Business was brisk Thursday morning at the new Horizon Connect health insurance retail store in Moorestown, N.J.

 

 

Visitors to the East Gate Square Shopping Center now can run into a Dunkin' Donuts, dine at an Italian restaurant, or shop for health coverage.

Agent Dawn Tageder says shoppers peek in the door a little confused, at first.

"We are not doctors, we are not a clinic," she said.

Tageder and the other agents can sell you a policy, but so far many customers are people who already have coverage -- and questions.

Tageder used to help customers on the phone.

"But when they hang up, they feel a little overwhelmed, they're like, ah-uh, I don't really know, they are still a little confused," she said. "At least here, we can see them face-to-face, and we can see if they are getting it, if it makes sense to them."

The retail space is light and airy and nearly as sleek as the inside of an Apple computer store. There are self-service kiosks and a play area and videos for children as well as a mini-fridge stocked with juice boxes and water.

Some appointments can take about 30 minutes; others last as long as two and a half hours, Tageder said.

Horizon is responding to an industry shift. Joe Albano, vice president of consumer markets, said Horizon has noticed less wholesale business to groups and companies and more direct sales to consumers. Employers are asking workers to shoulder more costs and decision-making, he said.

"Where they say to their employees, 'Here's a stipend, that we're going to provide, every year for you to go out and purchase insurance,' on your own. And as that trend continues to evolve, we think the face-to-face interactions become really important," he said.

Horizon continues to encourage existing clients to do many transactions online, but Albano said health care is personal and some people prefer the personal touch.

"Folks, don't know probably as much as they need to about how products work, how cover ages work," he said. "People really want to sit down and talk to somebody."

Some of the store's new customers are nearly 65 and soon to be eligible for Medicare. Others are adult children who'll soon age-out of their parents' coverage.