Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (BCBSNJ) announced yesterday that it has signed a lease for a retail center in the East Gate Square Shopping Center in Moorestown, N.J., allowing visitors to walk in and have health insurance questions answered by on-site staff.

Horizon BCBSNJ is the latest health insurer to join a growing number who are launching retail centers across the country.

“This is another example of health plans innovating to find new ways to meet the needs of their customers,” America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Spokesperson Robert Zirkelbach told Insurance Networking News. “Health plans have implemented a number of programs and services to help patients navigate a complicated delivery system to get the care they need.”

While Aetna teamed up with Costco Insurance Agency to offer five specially priced health insurance plans tailored for Costco members, Highmark launched direct stores in Pennsylvania in 2009 to offer assistance to people searching for the right health or dental insurance policy. There are eight Highmark direct stores in Pennsylvania.

Horizon BCBSNJ’s facility opens in the summer. The retail center will be staffed by specially-trained personnel to help customers with their health insurance needs, direct them to resources for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and assist them in purchasing health insurance products and services.

“Insurers save a lot of money in the long run with these retail centers because their customers are not purchasing coverage that’s inappropriate for them,” National Association of Health Underwriters’ (NAHU) Government Affairs VP Jessica Waltman told Insurance Networking News. “If a customer makes a mistake in an insurance purchase and wants to make changes later, there’s a cost. Insurers are recognizing that customized personal attention is needed to sign people up correctly.”

The facility will be equipped with private meeting rooms, interactive work stations for benefits and claims information, and a children’s entertainment center.

“We are responding to the dynamic changes in health care by helping our customers, and potential customers, gain a better understanding about their health insurance benefits,” said Robert Marino, Horizon BCBSNJ chairman and CEO. “As consumers are taking on greater responsibility for choosing and financing their health insurance, we want to provide them with a positive and personalized experience to help them make more informed decisions.”

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