Insurers open retail stores to sell individual policies

Health plans are beginning to show up at the mall.

WellPoint's Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado is the latest of a handful that have opened a retail store. The store is at Southwest Plaza mall in Littleton, Colo., a Denver suburb, American Medical News reports.

Payers are betting bricks and mortar stores like these will help spur sales of individual policies, as people begin to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's requirement that all U.S. residents have health insurance by 2014.

"Retail is something we feel is the future of the business--it's definitely a health insurance market trend," Mike King, manager of retail marketing for Pittsburgh-based Highmark Inc., told American Medical News. Highmark has already opened its fifth Highmark Direct store in Pittsburgh. Its first store opened in March 2009. In its first year operating the stores, 20,000 people visited. But the insurer did not reveal how much revenue it collected.

At the Anthem store in Littleton, the first weeks averaged 100 visits a day and about four coverage applications, Robert Ruiz-Moss, the manager in charge of the store, told American Medical News.

The health insurer stores also offer customers amenities. BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina's SC Blue Store in Mount Pleasant, S.C., offers a massage chair. Anthem features a juice bar. Highmark offers visitors a BMI measurement station.

To learn more:
- read the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Colorado press release
- here's the American Medical News story