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TMCNet:  UnitedHealthcare's New Office Part of National Trend For Private Insurance Companies

[February 15, 2013]

UnitedHealthcare's New Office Part of National Trend For Private Insurance Companies

LAKELAND, Feb 15, 2013 (The Ledger - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Private insurance companies are putting down community roots to be more available for the growing number of baby boomers needing insurance.

Some insurers now have full-time storefront offices, in addition to coming out in record numbers to do presentations during Medicare Advantage plan enrollment season.

A UnitedHealthcare MedicareStore, which opened in September in North Lakeland, is an example of how companies are adapting to meet the needs of a growing Medicare-eligible population.

With a member of the baby boomer generation turning 65 every eight seconds, more than 7,500 in the Lakeland area will be in that category next year, said Betsy Chin, external communications manager for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement.

Its 18,000-square-foot outbuilding at Shoppes of Lakeland also makes UnitedHealthcare, which is one of the nation's largest insurers, more visible here as people start buying health insurance as part of new federal health-care laws.

In Polk County, the company has more than 43,500 Medicare members and about 113,000 total members, Chin said.

Nationwide, it converted 16 temporary centers into permanent ones last year, Bloomberg News reported.

Some UnitedHealthcare retail stores offer its non-Medicare insurance products, too, although the Lakeland store focuses on Medicare-age residents.

"A lot of things we have here are general, not just product specific," said Tom Bryan, sales manager.

Its packet on "Getting Started with Medicare" has information on original Medicare and various alternatives.

Those alternatives include Medicare supplement plans, which accompany traditional Medicare; Part D prescription drug plans and private Medicare Advantage plans.

"People come in sometimes, the ones who are new to Medicare, and they're kind of confused," said Ronnie Horton, the local agent manager. "They want some good explanation of what would work best for them." Some clients prefer their questions answered in person rather than in a phone call, Horton added.

Non-Medicare patients who have UnitedHealthcare coverage can get basic questions answered at the Lakeland store, Bryan said, but claims-related questions could need telephone advice.

Another mega insurance provider, Florida Blue, opened a retail shop in Winter Haven last year that services its customers' insurance needs and goes an additional step.

That location includes Better Health Now, operated by Watson Clinic, to provide primary care and wellness care for Florida Blue members.

Florida Blue previously was Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. It, too, has a growing number of retail centers.

[ Robin Williams Adams can be reached at or 863-802-7558. Read her blog at Follow on Twitter @ledgerROBIN. ] ___ (c)2013 The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.) Visit The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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