Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) will be bringing insurance agents into almost half its stores to explain the Affordable Care Act to customers, Drug Store News reported on Monday (Sept. 9).
The drugstore chain said the licensed insurance agents will be in almost 2,000 of the chain's more than 4,600 stores starting Oct. 1, which is the official start of enrollment for state-by-state health insurance exchanges under the ACA, widely known as "Obamacare." The agents will be specially trained to explain the law and will be able to advise customers one-on-one on comparing plans, as well as about Medicaid eligibility in some states. Customers will also be able to enroll in a plan in-store.
Agents won't be available where state restrictions prohibit them, including in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. That doesn't explain all the Rite Aid stores that won't be participating in the program, and Rite Aid didn't elaborate. The chain did say agents will be available for 12 hours per week.
Exactly how well the logistics of the in-store agents will work isn't clear, especially because in many states the insurance marketplaces won't actually be fully operational by Oct. 1. That could put a crimp in the plan to let customers sign up on the spot.
But like in-store flu shots, the insurance consultations may help drive traffic, and could interact with flu shots and other promotions to have a multiplier effect. The federal government and some state governments have been recruiting organizations to publicize the launch of the insurance exchanges on the run-up to the Oct. 1 launch, targeting people who might otherwise not know about their state's program.
Rite Aid's advantage is that anyone in the store is already at least a little focused on health, so someone who comes in for a flu shot and stays for the insurance consult—or the other way around—is also likely to become a conventional Rite Aid customer, at least for the day.
- See this Drug Store News story
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