Walgreens, the country's largest drugstore chain, is reportedly about to get in the business of health insurance. The chain will start selling health insurance this fall, according to CNN, making available a "variety of plans with different price ranges and coverage levels," says Chris Morran at The Consumerist. (Walgreens has yet to confirm the specifics of its plans.) What's behind this "unusual" initiative? Here's what's known:
Why is Walgreens doing this?
Beginning in 2014, the new health care reform law mandates that "health insurance exchanges" be created for the uninsured and the under-insured to buy state-approved and standardized affordable health plans — all in an effort to ensure that most Americans have health insurance. TripleTree, an investment banking firm specializing in health care, told CNN that as many as 36 million consumers will purchase their health insurance through these exchanges between 2014 and 2019. Walgreens, which already has 7,700 locations nationwide, is likely getting involved because health insurance exchanges should prove to be a "lucrative market — estimated to be worth billions of dollars."
Is Walgreens' plan official?
Well, not quite. Walgreens, which already operates more than 350 in-store "take care clinics" that provide affordable basic health care services like flu shots and vaccinations, has neither confirmed nor denied the initiative. "As always, we're looking at a number of options in light of health care reform as we continue to seek ways to help our customers better navigate today's health care system," a spokesperson says.
Will other companies follow suit?
Many companies that were "formerly strangers to the health care plan field" are already strategizing ways to "muscle into" the exchange market, says Brendon Nafziger at DOTmed News. That includes retailers, financial services providers, and "a large payroll processor," CNN reports, though "the pharmacy America trusts" appears to be the first out of the gate.