Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island has opened its first retail location in Warwick, another sign of the shifting health insurance business landscape.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island head Peter Andruszkiewicz snipped the blue ribbon with a giant pair of scissors, officially opening the insurer’s new store in a strip mall in Warwick. Consumers can walk in and buy a health plan, directly from Blue Cross or through the state’s new online exchange. They can also buy Medicare plans, or just get their questions answered. He says it’s not the first retail store in the country, but it’s among the first. And that’s a sign of what the Affordable Care Act is bringing: millions of new customers, shopping for an insurance plan they’ll need to have come January first.
“The health insurance business is becoming a retail business," said Andruszkiewicz. "For the 75 years that Blue Cross Blue Shield has been in existence, and for the 30 years that I’ve been in the health insurance business, we’ve always sold through employers. We’ve sold through employers, through third parties, brokers and consultants. And that system has worked reasonably well, but the world is changing.”
Andruszkiewicz says the insurer will likely open more retail outlets in Rhode Island. He says the health plans available for sale on the health exchange and in the store are the same. But people who may qualify for a subsidy to buy one of those plans must go through the exchange.