Monday, October 28, 2013
Seizing upon consumers’ need for information in the new environment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is expanding its focus beyond the traditional direct-to-business method to a broader outreach to individuals, including the opening of a new store in Mount Pleasant this week.
The South Carolina BLUESM retail center will be open year-round to sell insurance and provide customer support. The public is invited to the grand opening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the store, located at 1795 North Highway 17 in Towne Centre Place.
According to Terry Peace, senior vice president of small group and individual insurance, the store will provide service to existing members as well as guide customers through the shopping and enrollment process. It is intended to serve as a community resource, providing information and answering questions about the ACA, hosting free healthy lifestyle classes and becoming a participant in the community. This Wednesday, the store will serve as a drop-off site for a collection of cell phones for soldiers.
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina brought their first retail store to Mount Pleasant in 2009. That proved to be a benefit to the company and consumers. Peace said many lessons were learned along the way and they have since changed their model. That included a relocation to make providing service easier to consumers.
Policies sold will be insured by BlueCross or by its subsidiary company, BlueChoice HealthPlan of South Carolina. Appointments are welcome but not necessary. Opening hours are 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturdays.
The new location was chosen to encourage foot traffic and create better visibly.
No appointment is necessary and walk-ins are welcome.
“Purchasing insurance can be complex and confusing, especially to first-time buyers. Establishing a retail presence is one of our many efforts to make this easier by providing information face-to-face in a comfortable environment,” said Peace,. “While we continue to serve business group health plans, we’re making a concerted effort to reach out more directly to the individual consumer and we’ll be here for the long-term.”
Peace said the top goal is to educate consumers on the new health care law and show them how to go about picking a plan. “Our representatives are there to walk consumers through the selection process, understand what is important to them in terms of the right plan. Those plans can then be purchased right there in the store by utilizing computer kiosks, online or over the phone.
“The federal market place is having challenges in terms of responsiveness. We can’t do anything to help with that but we can guide you through the process and give advice on the steps should you get a delayed response,” said Peace.
“The biggest message we would like to get out is that it is very important to take your time to do the research and to make sure that you’re picking the plan that best suits your needs from a financial stand point. There doesn’t have to be a rush to purchase to have an effective date of Jan. 1 The deadline is Dec. 15 but the fact of the matter is that open enrollment lasts through the end of March for 2014.”
At the grand opening on Saturday, visitors may seek information about insurance while enjoying food and giveaways, a balloon artist, a photo booth, a jump castle, games and other special activities. The South Carolina BLUE mobile unit, a colorful 40-foot vehicle that drives the state selling insurance and providing customer service, also will be on site.
BlueCross worked with Colliers International to locate and lease the 4,190 square foot site. CJMW Architecture provided design and Clayton Construction Co. managed the site renovation.
BlueCross was one of the first health insurance companies in the nation to go retail, opening its first store in 2009 in Mount Pleasant. The company opened its second store earlier this year in Greenville and launched the mobile retail unit last month. The mobile unit makes appearances at large urban gatherings, such as the Turkey Day Run in Charleston on Nov. 28, and in smaller cities and towns where the company does not have a retail presence. BlueCross plans to open more retail outlets elsewhere in the state over the new few years.
Information and events at any South Carolina BLUE retail location may be found at www.SCBlueRetailCenters.com. The public may follow South Carolina BLUE on Facebook at SC Blue Retail and on Twitter at @SCBlueRetail using #SCBlue.
“We sincerely thank the community of Mount Pleasant and Charleston for being so welcoming to us over the past four years. We’re looking forward to our new location and continuing to strenghten and develop those relationships.”