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Health coverage a go for eBay sellers

After a delay of several months, the online auctioneer launches a program to help people who make their living selling goods on the company's site obtain health care coverage.

After a delay of several months, online auctioneer eBay has launched a program to help people who make their living selling goods on the company's site obtain health care coverage.

eBay had announced plans last year to make a plan available to its "power sellers," people who average at least $1,000 in sales per month. eBay currently has between 35,000 and 40,000 power sellers, according to spokesman Kevin Pursglove.

The plan was put on hold in October, when eBay had trouble finding an insurance company willing to create a plan to cover the sellers. Because power sellers include both individuals and businesses, they are "not a traditional group as defined by health care providers," eBay said then.

But eBay said it was finally able to set up plans for major medical, dental and pharmaceutical coverage by working with Marsh Advantage America. Several insurance companies are providing services; Marsh essentially acts as a broker connecting the power sellers to the companies, eBay's Pursglove said, adding that eBay will not incur any costs beyond minor administrative ones.

Prices and availability for coverage vary depending on characteristics of the sellers and their location, Pursglove said.

"The diverse nature of eBay power sellers was a hurdle," in setting up the program, Pursglove said. "Some are self-proprietorships; others have employees. Some sell x number of dollars per month; others have another amount. There is also the question of what state they're in. Not all carriers provide it in all states."

Pursglove said eBay did not yet know how many sellers had signed up for insurance.

The company is exploring other ways of offering its power sellers benefits, such as car or rental insurance.

"We don't have any definitive answers," Pursglove said. "We're going to explore it. No company has ever done this before. We're really venturing into uncharted territory."