Retail News Breaks
Rite Aid makes itself an ACA destination
September 9th, 2013
HOBOKEN, N.J. – With state health insurance exchanges set to launch next month, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius visited a Rite Aid store in Hoboken, N.J., to help the drug chain launch a program to give customers on-site help as they size up their health coverage options.
Kathleen Sebelius and Rite Aid CEO John Standley.
In a press event Monday at the store, Rite Aid chairman and chief executive officer John Standley announced that starting Oct. 1 — when the Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins enrollment — independent, licensed insurance agents will be in about 2,000 Rite Aid pharmacies nationwide for free consultations with customers.
"Community pharmacies already are a place where people come to get information about health care — the enrollment process for Medicare Part D is a great example of that," Standley explained. "With the Affordable Care Act and open enrollment starting Oct. 1, I think people are looking around and trying to figure out where they can learn about the ACA and understand what's available and how they can participate. And it makes sense that a community pharmacy like Rite Aid is a place where people can go to get those answers.
"So we're excited to be available and have licensed insurance agents in our stores to answer those questions and help people enroll for health insurance under the ACA," he said.
Insurance agents will be available to meet one on one with Rite Aid customers to answer questions about the ACA and help them compare health care plans based on their needs. Customers also will be able to enroll in a plan. The agents have received specific training to facilitate the free counseling sessions and also will be able to advise customers on Medicaid eligibility.
"What we know across the country is that families look to their pharmacies as a place to go for honest, straightforward health advice they can trust. And that's really why today's announcement is so significant. Even as more people go online for information about health care, many still like a face-to-face conversation. They want to talk to someone they know and seek out personal advice," Sebelius said at the press conference, also attended by Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Rite Aid president and chief operating officer Ken Martindale and executive vice president of pharmacy Robert Thompson.
"I'm here in New Jersey today for a couple of reasons," the health secretary said. "First of all, to recognize this incredible partnership that Rite Aid is announcing today and to thank them for stepping up to help people understand and take advantage of benefits about to come their way, and also to remind folks about what this footprint of the ACA looks like."
According to Sebelius, 85% of Americans already have health coverage they like, and that coverage has gotten stronger, including for the closing of the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap in Medicare. Oct. 1 will kick off the six-month open enrollment phase for the ACA.
"We're going to have a new marketplace opening up, connecting people to health benefits that they never had before," Sebelius said.
In the tristate area, about 900,000 residents in New Jersey, 2 million in New York and 245,000 in Connecticut will now be eligible for health benefits under the ACA, Sebelius reported. "So Rite Aid's exposure in this part of the country is critically important," she said. "They will have partnerships available in all of those markets."
Rite Aid said all of its stores will have brochures with information about the ACA, and ACA resources will also be available online at riteaid.com/affordablecare.
"We'll have a lot of signage and information available in our stores, as well as our wellness ambassadors, to let people know that we're a destination in terms of their needs for the ACA," Standley said.
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