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Walmart launches in-store program to educate customers on health insurance options

BY Michael Johnsen

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — To bring transparency and simplicity to the changing health insurance market, Walmart announced Monday it is working with DirectHealth.com to launch Healthcare Begins Here, an in-store program designed to educate customers on health insurance options. DirectHealth.com, an online health insurance comparison site which is an independent licensed health insurance agency, will provide a resource that brings Walmart customers access to health insurance information and enrollment support.

“Walmart has long been known for innovation in health and wellness, and we’ll never stop delivering new products and services to the 140 million people who visit our stores each week,” said Labeed Diab, SVP and president, health and wellness, Walmart U.S. “For years, our customers have told us that there is too much complexity when it comes to understanding their health insurance options. Healthcare Begins Here addresses that complexity by bringing clarity and increased choice to the insurance enrollment process through DirectHealth.com.”
 
More than 60% of people have difficulty understanding their health insurance plan options and nearly 40% feel they picked the wrong plan after enrollment, Walmart noted, citing recent research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. 
 
DirectHealth.com also manages relationships with licensed insurance agents, enabling customers to compare coverage options and enroll in the plan that is right for them whether that be a Medicare plan or Public Healthcare Exchange plan through online, phone and in-store services.
 
Since 2005, Walmart has hosted insurance agents from individual insurers in stores to answer questions and enroll customers in specific healthcare plans. Healthcare Begins Here, through DirectHealth.com, takes this offering to the next level in response to customers who wanted more options to choose from.
 
For customers over 65:
 
  • DirectHealth.com offers access to more than 1,700 plans from 12 leading carriers including Aetna, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and participating Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies;
  • Customers can compare and enroll in health plans online at DirectHealth.com or over the phone at 888-383-2111;
  • 2,700 Walmart stores will be staffed by independent, licensed health insurance agents from DirectHealth.com that can help customers enroll in certain health insurance plans. Agents can also help provide education and guidance on other insurance options; and
  • Enrollment can take place during the Medicare open enrollment period from Oct. 15, 2014 through Dec. 7, 2014.
 
For customers under 65:
 
  • DirectHealth.com offers access to thousands of Health Exchange plans from more than 300 leading carriers;
  • Customers can compare and enroll in health plans online at DirectHealth.com or over the phone at 888-327-0388;
  • 2,700 Walmart stores will be staffed by independent, licensed agents from DirectHealth.com who can help provide education and guidance about health insurance options; and
  • The Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment period takes place from Nov. 15, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2015.
 

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Integer Group: 35% of shoppers now use mobile devices to make purchases

BY Michael Johnsen

DENVER — An ongoing shopper behavior study conducted by the Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research found that in two years, 35% of shoppers now use mobile devices to make purchases, representing an increase of 10% as compared to 2012. Increased mobile purchasing by Hispanics (plus 11% year-over-year), Asian-Americans (plus 10% year-over-year) and the 15–34 and 35–49 age brackets (plus 10% and plus 12% year-over-year, respectively) were largely responsible for this increase.
 
"Shoppers of all ages and demographics are using their mobile phones in stores and to make purchases. Marketers should consider not whether their target uses mobile, but how their target uses mobile," said Craig Elston, SVP of insight and strategy at the Integer Group.
 
In addition to becoming more prevalent as a purchase channel, the use of mobile is expediting the shopping process. The study shows 15% of shoppers said that typically only a "couple of minutes" passed between discovering a product (on their mobile device) and purchase. Males were more likely than females (17% and 13%, respectively) to make these quick-turn purchases, and mobile-savvy Hispanics reported the shortest time mobile shopping (47% of purchases were made within a few hours of product discovery).
 
This acceleration of purchase is indicative of what shoppers look for when using their mobile devices in store or for purchase: information and convenience. In-store shoppers use their mobile devices to compare prices (39%) and look up product reviews (25%). This mirrors their priorities for shopping on their smartphones: spending as little as possible (55%) and finding the best-quality items (49%).
 
Additional findings from the digital/mobile issue of The Checkout include:
 
  • 60% of shoppers have never purchased baby products online and say they never will;
  • 47% of shoppers have never purchased food or beverage products online;
  • Fewer than one in 10 shoppers will download a retailer's app; and
  • Despite the fact that 34% of shoppers make a list on their mobile phones prior to shopping, only 8% of shoppers do so using a retailer's list-making tool.
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WebMD Health and Walgreens partnership underscores retail pharmacy as healthcare information depot

BY Michael Johnsen

Two iconic health brands were brought together last week with the partnership between WebMD Health and Walgreens. The deal couples the online go-to source for healthcare information with one of the retail pharmacy leaders in advancing the scope of practice across the back bench. The deal also underscores the industry trend toward making healthcare coaching readily available at the pharmacy counter by combining WebMD's digital engagement tools with on-hand assistance from Walgreens' pharmacists and nurse practitioners. 

 
The offering is reminiscent of Rite Aid's Health Alliance program, where specially trained health coaches are on hand to assist patients with chronic and polychronic conditions. (Rite Aid most recently signed a sixth partnership under its Health Alliance umbrella with Physician Direct ACO of Detroit.) 
 
In announcing its year-end performance last week, Walgreens identified patients with chronic conditions and the consumerization of health care as two key tailwinds that will help drive retail performance through next year. Creating a healthcare information platform that Walgreens' patients are incentivized to engage will help capitalize on both of those trends. "With our suite of healthcare services and team of professionals in our communities, with our approach to omnichannel access and the strength of our loyalty program … we are positioned well to serve the needs of a changing customer and industry," Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and CEO told analysts. 
 
The respective audience Walgreens and WebMD brings to the other is quite significant. Walgreens just closed a year in which its retail pharmacy market share grew 30 basis points to 19% and in which the company filled a record 856 million prescriptions. 
 
And according to WebMD CEO David Schlanger, traffic to the WebMD Health Network reached an average of 179.4 million unique users per month, generating 3.5 billion pages for the company's second quarter and increases of 43% and 31% respectively from the prior year. "To put the scale of our online audience into perspective, according to the most recent comScore report, WebMD Health Network is No. 27 of the Top 100 Web properties across all categories and verticals. Within the health information category in the second quarter, WebMD continues to lead the category with total U.S. monthly visitors across both mobile and desktop on a de-duplicated basis [with] approximately 63 million [and] the WebMD Health Network is No. 1 in the health information category for U.S. PC reach, No. 1 among U.S. mobile health destination and No. 1 in every one of the 50 largest condition suffering population online," he said. "In any given month, approximately 40% to 50% of all consumers coming to WebMD are engaging in our wellness and lifestyle content in areas which including eating well, healthy beauty, pregnancy and parenting."
 
And just as Walgreens is an omnichannel destination that engages its customers on the platform of their choosing, WebMD is readily accessed from a multitude of devices. During the second quarter approximately 29% of the company's page view traffic was from desktop, 36% was from a smartphone and 8% was from a tablet device. The remaining 27% was international traffic.
 

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