With more people losing health coverage at work, Costco wants to fill the gap for its members with individual health insurance policies.
The warehouse club is partnering with Aetna for what's called Costco Personal Health Insurance. Aetna has publicly stated that they will sell five varieties of plans to Costco members cheaper than individuals plans are sold elsewhere.
The Costco Personal Health Insurance policies are so far only available to customers in Texas, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia.
Aetna has always lived on the big employer market, but as more employers are deciding they can't afford to be insurers, they're now making the move to individual health policies. It's a particularly smart move for the insurer because Costco customers tend to be higher income, better educated and healthier than the general population.
For Costco, the risk of this is the risk of selling something as a branded product that they won't have control of in an industry that hasn't exactly won a lot of love from customers over the years. Will it harm their solid reputation? It will be interesting to see how it plays.
Meanwhile, Costco is also getting into the mortgage business in most of the country. Again, here we have another opportunity for the warehouse club that is also fraught with reputation risk. But the timing is ripe for this business because the five biggest banks have a chokehold on the mortgage market in the United States and we could use the additional competition.