Coming: Insurance Debit Cards That Reveal Health History

Patients covered by UnitedHealth Group will soon receive patient identification cards that they can use as debit cards for medical expenses and that doctors can use to access patients’ personal health information electronically.

The banking industry has seen health savings accounts as a way to add customers and expand services, arguing that the software currently used to process financial transactions can readily be tuned to handling health care claims. However, UnitedHealth established its own financial services group, Exante, in January 2002.

Banks are seeking to sort out health bureaucracy with electronic remittances. Click here to read more.

The new cards, which will carry the MasterCard logo, can be swiped like a credit card at a doctors’ office or other certified health provider. But in addition to providing payment, the cards can be used to confirm eligibility for services and provide access to personal health information at the point of care. The cards should be broadly available early in 2007.

UnitedHealth is working on a feature that uses the cards to interface with its electronic systems and determine precisely how much the patient owes at the time of the doctor visit. Besides collecting copayments and other patient-billable expenses easily, doctors’ offices can use the cards to submit and process insurance claims more quickly, says UnitedHealth.

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