The Future of Paperless Insurance Cards

In an age where I can make debit card transactions from my phone, why is proof of insurance relegated to an archaic piece of paper?
From: Alex Summers
July 22nd, 2013 | 1 Comment

Three weeks ago, someone made a left turn in front of me and I couldn’t stop in time. We hit each other, and fortunately everyone was ok. It turned out, however, that I had forgotten my replacement car insurance card. This man (English was not his first language, but he had a legal license and everything) began to get worried that my coverage was out of date. This was clearly causing a lot of stress for him, and he apparently called the police while I was on the phone with my insurance company trying to see what they could do for me.

A few minutes of frantic explanation later, and I finally had a piece of paper with everything I needed to get me through the legalities of that accident. The gentleman I hit had a valid concern, but clearly didn’t understand the rules. My question is why this was even an issue.

In an age where I can make debit card transactions from my phone without even turning it on, why is proof of insurance relegated to this archaic form of identification?

The good news is that it’s not.

Increasingly, insurance companies are finding that placing a “Go Paperless” option on their website subtly encourages more customers to adopt billing online. Bills are sent via email, policies can be reviewed and printed as needed, but the system is not perfect.

Car Insurance

Car insurance is a reasonable first step toward enacting this type of legislation. Most people who own smartphones tend to have them near when driving, it makes sense that permitting a digital copy of insurance proof would be legalized, and indeed some states are already pursuing this legislation.

A current bill introduced in the Michigan state legislature seeks to make it legal for insurance to be “carried by OR ELECTRONICALLY ACCESSIBLE TO the person driving or in control of the vehicle, who shall display A PAPER OR ELECTRONIC COPY OF the registration certificate upon demand of a police officer.”

Paperless Billing

Each person who accepts paperless billing will undoubtedly save a company money. This savings will get passed onto the consumer in other ways, including competitively priced co-pays for health insurance. Paperless billing is also increasingly easier to organize with email inbox filters, browser bookmarking, and automatic billing.

Real-Time Verification

An officer pulling someone over for a traffic ticket has more time to spare than a nurse in a hospital, so real-time verification is important to fully enact this new system. A hospital must be able to verify your digital records remotely, and use this information to build a health profile for you that includes your insurance status.

Health information technology is advancing toward this exact aim. Within a few years, doctors hope to have a medical profile of their patients that includes past ailments, medications prescribed and other status updates that will affect how hospitals care for and ultimately charge a patient.

Soon, doctors will be able to show patients graphs discussing different treatments available and how much these treatments will cost. This info will be passed along to pharmacists, who can look at past ailments to decide which medication is best given physiology and type of insurance policy. Your health profile can be used by insurance companies to instantly determine your healthcare or term life insurance rates based on your medical history.

Medical advances in this field will save countless man hours, administrative costs, and ultimately cut down on the amount of paper produced as a whole from the entire medical industry.