According to consulting firm Cap Gemini E & Y, health plans really are spending twice what they spent in 1999 on information technology. This report claims that plans are spending much more on IT in the areas of sales and marketing support, customer service, medical management underwriting and traditional back office stuff such as claims and enrollment.
I’m not sure what to make of this. Health plans are now at the top of the underwriting cycle (and hence are making beaucoup bucks, as this Interstudy report confirms) and so should have more money to spend on IT. Plus they have historically under-invested in IT. Meanwhile the rest of corporate America has stopped spending on IT after its binge of the 1996-2001 period, so it’s impressive that health plans are increasing their spending. Whether this "catch up spending" is enough to make up for their generally poor use of IT systems remains to be seen. And it further remains to be seen if they can handle the systems complexity involved in the move towards "consumer-directed health plan" products that several have announced, including the Oregon Blues.