We recently had a new client stop in that is very successful in selling Medicare supplemental insurance using traditional sales processes. Many of their agents as well as senior management want to start preparing for greater Internet use among the senior population, including their Medicare supplement agents themselves.

This client asked a question: How much utilization is there today among the senior population? A recent publication from the “Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement” entitled “The Age Explosion: Baby Boomers and Beyond” answers this question and a bit more:

  • Currently, for those who are older than 65 without disability, Internet usage is 25 percent.
  • For those 55+, 72 percent use the internet at home if they also use it at work.
  • Overall, more than 60 percent of people at least 50-years-old used the Internet in some way at the end of 2001.
  • With a 42.7 percent use rate, older Internet users are more likely than any other age group to look up health information online.
  • Finally, from a technical standpoint, the study restated the obvious to support its assertion that Internet use among seniors will only grow: the computers of the near future will be faster, have greater bandwidth, and cost less. (I can hear Morty Seinfeld now, “Jerry, it tells me which restaurants have the cheapest food – pretty good, eh!?!?!”)

The study makes it clear with this statement: American companies “should further stimulate Internet usage by boomers.”

So what does all this mean in the health and life insurance industry? For our new client, they see great urgency to get started now in building an online infrastructure to sell and service the senior insurance marketplace. They said if they wait for all their agents to be 100 percent ready, they will be behind the curve as it takes twelve to twenty-four months to become effective with online sales and service (assuming outsourced development, of course).

So if your strategy is to grow your book of business in the senior market, it seems prudent to include a Web component.