Catering to local Asian-American populations, UnitedHealth’s Queens store offers help in eight languages and Chinese dialects. There are iPad stations offering self-guided tours of benefit plans, a private office to discuss medical claims and a wellness room where an audiologist can fit hearing aids. The store hums with the sound of an automated blood- pressure cuff, part of a “biometric station” where members can check their vital signs.
Among the store’s 30 employees are five social workers who help with services like a New York State program that subsidizes prescription drugs for seniors. In Hurricane Sandy’s wake, employees helped replace lost medications and food stamps, Law said. Upstairs is a classroom the company opens up for wellness programs and local community groups.
While retail sales are “the centerpiece,” UnitedHealth is doing more than just peddling insurance, Law said. “You have to wrap it around all of these other programs for the community. We’re building a long-term relationship. Our customers know us by name.”
Through October, the store had enrolled about 4,200 people, just a sliver of the 36.5 million members in the carrier’s medical plans. Retail centers may never rival Internet or phone sales for UnitedHealth, said Tom Paul, the carrier’s chief consumer officer. Still, the storefronts are popular with groups that prefer more face-to-face attention, like Medicare members, he said. And they keep existing customers happy.
“We understand that each individual customer has an individual set of needs and we need to simplify and personalize the system,” he said in a phone interview. “What we’re trying to do is recognize that the responsibility for consumers is only continuing to grow.”