Florida Blue unveils retail insurance stores

Florida Blue (formerly Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida) is putting millions of dollars into developing retail health stores, hoping the brick-and-mortar options will give the insurer a competitive edge when more individuals shop for coverage.

Customers visiting one of the insurer's Florida Blue Centers throughout the state can meet with an agent to talk about policies, visit registered nurses for free health screenings and find out their height, weight and body fat measurements. The retail stores also offer free yoga classes and health-related community events, reported the News-Press.

"It's about service, and we want people to feel comfortable asking questions," said Meredith Viskovic, director of the 5,000 square foot Florida Blue Center in Estero, Fla. "People have been very satisfied with coming into this center."

Florida Blue may be onto something, especially if expert predictions come to fruition. Consulting firm Oliver Wyman, for example, estimates there will be 100 million individuals looking for health plans come 2020, amounting to $500 billion in potential revenue.

And in just two years, the individual market could grow to 15 million people, according to eHealthInsurance.com, which operates private exchanges. Because most people are unaware of the individual health insurance market, "these retail outlets will create a lot of visibility and credibility for individually sold policies," eHealthinsurance spokesman Nate Purpura told News-Press.

Yet, Florida Blue is one of the few insurers developing such retail outlets. "This is not widespread," Alwyn Cassil of the Washington-based Center for Studying Health System Change, told News-Press. "I would say Blue Cross Blue Shield (Florida Blue) is kind of in the vanguard with this."

Another insurer developing retail outlets is Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, which has built a store with private meeting rooms, interactive workstations for benefits and claims information and a children's entertainment center. The Newark-based insurer also has specially trained employees to staff the store, answer customers' questions, direct them to health and well-being resources and assist them in purchasing insurance products and services, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Craig Thomas, Florida Blue's senior vice president for government and consumer markets, said consumers appreciate the option of a retail store. "Basically what a lot of consumers told us (about insurance) is it's important, it's emotional and it's complicated," he said. "And, boy, if I can go in a Florida Blue center to help me out, that's huge. And by the way, nobody else provides it."

To learn more:
- read the News-Press article

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