Although overall traffic declined slightly (-3%) to US websites in the health and medical category year-over-year from March 2008 to March 2009, some sectors experienced significant jumps in volume, most notably health insurance sites, which increased 11% YOY, according to a report by Hitwise entitled Diagnosing Online Health, published in May 2009. Health insurance sites represented nearly 8% of total sites in the health and medical category at the time of the survey.
The author of the report, Heather Dougherty, Hitwise's director of research, suggests that the rise in the unemployment rate and the worsening economy largely account for the increase in such visits.
Because the loss of a job in the US means the loss of employer-provided medical insurance, Dougherty suggests that one reason for the uptick in visits to health insurance sites was that greater numbers of the newly unemployed went there to research COBRA coverage and to compare the costs of individual health insurance policies. Another possible reason she suggests is that, as the economy worsened, increasingly greater numbers of workers began to fear layoff and visited such sites to check their benefits package so they could take advantage of their coverage while they still had it.
Starting in October 2008, when the economic climate worsened and layoffs increased, health insurance sites experienced a rise in visits: