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Highmark Blue Shield to Open 'Highmark Direct,' a Health Insurance Retail Store
Date:12/11/2008

First health insurer in Pennsylvania to open store in Mechanicsburg's

SilverSpringsShopping Center

CAMP HILL, Pa., Dec. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- As individuals and seniors are increasingly faced with purchasing health insurance on their own and small business owners look for health plan options, Highmark Blue Shield announced today that it will be the first health insurer in the state to open a health insurance retail store called Highmark Direct in the Silver Springs Square Shopping Center at 6416 Carlisle Pike, Suite 1700 in Mechanicsburg.

Highmark Direct will sell health insurance plans to individuals, seniors and small businesses. The store will also provide informational seminars and educational information about the value-added benefits that Highmark members have access to, such as smoking cessation programs, new mother seminars, consultations with nutritionists and more.

"As the health insurance market becomes increasingly consumer-driven, health insurers are positioning themselves to meet growing demands for health insurance products and information through retail marketing channels," said Steven Nelson, vice president of consumerism and retail marketing at Highmark. "Through Highmark Direct, we want to give consumers a one-on-one experience with a retail representative in a retail setting so that we can provide clear and concise information to help them select the health insurance plan that is right for them and give them the tools to have a greater hand in their health."

According to a recent study from McKinsey & Company, a national consulting firm, consumers bear 25 percent - the same percentage as employers contribute - of the $2 trillion spent annually on health care.

"If consumers are going to be responsible for their health care, then they need to understand it," said Nelson. "Highmark knows that both purchasing and using health insurance is confusing. Between health insurance terminology, such as HMO, PPO and HSA, and insurance usage requirements, such as co-pays, deductibles and formularies, consumers are often confused and frustrated. That's where Highmark Direct can help."

When a consumer visits the Highmark Direct store, they can meet one-on-one with a Highmark sales associate to discuss health insurance options and apply in-store for health insurance coverage. Highmark Direct will sell comprehensive health insurance policies to consumers such as individuals who do not currently receive health insurance through their employer, seniors who are looking to supplement existing health insurance, and small business owners who want to provide health insurance options for their employees.

The store will also feature self-service kiosks where customers can shop for health insurance plans on their own or research additional Highmark member benefits. The Highmark Direct store will also hold seminars on health insurance topics at a variety of times throughout the month.

The Highmark Direct store in Mechanicsburg's Silver Springs Square Shopping Center is 3,200 square feet and is scheduled to open in early 2009. The store will be a sales outlet for consumers who do not currently have Highmark products and will not replace the current Highmark Member Service locations, which are currently located in Camp Hill and Allentown, Pa. The tentative store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

About Highmark Blue Shield

As one of the state's leading health insurers and with nearly 70 years of community involvement, Highmark Blue Shield helps members live longer, healthier lives by ensuring access to affordable, high quality health insurance and services. Highmark offers the widest range of products, access to all area hospitals and the most responsive customer service. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impact throughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark's positive impact exceeded $2.5 billion. Employing more than 5,000 people in central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley, Highmark provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information about Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, visit www.highmark.com.

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Steven Nelson

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