An Already-Changing Insurance Market May Face More Transformation
The Wall Street Journal: "Insurers are increasingly setting up brick-and-mortar retail stores that peddle individual and sometimes small-group health plans, with companies including Humana Inc., Aetna Inc. and Health Net Inc. so far trying the concept. Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Pennsylvania and South Carolina say they've had good results from shops, while Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida Inc. plans to add five more locations after the success of its existing two."
"Of people under 65 who buy their own health plans, just 1% made their purchases at retail stores ... In-person meetings with agents, along with Internet and phone sales, are far more common." Many find the experience frustrating and confusing. "Even so, the number of people buying their own insurance is growing and that could accelerate if Congress passes a health-overhaul law requiring nearly all Americans to have coverage" (Matthews, 9/1).
Meanwhile, The Christian Science Monitor reports that "Healthcare reform efforts in the House and Senate are proposing to alter profoundly the way in which many people in the US would shop for and purchase their health insurance policies. Details differ, but the big health bills now under consideration in both chambers would establish a nationwide system of insurance exchanges government-run, Web-centered marketplaces intended to make it easy for consumers to compare the costs and benefits of available insurance options."
"Insurance exchanges would be places where individuals shopping on their own plus employees of small firms would be able to go to get better health insurance deals. By banding together, they would be able to command lower prices and a wider benefit selection. (Again, that's the theory.) Plus, government might regulate the price and nature of the available insurance products" (Grier, 9/1).
Related KHN story: Exchanges May Play Key Role In An Overhauled SystemThis is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.