We recently got a call from a client who mentioned that he had done a Google search for the “best health insurance companies in Colorado” and his concern was that Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield was not on the top ten list that he said came up as the first search result. We were a bit surprised to hear that, so we did the same search ourselves. There are three sponsored results, but the first non-sponsored result that comes up is from the health section of US News & World Report.
If you click on that link, you’ll see a very rudimentary page that lists “The Top 10 Health Insurance Companies In Colorado.” There are several issues with the page, but just to clarify things a bit, the second carrier listed, Rocky Mountain Hospital & Medical, is Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado. So is the 8th entry, HMO Colorado Inc. Rocky Mountain Hospital & Medical Service, Inc. and HMO Colorado, Inc. are alternate business names for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Colorado (see the bottom of the BBB file page on Anthem).
At the top of the page, there is a notation saying that the list below is the “10 biggest health insurers in Colorado” and that they are ranked by market share according to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. There is a link there, but it just goes to the NAIC homepage, not to any specific data regarding market share for health insurance companies in Colorado. We wrote an article a couple years ago that included a link to a Colorado Division of Insurance report that contained essentially the same market share ranking information that is provided in the US News page. So I agree that the list provided on the US News page does represent the top ten health insurance companies in Colorado in terms of market share. But when people search “best health insurance companies in Colorado“, I think they’re generally thinking about more than just market share. And the title of the piece – “The Top 10 Health Insurance Companies In Colorado” doesn’t make it clear that we’re talking strictly about market share, with nothing else taken into consideration.
The US News page doesn’t make any distinction between individual and group health insurance plans. If you’re looking at individual and family plans, the ranking won’t do you much good. Pacificare is listed in the number 4 spot, but Pacificare hasn’t sold individual policies in Colorado in nearly six years, since they merged with United HealthCare. If you request an individual quote from Pacificare in Colorado, you’ll get a quote from Golden Rule/United HealthOne (the individual branch of United HealthCare).
Aetna is also listed (twice) in the top ten, but Aetna has not sold individual policies in Colorado since early 2011. The page does note that the ranking is according to data that was current in early 2011, but this could be confusing for a consumer looking for information on individual health insurance plans in the current market.
The US News page appears to be mainly a health insurance affiliate page, with some additional sponsored ads in the header and sidebar for ehealthinsurance. The “get quotes” button directly above the top ten list is an ehealthinsurance affiliate link. Although the page notes that the ranking is based on market share, the data used to compile the top ten list is a bit obfuscated (a link to the homepage of NAIC isn’t as helpful as a link to the specific data would be), and the designation of what “top” means isn’t exactly clear either.
Each company listed on the page has a link to a page that provides the name of the company and contact info, including a website (so if you click on the Rocky Mountain Hospital & Medical link for example, you’ll get the contact info for Anthem, including the main Anthem website). There’s also a link on each of those info pages that says more information can be obtained from NAIC – again, with just a link to the NAIC homepage. Each info page, as well as the main “Top 10” page also has a note at the bottom stating that additional data is available for purchase, and there’s a link to NAIC there too.
To make a long story short, although US News & World Report is a respected publication and website, this particular page seems to be mostly about affiliate marketing. The information provided is not technically incorrect, but it’s lacking in context and is obviously confusing, especially if people aren’t aware of the multiple names used by carriers or the fact that not all carriers provide policies in both the individual and group market. In addition, while the page does state that the ranking is simply based on market share, that information might be overlooked by some readers, especially if they found the page by searching for the “best health insurance companies in Colorado“.
Consumers who are looking for ways to compare the various companies providing health insurance in Colorado will no doubt be concerned with market share, since more market share is often associated with a stronger, more stable company (although Aetna was highly ranked in terms of overall market share when they pulled out of the individual market in Colorado, so there are never any guarantees). But there are plenty of other factors to consider. You can search our website for more information about carriers, like complaint ratios, and the Colorado Division of Insurance has an excellent health insurance information site that you can use to compare carriers.