HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) — One of the nation’s largest drugstore chains has signed on to promote the implementation of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), pledging to have insurance agents on hand at its stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia to help consumers navigate the new system.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the partnership with Rite Aid on Monday, along with company chairman John Standley.
Standley said the agents would be available in 2,000 stores. Rite Aid has about 4,600 locations nationwide. He said they will be independent and not affiliated with insurers who are offering health insurance through newly created exchanges, but they will receive commissions if they sign people up for policies. Rite Aid also will receive a small commission for each policy sold, he said.
Sebelius described the partnership as crucial to educating the public about the new law. She said 900,000 uninsured people in New Jersey and about 2 million in New York will be eligible to purchase health insurance through the exchanges.
“We weren’t ever going to make this program work from Washington. This has to be an on-the-ground effort,” Sebelius said at a news conference inside a Rite Aid in Hoboken. “Americans trust their pharmacists. Often the pharmacist is the on-the-ground health provider people see the most and know the best, so having this critical role in a pharmacy makes wonderful sense.”
The agents will be in stores beginning Oct. 1 when the first open enrollment period for the health exchanges begins. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 7 million people currently uninsured will sign up for health insurance during the first six-month period.