In response to the growing health insurance consumer market, Highmark Inc., plans to open four more health insurance stores in Pennsylvania.
Highmark, an independent Blue Cross Blue Shield plan with 4.8 million members, expects to open three Highmark Direct stores in the Pittsburgh area, as well as one in Harrisburg.
The insurer opened its first Highmark Direct in Pittsburgh's McKnight Seibert Shopping Center and in Mechanicsburg's Silver Spring Square in March 2009. Highmark said those first two stores have seen a total of more than 20,000 visitors.
"When we opened our first two stores last year, our goal was to provide Pennsylvanians with access to the information they need to make informed decisions about health insurance," Kenneth R. Melani, MD, Highmark Inc., president and CEO, said in a statement. "The stores have exceeded our expectations during the first year of operation. By opening four new facilities, our Highmark Direct stores will reach many more people in our community."
The stores offer consumers one-on-one time with a Highmark health insurance specialist to discuss health insurance options. Highmark Direct stores sell plans to individuals, seniors, and small businesses. The insurer also recently added United Concordia Dental to its offerings.
Highmark will add 16 employers to staff the new store locations.
"As consumers become more involved in buying health insurance, we want to help them better understand their options," said Steven Nelson, Highmark senior vice president of corporate marketing and consumerism. "We've heard from customers that they want one-on-one support. The stores have helped them to better understand what they are purchasing and make more informed decisions about their health."
Nelson said health reform sparks greater consumer involvement in healthcare decisions, which fits well with the Highmark Direct stores.
"The Highmark Direct stores represent an important community resource for consumers as more and more individuals will be responsible for purchasing health insurance on their own."
Les Masterson is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.