Health insurer Aetna has branched out to start selling individual insurance plans to members of the wholesale club operator Costco in nine states.
The Hartford, Conn., insurer said Tuesday that its Costco Personal Health Insurance program will offer five health plans online, providing major medical benefits, dental coverage and lower copays on prescriptions filled at Costco pharmacies.
Aetna said it will charge less for the insurance it sells through Costco than it normally does for individual plans.
It will sell the plans in its home state of Connecticut and in Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Virginia, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada. Aetna said it plans to expand the plan to more states later in 2012.
Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale operates 601 warehouse club stores, including 434 in the United States and Puerto Rico, making it one of the two largest players in its sector of the retail industry.
Aetna is the third-largest private health insurer, with medical enrollment of about 18.5 million people at the end of last year. Most are covered through employer-sponsored health plans.
Insurers have been looking for ways to add more individual policies as the federal health care overhaul aims to offer coverage to millions of people who are now uninsured. The law will do this in part through online exchanges and by offering income-based credits to help people buy health insurance.
Morningstar analyst Matt Coffina said insurers like Aetna that have focused mostly on the larger employer-sponsored coverage market want to grow their individual business so they can remain competitive if more insurance is purchased that way in the future.
Shoppers can learn more about the plans by visiting www.costcopersonalhealth.com.