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  • Writer's pictureThomas Miller

Aetna's Price Transparency & Thwarting Web Scraping to Keep Data Under Wraps

Updated: Oct 22, 2023


Aetna's Price Transparency & Thwarting Web Scraping to Keep Data Under Wraps

As the demand for data transparency in the healthcare industry grows, some insurance companies have been less than forthcoming in making their price transparency data easily accessible. Aetna, one of the leading health insurance providers, is an example of a company that has made its price transparency files extremely difficult to download. In this blog post, we will explore the various techniques Aetna employs to block web scraping technologies, hindering data accessibility for consumers and other stakeholders.


Techniques to Block Web Scraping Technologies


Limiting Request Rates

Aetna has also employed rate limiting to hinder web scraping efforts. By limiting the number of requests a user can make within a specific time frame, the company can effectively slow down or halt the data extraction process. This makes it much more difficult for users to download large amounts of data and significantly increases the time required to obtain the necessary information.


IP Blocking and User-Agent Analysis

To further complicate web scraping efforts, Aetna may use IP blocking and user-agent analysis to identify and block suspicious activity. By analyzing a user's IP address and the information their browser sends to the server, Aetna can identify and block users or bots that exhibit scraping behavior. This adds another layer of difficulty for those attempting to access the price transparency data.


Obscuring Data Through JavaScript and AJAX

Aetna has also been known to obscure its data using JavaScript and AJAX techniques. By dynamically loading content on their web pages, they make it more difficult for web scrapers to locate and extract the desired information. This requires more advanced scraping techniques and additional resources, creating further barriers for users trying to access the data.


The Impact on Data Accessibility


Aetna's efforts to block web scraping technologies have a significant impact on data accessibility for consumers and other stakeholders. By making it difficult to download their price transparency files, Aetna effectively keeps this vital information out of reach for many users. This lack of data accessibility undermines the goals of data transparency laws, which aim to empower consumers to make informed healthcare decisions and foster competition within the industry. Without easy access to price transparency data, consumers are left in the dark, unable to compare costs and make informed choices about their healthcare. Aetna's use of multiple techniques to block web scraping technologies highlights the challenges faced in the pursuit of data transparency in the healthcare industry. While the company may have legitimate reasons for employing these tactics, the overall impact on data accessibility is concerning. To ensure that the goals of data transparency laws are met, it is essential for stakeholders to continue advocating for increased access to information and hold companies like Aetna accountable for their actions.


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