GE Financial Assurance Holdings Inc., looking to round out the financial services offerings at its Web site, has signed an agreement to offer health insurance products from multiple carriers through the site.

The insurance and investment business of General Electric Co. is hoping to build its health insurance sales through the Internet as part of a larger plan to grow several distribution channels, including its bank channel.

“We offer everything from auto and homeowners’ insurance, to annuities, mutual funds, mortgages, and credit cards, so this helps us complete our financial services offerings,” said Marissa Moretti, a spokeswoman for GE Financial.

In the bank channel, the Fairfield, Conn., company sells long-term-care, term life, and variable life insurance, as well as fixed and variable annuities.

The Web-based provider of the health insurance products, eHealthInsurance Services, of Sunnyvale, Calif., offers individual, family, and small-group health insurance from an array of insurers. It also has 60 licensed agents available to counsel potential clients over the Internet, via e-mail or phone.

GE Financial’s decision to link up with eHealthInsurance comes a little over a month after Bank One Corp. of Chicago agreed to start selling health insurance through the health insurance portal. Bankone.com customers, along with the company’s Internet bank, Wingspan.com, are targeting small-business and individual customers, according to Glen Milesko, chairman of Banc One Insurance Group.

Bank One was the second large banking company in recent months to use eHealthInsurance for health insurance sales on the Web. Comerica Bank in Detroit has been offering health insurance through a cobranded site with eHealthInsurance since September.

Until last month, eHealthInsurance also provided health insurance quotes to Web portal InsWeb Corp. of Sacramento; it is now suing InsWeb.

David Holton, president of Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Wachovia Insurance Services, the insurance subsidiary of Wachovia Corp., was skeptical and said that selling health insurance on the Internet is not going to lead to a burst of health insurance sales.

“When we start to market health insurance to smaller businesses, the Internet will play a role,” Mr. Holton said. Wachovia markets health insurance lines to larger and midsize companies through DavisBaldwin Inc., an insurance agency it purchased last September.

“But I think the bulk of sales will occur because of branch marketing, direct marketing, and bankers’ relationships with small-business clients,” he said. “Perhaps the Web site will assist in the sale, by having information and even sales abilities there. But will the small-business owner jump on the Internet without being prodded? I think that’s a stretch.”


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