“You can trust us to help you find the right Medicare coverage for you and your lifestyle,” the tagline reads. What kind of organization would be behind this campaign: a healthcare navigator company, an insurance company, or a social services agency?

In fact, it’s a grocery store called Hy-Vee, which launched the “Medicare Aisle” to help consumers living in the eight states in which the chain’s 240+ stores operate to sort through the daunting labyrinth of Medicare choices.

“Hy-Vee is a trusted leader in the health and wellness space, and as a retail and specialty pharmacy provider, we are deeply invested in the health and well-being of our patients and customers…Hy-Vee Medicare Aisle is an extension of that commitment as we continue to work toward making our customers’ lives easier, healthier and happier by providing trusted, transparent and affordable health insurance plans that they can be confident in,” the company’s Chairman, CEO and President Randy Edeker explained.

Under the hood of this effort is Hy-Vee Financial Services, a multi-service financial services company with licenses to serve consumers in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

It is, specifically, Midwest Heritage, Hy-Vee’s banking, insurance and investments subsidiary, that will implement the Medicare Aisle program. Midwest Heritage already offers consumers banking (checking and savings accounts), auto and home insurance, home mortgages, consumer loans, and pet insurance.

The Hy-Vee Medicare Aisle program will serve Medicare beneficiaries living in the company’s Midwest region, offering Medicare Advantage, Part D, and Supplement plans available through national and regional insurance companies. Licensed insurance agents will assist consumers in assessing their best options for these plans for the 2022 Medicare enrollment period which begins 15th October and ends 7th December 2021. They plan to launch online digital quotes and enrollment on 1st October.

For more on Hy-Vee’s growing role in health care, see my previous posts on their efforts, [email protected]

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The COVID-pandemic raised the profile of and consumers’ trust-equity with grocery stores as health destinations — for basic needs like food, for hygiene products and PPE, for pharmacy services, and most recently as channels for vaccinations. In the latest J.D. Power 2021 consumer satisfaction study into retail pharmacy, pharmacies co-located in grocery stores as a group ranked high compared with traditional chain pharmacies; Hy-Vee scored a customer satisfaction of 847, tied with CVS pharmacy in the brick-and-mortar retail pharmacy group.

The latest Boehringer-Ingelheim study into consumers’ pharmacy satisfaction also called out peoples’ growing appreciation for pharmacies in food stores. Consumers’ satisfaction with convenience delivered through clinics’ pharmacies, specialty, online, and via chain stores was substantially lower than with grocery store pharmacies or independents.

In the pandemic era, the grocery store has gained experience and credibility with health consumers as a health destination, both in brick-and-mortar as well as ecommerce. As peoples’ expectations for health care to become omni-channel, meeting “us” where “we” are in our health-and-wellness journeys, the major food chains are adding services to their health/care portfolios.

Increasingly, these will join other (non-food) health/care touchpoints as so-called digital front-doors for consumers to access across the care continuum.

A handful of years ago, when we said the word “pharmacy,” we thought of a CVS/pharmacy located on a highway or strip mall. Today, that “pharmacy” is a vertically integrating health care company.

When we would utter “Big Box Store,” we might conceive of Walmart….now adding primary care and mental health services to its growing healthcare offerings.

And now, what do we mean when we say “grocery store?”

Hy-Vee expands the definition past foodstuffs toward health and wellness, helping us fortify our homes as our personal hubs for health…for food-as-medicine, medicines, over-the-counter meds and supplies, kids’ fitness programs, dietician advice, and now a Medicare on-ramp.

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