industry is still in its infancy. We expect further evolution in the industry and its procedures. This post briefly considers the pros and cons of online medical records with regard to their effect on affordable medical insurance.

1) As long as health insurance is not mandatory for everyone, then the provisions for covering pre-existing medical conditions will continue to be a significant issue. Online medical records will reduce the uncertainty, human error factor and intentional fraud regarding pre-existing conditions. Presumably over the long term this will reduce medical insurance costs.

2) Medical data privacy will become more difficult. Presumably all insururers with a need to know will have access to all medical records. Although not available directly to employers, the impact of rate actions on employer-provided health plans will "tip off" employers to a serious medical diagnosis like cancer or AIDS.

3) Doctors who embellish diagnostic codes to ensure their payment (a reportedly common practice) will wind up hurting their patients over the long term by triggering higher future insurance rates and possibly causing exclusion from preffered risk health plans.

4) Employer's medical insurance rates will become less stable or predicable. Renewal rates could vary dramtically depending on the evolving medical conditions of the employees, rather than being based on actual claims history. Some companies with healthy employees will pay lower rates, some whose employees have significant medical history will pay much higher rates.

MedSave.com emphasized that none of the insurance companies listed on its Web site have announced plans to alter the medical eligibility or rating process based on online medical records. Short term insurance and supplemental insurance plans are less likely than major medical insurance to be affected by increased access to medical records.

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