Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is opening a retail store in Loyalsock Township's TJ Maxx Plaza in October to better reach out to its local customer base looking for coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.
"In this area, it has been our experience that people want face-to-face encounters," said Paul Holdren, Blue Cross senior vice president and chief sales and marketing officer. "So we felt an important channel for us to reach people was to open retail stores in key areas such as Lycoming County."
The Wilkes-Barre-based insurer earlier opened stores in Dickson City near Scranton and in Bartonsville.
Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is operating a new retail site for consulting on health insurance plans in the TJ Maxx Plaza, Loyalsock Township.
Customers can come to the sites and discuss with licensed representatives the most appropriate individual coverage option for their needs, Holdren said.
The stores offer customers an additional means of learning about their health care options.
Jennifer Yokimishyn, director of individual product sales, said health insurance has become increasingly more complex under the Affordable Care Act, and many people simply want the face-to-face contact in answering their questions.
"This is a more personalized experience," she said. "There are those (customers) who do not shop online or are not comfortable on the phone. It's very successful in places we've tried."
Many people simply don't have computer access, and the stores offer customers a comfortable, walk-in environment.
The new store will include a beverage bar and a kiosk with a computer where customers can do some of their own research or log on to the Federally Facilitated Marketplace to begin the application process. Private conference rooms to discuss coverage options with a Blue Cross representatives are also available.
"This is an investment in the community," Yokimishyn said. "With the retail space, people will be very surprised. It's very bright and very welcoming."
At some point, Geisinger Health Plan is planning to roll out its first retail store near Wilkes-Barre to help customers better navigate their health care needs.
GHP spokeswoman Lisa Hartman said just one such site is planned for now.
"I think with the Affordable Care Act, many people didn't have access online to their needs," she said.
A grand opening for the Lycoming County Blue Cross retail store is set for Oct. 15.