Highmark opens retail stores to sell insurance

Hoping to appeal to consumers who shop for their own coverage, Highmark plans to open two more retail insurance stores in Pennsylvania.

The insurer opened its first two  Direct stores in March 2009 and added four others in 2010. The stores have had more than 63,000 visitors and provided health insurance to thousands of individuals and families, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Since the health reform law mandates that all individuals purchase health insurance, Highmark expects more people to start shopping for plans, reports the Express-Times. "One of the things reform is going to do is cause a lot of folks to start asking a lot more questions," says Matt Fidler, Highmark vice president of consumerism and retail marketing. "The stores are meant to be a place of education."

Inside Highmark's stores, customers can do their own research on plans as well as talk to an agent. The stores have already proven successful, with about 20,000 customers visiting the Harrisburg and Pittsburgh locations in their first year of operation, the Intelligencer Journal reports. "We see a lot of individuals who need to acquire coverage, from those who are aging into Medicare and turning 65, to folks graduating from college and on their own," Fidler says.

The Highmark retail stores will join dozens of other stores operated by other insurers across the country in Maryland, South Carolina, Florida and Colorado, among other states, notes the Intelligencer Journal.

To learn more:
- check out the Pittsburgh Business Times piece
- see the Express-Times story
- read the Intelligencer Journal article