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More Americans searching online for health insurance answers

By Maryalene LaPonsie on September 19th, 2013

With health insurance exchanges set to debut in a few weeks and an individual coverage mandate only months away, more Americans are turning to the Internet for answers regarding the health reform law.

According to data from comScore, an analytics firm, the first half of the year saw a steady increase in the number of online searches for health insurance information. In addition, the government's health care website saw a 50 percent increase in traffic from January to June 2013.

Internet the go-to place for answers

An August poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 55 percent of those seeking information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went online for answers to their questions.

Many of those individuals may have headed to HealthCare.gov, the official government website for information related to health reform. comScore found there were 508,000 unique visitors to the site in June 2013 compared to 322,000 six months earlier.

In addition, search phrases that included the words 'health insurance' jumped 30 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the second quarter of 2013.

Many still remain in the dark

Some individuals may be researching the health reform law and their health insurance coverage options, but many other Americans continue to be in the dark.

The Kaiser poll found 51 percent of respondents said they do not have enough information to understand health reform and how it will impact their family. Yet, only 36 percent of Americans report actively seeking out information regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

However, that may change as the country inches closer to the 2014 mandate that virtually every resident maintain health insurance coverage. In particular, Americans may turn to the Internet to learn more about the health insurance exchanges that will launch in every state in October.

The online marketplaces are expected to dramatically change in the way Americans find affordable health insurance. In addition to offering a central portal to compare health insurance quotes, some individuals and families may be eligible for government subsidies, in the form of tax credits, to offset their premium costs. Those earning between 100-400 percent of the federal poverty limit and buying coverage on a exchange may be eligible for a credit.

"The launch of exchanges this coming October is probably the most significant change to the health insurance market in a generation," said Susan Engleson, Director of comScore's Insurance Practice, noting the company will be tracking and reporting on resulting internet traffic trends for its clients.

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