As America's health insurance and medical fields gear up for complicated changes to related industries, private insurers are starting to invest in a new approach to connecting with possible enrolling members. New reports show that insurers are looking at creating "pop-up retail locations" in order to provide more access to new customers who will be entering the health plan coverage market because of provisions in the Affordable Care Act recently passed by the Obama administration. These reports cite UnitedHealthcare, a large multi-state insurer, which is estimated to have created over 1,400 retail locations, including stores and kiosks, in its coverage areas.
It's likely that you will take this news in a variety of ways. For some, the retail presence of insurance companies is just another harbinger of what is considered a 'giveaway' to insurance companies, where the new state health coverage exchanges and other parts of the Affordable Care Act will basically push individuals and families toward purchases. Also, consumer advocates for seniors sometimes point to the idea that retail locations can push a particular insurance option on the elderly, where they might be better served by getting informed about the range of options that are available to them.
The Human Touch
Regardless of the above concerns, a lot of consumers will see retail locations as a key piece of overall health care reform, albeit one that was in no way mandated by the government.
Part of what retail health insurance locations can be for you is simply a place for asking questions and getting convenient answers. During the past decades, where health insurance was primarily sold via mail, phone and Internet, getting any kind of customer service for basic information on your policy involved long wait times and a lack of key face-to-face interaction. Giving customers retail locations means providing you a place to ask questions, voice concerns, and even to vent frustrations. And, for many who do pay for health insurance coverage, this is a very valuable resource.
What Questions Do Enrolled Members Ask?
Many of the top questions for health insurance members involve cost vs. value. Even for those who are insured, medical bills can be extremely expensive, and in some cases, customers don't feel they are getting what they deserve for their money. We have even detailed cases where out-of-pocket patients end up paying less than those who are insured!
Other common questions involve health insurance company policies and basic elements of a health insurance plan, such as a deductible, annual or lifetime maximum, and other value or cost elements. With retail locations, some enrolled members may be able to attain a faster answer for these sorts of questions.