By Janet Fang
Posting in Healthcare
With employer coverage declining, health insurers are increasingly appealing to millions of individual shoppers with bricks-and-mortar stores.
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
Feb 29, 2012
I think that people will be more reluctant to come forward and buy heath insurance from the retails shops as opposed to how they usually buy. http://www.abosolutesurety.com
Carriers aren't the only players getting into the retail health insurance game. New fee-based models are also emerging to address the needs of the millions of individuals who will soon be faced with making decisions around individual health insurance for the first time in their lives http://bit.ly/JgtFKR
The biggest problem with what we call "health insurance" is that the majority of people have come to believe that it's something that is supposed to come from their employer. This has created vast problems, the biggest being that people end up being virtual slaves to their employer because changing jobs means losing coverage. The other big problem is that the end user isn't really the customer; the employer is. The other is that nobody knows what anything really costs, which makes making rational choices impossible. The only reason that people "aren't comfortable" buying is is because they've never had to before.