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HealthBeat

Rite Aid partners with local insurance agents to market Affordable Care Act

  • Independent insurance agent Felicia Hoynacki (right) talks with Rite Aid customer Shirley Amoran of Epsom about the Affordable Care Act at the Rite Aid in Allenstown on Friday, October 10, 2013. Amoran already has Medicare but asked Hoynacki questions and left with a brochure. Rite Aid has launched a partnership with insurance brokers around the country to set up inside stores and provide insurance policy information under the Affordable Care Act.

    Independent insurance agent Felicia Hoynacki (right) talks with Rite Aid customer Shirley Amoran of Epsom about the Affordable Care Act at the Rite Aid in Allenstown on Friday, October 10, 2013. Amoran already has Medicare but asked Hoynacki questions and left with a brochure. Rite Aid has launched a partnership with insurance brokers around the country to set up inside stores and provide insurance policy information under the Affordable Care Act.

  • Independent insurance agent Felicia Hoynacki waits with Affordable Care Act informational brochures inside Rite Aid in Allenstown on Friday, October 10, 2013. Rite Aid has launched a partnership with insurance brokers around the country to set up inside stores and provide insurance policy information under the Affordable Care Act.

    Independent insurance agent Felicia Hoynacki waits with Affordable Care Act informational brochures inside Rite Aid in Allenstown on Friday, October 10, 2013. Rite Aid has launched a partnership with insurance brokers around the country to set up inside stores and provide insurance policy information under the Affordable Care Act.

  • Independent insurance agent Felicia Hoynacki (right) talks with Rite Aid customer Shirley Amoran of Epsom about the Affordable Care Act at the Rite Aid in Allenstown on Friday, October 10, 2013. Amoran already has Medicare but asked Hoynacki questions and left with a brochure. Rite Aid has launched a partnership with insurance brokers around the country to set up inside stores and provide insurance policy information under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Independent insurance agent Felicia Hoynacki waits with Affordable Care Act informational brochures inside Rite Aid in Allenstown on Friday, October 10, 2013. Rite Aid has launched a partnership with insurance brokers around the country to set up inside stores and provide insurance policy information under the Affordable Care Act.

These days, you can get a Halloween costume and Christmas wrapping paper at Rite Aid. You can still get nail polish, magazines, candy and beer, of course.

And, on certain days for the next six months, you can also pick up a quote on a health insurance policy.

At least 42 Rite Aid stores in the state will be staffed part time until March with a professional health insurance agent to help people learn about their options under the Affordable Care Act and potentially purchase a policy on the new federal health insurance marketplace.

In the seven days that he’s staffed the table at the Rite Aid on North State Street, Al Helie, an insurance agent from Manchester, estimates that he’s spoken to between 40 and 50 people.

“Some people are curious. Some people pick it up and say they’ll come back later,” Helie said yesterday. “Some people think the whole health insurance act is no good. I’m here to meet people and get them used to seeing me here, used to the idea that they do have someone to talk to if they have questions.”

On Oct. 1, marketplaces opened in each state, where individuals can shop for health insurance and find out if they qualify for tax credits and subsidies toward the premium and other out-of-pocket costs. The sites are supposed to be one way people without insurance get covered – the main goal of President Obama’s health care reform law, also known as Obamacare.

Edward Loomis is CEO of Green Cross Insurance, a Utah-based company that launched the partnership with Rite Aid. The company was involved in the launch of health care reform in Utah and Massachusetts, which taught them, “a website’s not going to work,” Loomis said.

“You have to have face-to-face interaction with a big change like this.”

The federal government has provided grant funding for several organizations in the state to train people as navigators and application counselors to help people fill out the forms and work their way through the web process of signing up for coverage.

Under the law, however, only a licensed insurance agent or broker can recommend a particular plan based on an individual’s financial and health circumstances.

The agents and Rite Aid will receive a commission from the insurance companies for each policy sold.

Loomis said he expects each agent to sell 500 policies by the end of the program, which runs until March 31; individuals who don’t have insurance by March 31 could face a financial penalty from the federal government.

Similar efforts

Other pharmacy chains have launched efforts to promote the insurance reform law, but on a smaller scale.

Walgreens has dedicated part of its website, at walgreens.com/healthcarereform, to helping customers get information about the law and its potential effects on them, including a toll-free number for brokers employed by GoHealth, an online portal for purchasing insurance plans.

CVS has a similar section online, including a subsidy estimator produced by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, and a glossary defining terms from “Affordable Care Act” to “subsidy.”

The site also includes a link under “I’m ready to enroll” that takes visitors to the federal insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov.

Lisa Kaplan Howe, policy director for the consumer advocacy group NH Voices for Health, said as long as the information provided by the companies and agents is accurate, she thinks they’ll play an important role in the national efforts to get people enrolled in health insurance.

“We’ve talked a lot about how can we reach people where they’re at, so they don’t have to go out of their way to get information,” she said. “Pharmacies and grocery stores are definitely places where you’re probably thinking about health care anyway, and pharmacies in general tend to be trusted places.

“I don’t know the details of this program, but it does take a well-rounded effort with everybody playing a part.”

Green Cross is designing software that allows them to calculate the credits and subsidies a person may be eligible for. Each agent has a stack of folders to put that information in after the initial conversation, so someone can take it home and think it over.

The software will allow the agent to provide information about plans and subsidies without having to connect with the federal website, which has been crippled by overwhelming traffic and technical glitches since opening Oct. 1.

In fact, the federal site is so problematic right now, members of the state Health Exchange Advisory Board said yesterday that people are better off waiting until next month to try to log on, when they hope bugs have been worked out and curiosity traffic will have died down.

The Green Cross software isn’t available until next week, but that’s okay, said agent Felicia Hoynacki, who has spent time at the Allenstown Rite Aid this week.

For the past two weeks, Hoynacki hasn’t been giving out too much information. Most of her focus so far has been on showing people she will be around consistently, earning their trust and convincing them the Affordable Care Act isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Some people have sat through a quick couple of taps at an iPad linked to the Kaiser Family Foundation premium assistance estimator.

“Some of them have questions about what it means if they have insurance through their work already. Others say the government doesn’t know what they’re doing and they don’t want to talk to me yet because they think it might go away soon instead of being in effect,” she said.

So she wears comfortable shoes and spends hours smiling and politely trying to engage people in conversation on their way to the pharmacy or the greeting cards.

Loomis expects to know by November whether the effort will be a success.

“It feels like a big herd of wildebeests in Africa: Right now, everyone’s very nervous to go up to the river and take a drink; they don’t know if there’s a predator around. Finally one or two start going up and it’s safe, and all of a sudden the whole herd is up there,” he said.

“I really expect it to get crazy in November, and by Dec. 15, we’ll know, since that’s the deadline to get covered for Jan. 1.”

Just in time to pick up some Christmas wrap, and maybe some eggnog, too.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

Related

Local Rite Aid locations featuring insurance brokers

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Insurance brokers will be available at more than 40 Rite Aid locations around the state. Here are some of the closest ones: ∎ 46 Allenstown Road, Allenstown ∎ 165 North State St., Concord ∎ 92 South St., Concord ∎ 315 W Main St., Hillsboro ∎ 1285 Hooksett Road, Hooksett ∎ 288 Union Ave., Laconia ∎ 41 Carroll St., Pittsfield Hours will vary at each location depending on … 0

Excited to help my first client for the Affordable Care Act program here in New Hampshire! Thanks Concord Monitor for shining a light on what Rite Aid is providing for the community! The Allenstown Rite Aid has impressed me with their caring employees; witnessing them helping customers daily. Aside from politics; as an insurance agent, my job is to make an abundance of information, understandable and customizable to those who need the help! With Rite Aid's help, I am enabled to do this! Smiling at the Rite Aid in Allenstown 12 hours a week, Felicia Hoynacki

Thanks for the update, Felicia!

Actually all the big drug chains are getting involved with the ACA. Walgreens, CVS. It is the new law of the land and as drug providers they would be very dumb businesses not to get into it before they lose their competitive edge because of stupid prejudice.

Avoid the poor quality for high prices like ObamaKare. I think places like Walgreens and CVS will quickly disassociate them selves from ObamaKare. Lets try something more accurate ObamaKare is the flaw of the land.

That kind of talk is childish, "flaw of the land" and used by people who have no real point to make.

Tillie, ObamaKare is extremely flawed. It has needed to be fixed over and over again. It became law because of bribes. Not a single Republican voted for it and both Republicans and democrats voted against it. It is called affordable when it clearly is not. People are not signing up for it because it is too expensive and has high deductibles. ObamaKare is high cost and low quality. There is a reason why only 40 people inquired about it over the course of 7 days that is a paltry 6 people per day. ObamaKare is Pathetic.

The businesspersons who are running Rite Aid must be tone deaf. ObamaKare is extremely unpopular and having their stores to be used as a propaganda center is just plain bad business. Just look at the data provided in this story over the course of 7 days only 40-50 people stopped by and asked questions. My guess that that 40-50 people is an exaggerated figure. In my opinion Rite Aid must want to bolster an image of promoting low quality products. I found Rite Aid be very high priced and now with their promotion of ObamaKare my chances of going to Rite Aid is zero to none. I hope many many others also pass on Rite Aid as well, because we don't need our local pharmacies turned into propaganda centers.

It's only propaganda if they lie. You need to go to FOX for that.

Veritas, the name Affordable Care Act is a lie. You can keep your doctor is a lie, If you like your health plan you can keep it is a lie. Your comments reminds me of a volleyball player setting the other side up for a spike or a pitcher leaving a hanging curve over the middle of the plate. It is way too easy when the liberals need talking points to do their thinking for them.

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