Health care insurers turn to brick-and-mortar option to lure customers
“People are looking to get answers about coverage for today and for what’s forthcoming.” United Healthcare has more than 20 retail locations now in states including Missouri, Nevada and Texas. The first was opened in the Chinatown section of New York City 20 years ago and the most recent was in Los Angeles. Highmark Health Services, also a Blue Cross Blue Shield provider, has 10 retail outlets in Pennsylvania. Highmark opened its first two Highmark Direct stores in March 2009 and has been adding more as the implementation of the law neared.
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Public Health Dept., restaurants team up for healthier dining
The media campaign includes posters around the county that read, “Choose Less, Weigh Less” and “You Wouldn’t Eat 22 Packs of Sugar, So Why Are You Drinking Them?” A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a drop in the percentage of Los Angeles County children who drank sugar-sweetened beverages between 2007 and 2011. County officials hope for similar results on portion sizes. “It’s all part of a coordinated campaign to change norms,” said Jonathan Fielding, director of the Department of Public Health. Subway, which has more than 600 locations in the county, is the largest participant in the restaurant partnership thus far. Other restaurants include Poquito Mas, Roman’s Pizza, Lido di Manhattan Ristorante and Deano’s Gourmet Pizza. The county expects to sign on many more in coming months and will work closely with the restaurants on the best way to make changes.
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Jayne O’Donnell has been covering the Affordable Care Act for USA Today. She calls this the “retailization of health insurance.” O’Donnell told CBS News, “It’s up to the insurers to really compete and increase their marketing and lure as many of them as they can.” In the past, the industry’s main customers have been employers. Now insurers have to sell to individuals as well. On July 18, President Obama said, “New online marketplaces will allow consumers to go online and compare private health care insurance plans just like you’d compare over the Internet the best deal on flat-screen TVs.” But some consumer advocates say the retail stores could keep customers from getting their best deal. O’Donnell said, “These insurance companies like having their own stores so they can be in control of the customer, who, once they get them in the door, are theirs.” O’Donnell argues the best deal could be found online. She said, “You can really compare and contrast them on the state exchanges and you’re not going to be able to do that at a retail store.” Either way, CBS News’ Jan Crawford added on “CBS This Morning,” insurers will be competing to add young, healthy people to their plans to help cover the older people or sick people, whom they can no longer deny coverage to, under the law.
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