Health care transactions took a step into the modern age this summer when a major carrier became the first to add a bill pay option to its website.

UnitedHealthcare teamed up with health care payment processor InstaMed to enable employer-insured customers to make electronic payments online toward any claim-related bills. UnitedHealthcare, the nation's largest health insurance company, says it's the first payer to supply a service of this kind. The option is available to more than 21 million plan participants nationwide.

Though the online payment technology isn't new in general, it is to carriers. Only two-thirds of physician practices take credit cards, and the ability to accept electronic payments from patients on provider websites is common only among larger hospitals and physician practices.

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