Largest European Private Health Insurer Goes Online

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DKV, Europe's largest private health insurance company, headquartered in Cologne, Germany, launched a portal last month offering insurance policies and health information to surfers and subscribers.

Initially, the launch is limited to Germany, where DKV makes most of its money. But the company expects to build the portal into one of the largest insurance and health sites in Europe. The company does business in Spain and the Benelux countries, which are Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The portal provides all relevant information about health insurance, from rates charged to the issuing of health insurance policies. It also provides a virtual medical reference book, a hospital guide and medical advice from a staff of 25 doctors.

In addition, patients can use the site to store their medical records -- an important function in an age of growing European mobility that often leaves families without doctors who know their medical history.

Private health insurance in Europe is growing rapidly in the wake of faltering state health insurance plans that are cutting back on offered services because of rising costs and static insurance payments.

As prosperity increases within the European Union, more people are buying supplemental coverage to assure themselves of better care and better access to medical information.

The trend is reflected in DKV's financials. Last year the number of customers grew more than 20 percent, from 4.7 million to 5.6 million, in part because the company acquired a Dutch insurer and a Spanish insurer.

Earnings grew almost 7 percent to 3.81 billion euros (about $3.5 billion in U.S. dollars) with foreign subsidiaries contributing 508 million euros, up 27 percent and now accounting for more than 13 percent of the company's total revenues.

DKV's move online is part of a trend across Europe for financial services -- especially insurance -- to operate on a cross-border basis.

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