Health Care and Retail

Health plan opens 'insurance shops'

October 16, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Health plan opens 'insurance shops'
Grand Rapids-based Priority Health operates retail information centers, or insurance shops, in Michigan. Courtesy Priority Health

A Grand Rapids-based health plan is opening three “one-stop insurance shops,” where Michigan residents can “squeeze in a new insurance policy” while running everyday errands.

Priority Health said it has opened information centers in Grand Rapids, Holland and Southfield for the uninsured and “others needing to purchase insurance coverage.”

“As the health care landscape continues to change, we are making sure that we are positioned to answer questions and provide information to help consumers make informed decisions when choosing a health plan,” said Joan Budden, chief marketing officer for Priority Health.

The health exchange in each state opened for enrollment on Oct. 1, under the Affordable Care Act.

Ironically, the health exchange in every state is an online, government-provided service, intended to make buying required health insurance as easy as using one of the online booking services that sells hotel rooms and airline tickets.

Insurance marketing push

Several of the 13 insurance carriers offering coverage on the Michigan exchange are offering “special assistance centers” to sell more of their plans to consumers who qualify for the exchange, according to Tiffany Aldrich, director of communications at Cherry Street Health Services in Grand Rapids.

Aldrich said she’s heard that many insurers are also sending representatives to speak to select groups of Michigan residents who are expected to buy insurance on the exchange.

In East Lansing, Consumers Mutual has come up with a mobile app for its customers, to help them find a good deal on free or low-cost prescription medications.

The ubiquitous refrigerator magnet is also being employed by many companies in their new marketing campaigns, along with traditional advertising via television and radio.

Uninsured market

There are more than 1.2 million uninsured people in Michigan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

And approximately 365,000 people will buy coverage on the Michigan health insurance exchange, according to the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory and Affairs, which will oversee the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Navigating ACA mandate

Cherry Street Health Services is Michigan’s Region 3 “navigator,” a nonprofit charged by the government with educating Michigan consumers about the insurance mandate part of the ACA.

A navigator organization does not make recommendations on which policies to buy or which companies to buy from.

Michigan has 10 health insurance exchange regions. Region 3 includes 13 counties: Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola, and Ottawa.

Insurers in the Michigan health exchange

Alliance Health and Life Insurance

Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan

Blue Care Network of Michigan

Consumers Mutual Insurance of Michigan

Health Alliance Plan

Humana Medical Plan of Michigan

McLaren Health Plan

Meridian Health Plan of Michigan

Molina Healthcare of Michigan

Priority Health and Priority Health Insurance (plans offered under two licenses)

Total Health Care USA

UnitedHealthCare

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