Retail locations pay dividends for Florida Blue

Palm trees set against blue sky

Though health insurance isn’t typically bought and sold in person, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida has found that retail stores are an ideal way to reach the uninsured and connect with communities, according to a viewpoint published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Florida Blue faced a unique challenge when trying to connect the state’s ethnically, racially and economically diverse population with insurance, writes Harvard Business School’s Regina Herzlinger. So it created 18 retail centers that feature multiple health solution products, customer support provided by consultants, educational programs and electronic kiosks, and in some cases, select healthcare services.

These locations include 11 standalone full-service facilities that also host community events, five locations that offer services and sales but not healthcare, and 11 that are located in national retail chains and offer limited services and sales.

The centers have paid off in tangible ways for Florida Blue, the article adds, as they are responsible for 87,000 new health insurance policies. In addition, customers surveyed in 2015 rated their experiences with the stores highly, and the seven “mature” centers each broke even financially within 31 months.

The key to successful health insurance stores and “health hubs” is to offer convenient and personalized services that demonstrate a commitment not only to healthcare coverage but customers’ long-term health, Herzlinger concludes.

Florida Blue isn’t the only insurer to experiment with brick-and-mortar locations. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee leaders have said the insurer’s retail location in Nashville has helped give it a competitive advantage, and UnitedHealth’s bevy of stores offer features such as iPads that provide self-guided tours of benefit plans and a wellness room.

- read the viewpoint (subscription required)