Insurers Open Storefronts, Raise Rates To Adjust To New Reality
"Buying health insurance has become such a complex decision that Blue Cross and Blue Shield Florida is trying a new sales tactic: storefronts near big malls," the St. Petersburg Times reports. "By year's end, the Jacksonville insurer will open two 4,000-square-foot Florida Blue stores in Tampa and Orlando." Successful pilot stores "draw about 100 people a day in Jacksonville and Pembroke Pines. "With more options than ever and Obamacare on the horizon with the promise of open competition from a new government plan, some experts think the direct sales will be a competitive necessity as more employers let employees fend for themselves. So far Blue Cross affiliates in two states have copied the Florida test." The stores are supposed to work "like Apple Stores. A concierge greets you and self-serve kiosks are there for do-it-yourselfers. Or you may seek private cubicles stocked with salespeople. The stores also have a kids' play area, a juice bar and space for wellness programs. Each store has a registered nurse waiting to help sort out information on pending treatment decisions," (Albright, 7/7).
Meanwhile, "Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., urged Anthem Blue Cross Monday to reconsider its proposal to raise rates an average 23 percent and as high as 32 percent on individual health insurance policies in Connecticut," The Hartford Courant reports. The Courant "reported last Wednesday that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is seeking Connecticut Insurance Department approval for the increases. They would affect most of the 56,000 residents under 65 who have bought individual policies on their own from Anthem. The increases don't apply to Anthem group policies, which are sold to employers, though some employers have also complained of recent steep premium increases." In a letter to Anthem's president in Connecticut David R. Fusco, Dodd wrote "Should these new rates kick in, there is no question that additional Connecticut families will join the ranks of the uninsured," and asked Fusco to "reconsider your proposed rate increases in Connecticut and instead join me once again in my efforts and those of the Senate and the House to enact comprehensive health reform legislation this year."
"Anthem said it appreciated Dodd's concerns and leadership in reform, but added, 'Our proposed rate increase is a reflection of increasing health care costs.' The company said it has policies available with no rate increase, though they require consumers to share more of the medical costs" (Levick, 7/7).