Health Care Services Corp. is pairing up with insurance giant State Farm to sell individual health plans both on and off the health insurance exchanges during the next open enrollment period.
HCSC is "committed to expanding access and offering health insurance options in every corner of every state in which we operate," Jeff Tikkanen, president of retail markets for HCSC, said in a statement. "State Farm's presence is both broad and deep in these states and, as a result, we will have the single largest network of dedicated insurance professionals resident in their communities."
Through the partnership, HCSC hopes it can break into the harder-to-reach markets in the five states in which it operates a Blues plan--Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas--thanks largely to State Farm's retail storefronts and its more than 11,000 agents across more than 3,000 agencies, reported the Chicago Tribune.
"Any time you bring two of the most recognized brands together, it gives [customers] more opportunities to buy our products," Jeffrey Welch, divisional vice president of retail markets for HCSC told the Tribune. "It's an alliance with mutual benefits. Expectations are high."
Welch added that although HCSC expects that most of its policies initially sold through State Farm will be off the exchanges, more consumers will be buying Blues exchange plans as a result of State Farm's retail stores.
"State Farm has [sold insurance] for many years," Welch told Crain's Chicago Business. "We're leveraging their technology, an agent field force and our respective brands to broaden our reach into areas that we may have not gotten into before."
The deal comes as exchange competition is intensifying, particularly after UnitedHealth announced it's entering 24 new exchange markets this upcoming enrollment period. And a federal report just found that online marketplaces will include 25 percent more insurers next year.