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Smart Benefits: Health Insurers Go Retail

Monday, October 21, 2013

 

Add to your list of things to pick up at the Mall: health insurance.

When consumers head to the mall, they’ll now be able to buy health insurance in addition to shopping for clothes. In a move that continues to gain steady momentum, leading health insurers across the country are opening retail stores to cater to individuals who now have to purchase health insurance on their own because of healthcare reform.

A Regional and National Trend

The insurers, many of whom are participating on the federal and state exchanges, know they need to build relationships with these individuals, many of whom previously had employer coverage, and are looking to malls as a good place to start.

  • UnitedHealthcare currently has 20 retail locations nationally spanning from New York to California.
  • In Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Fallon Community Health Plan offers a retail information center at the White City Shopping Center.
  • Several Blue Cross Blue Shield plans across the country have opened stores as well, the latest of which is in Rhode Island.

 

First RI Outlet Opens

Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI last week unveiled its first retail location, The Blue Advantage Center, at Cowesset Corners in Warwick. At the location, Rhode Islanders can purchase a health plan for themselves or their family, explore their Medicare options or get assistance with their current BCBSRI plan.

According to Peter Andruszkiewicz, president and CEO of BCBSRI, “Health insurance hasn’t been thought of as something we typically ‘shop’ for, like clothes or groceries. With the effects of healthcare reform, people have more choices than ever before and more ways to purchase insurance; they will review the options and select the plan that’s the best fit. With Rhode Islanders playing a more active role in the health insurance process, The Blue Advantage Center aims to be another outlet/resource for them as they shop, providing them with a place to meet with a salesperson, ask questions and discuss their decision.”

Offering More than Information

Insurers know it can be difficult to talk about healthcare with consumers because of the complexity involved. By offering retail settings with friendly, approachable staff, the carriers are aiming to remove some of the mystery that surrounds the topic. And many are finding that a good way to do this is to provide more than information and engage shoppers with activities like biometric health screenings stations, healthy cooking demos and onsite wellness classes.

Good for Business

It’s not just consumers who benefit from the new outlets; the stores enable the carriers to embed themselves in the community and strengthen their relationships with customers. That’s why insurers are just the latest in a line of industries to go local – like the return of the community bank.

So watch for a health insurance retailer coming soon to your neighborhood.

Amy Gallagher has over 21 years of healthcare industry experience guiding employers and employees. As Vice President at Cornerstone Group, she advises large employers on all aspects of healthcare reform, benefit solutions, cost-containment strategies and results-driven wellness programs. Amy speaks regularly on a variety of healthcare-related topics, and is often quoted by national publications on the subject matter. Locally, Amy is a member of SHRM-RI, the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, and the Rhode Island Business Healthcare Advisory Council.

 

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