More People Shopping for Health Insurance

More people, in more places, will soon be shopping for health insurance. Health insurers are opening retail stores in trendy locations to be sure they get their share of the millions of people expected to buy health insurance when open enrollment begins October 1.

Adding to the queue of people buying insurance are retirees and employees of some companies who have decided to move them out of company-sponsored health plans and into health insurance exchanges. Well over 100,000 employees at Walgreen will be buying their health insurance on a private healthcare exchange. Walgreen and 17 other large national employers are sending their employees to the exchange operated by AON Hewitt.

Employers are also distancing themselves from retiree health plans. Some of America’s largest employers are moving retirees into shopping for their own health insurance on private and public health exchanges. Time Warner, IBM, and General Electric are three very visible examples.

With this influx of new customers shopping the health insurance market, insurers are investing in retail marketing and advertising to be sure they attract plenty of healthy, young, and profitable customers. United Healthcare has more than 20 retail locations and and they’re still adding. Highmark has 10 locations in Pennsylvania, where they’ve reached nearly a quarter of a million customers. Says healthcare strategist Farzan Bharucha:

It will be a departure for a lot of these insurance companies. Some insurance companies have been more progressive at consumer-directed health plans than others and some have done more marketing.

So for some people this year, health insurance may well be on the list when they hit the malls on Black Friday. Oh, joy!

Click here to read more in USA Today, here to read more from Reuters, and here to read more from Bloomberg.

Shopping, photograph © wolfgangfoto / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.