Kaiser Health News by Phil Galewitz –
A folk singer playing guitar in front of a mountain stream. A Disney-like animated video about how “a new day is coming.” An announcer talking about “change is here.” A woman jumping up and down in celebration in a baseball team locker room.
These images are from the first television advertisements being aired by state-run health insurance exchanges created under the federal health law. Oregon, Kentucky, Colorado and Connecticut produced them. Several more states, including Hawaii and Vermont, are expected to launch ads in the coming weeks, ahead of the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment.
What’s noticeable about the initial ads is what’s missing: There’s no mention of Obamacare, the 2010 federal health law, the requirement to buy insurance, Congress or Washington D.C. Instead, the ads focus on how each state is about to launch new insurance options for consumers.
Consumer marketing experts say that’s a smart move.
“I love the fact that these ads are all very state-centric and reflect how each state is different,” said Kathleen Ellmore, vice president of Burlington, Mass.-based Silverlink, a consumer marketing firm. Oregon ads feature a song called “Live Long Oregon” that evokes state pride, she notes, while Colorado focuses on sports and Kentucky’s animation evokes empathy for those who have difficulty obtaining insurance. The ads are more “personable and accessible” because they don’t talk about the federal law or Washington, she said.
While the federal government has chosen to wait until September to launch television ads in 35 states where it will run or co-run exchanges, officials in several of the states operating their own exchanges say lack of consumer awareness has provided the impetus to start now.
“Insurance is complicated and we are trying to make it as easy understandable as possible,” said Carrie Banahan, executive director of the Kentucky insurance exchange that goes by the name Kynect.
The exchanges’ television advertising is just one part of a broader marketing campaign that also will include radio, newspaper and billboard advertising, as well as use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
The ads largely appear targeted to people who have tried to get health insurance before but were turned back by high cost or denied because they had health problems. In the Kentucky ad, the narrator says, “for everyone who needs health insurance and has not been able to get it, a new day is about to arrive.”
Caroline Pearson, vice president of consulting firm Avalere Health, said it makes sense for states to focus initial ads on this population. But that may be a concern for insurance plans that need to reach healthier people to balance out the cost of covering older, sicker people who can no longer be denied coverage or charged higher rates based on their health.
In addition to seeing the exchange ads, consumers in some states may also encounter a different kind of Obamacare message — from conservative groups opposed to the health law. A campaign sponsored by Americans for Prosperity is scheduled to launch Tuesday in Ohio and Virginia.