There, customers can buy a policy, check an existing claim, and basically get the one-on-one attention expected from shopping in a store – making the experience as easy as buying a TV.
When employers were the buyers, wholesale sales were the way to go, but now insurers are recognizing that retail will be more important. Washington Post and Kaiser Health News reports:
The number of individual health insurance customers is expected to grow significantly in coming years. Employer-sponsored health coverage is eroding, and in 2014 the law will require nearly everyone to have insurance, adding millions to the ranks of the insured.
As insurers see it, bricks-and-mortar stores are one more way, along with online and telephone support, to reach out to consumers.
- Highmark in Pennsylvania and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida have the largest retail presence, each with several stores statewide.
- In New York, UnitedHealthcare recently opened a 16,000-square-foot facility in the Flushing, Queens; it operates a number of smaller storefronts as well.
- Back in 2005, Costco tested health insurance sales with individual policies in Southern California. Now the members-only retailer offers high-deductible plans from Aetna in 8 states.
As NPR explains, people just aren't yet comfortable buying a health plan the way they buy other consumer products, and retail stores might help make it seem more routine.
Image by Ohio Health Insurance via flickr