By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Healthcare reform hit a bit of speed bump a few weeks ago when enforcement of the employer mandate requirement was delayed for a year under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Businesses with 50 employees now have until 2015 to provide insurance coverage for workers instead of 2014.
In our view, this delay in the business sector signals one of many important marketing implications for healthcare communicators and providers about the near-term rollout of Obamacare. It’s going to be a challenging “sell” to the uninsured.
“Employees who now have to wait another year to get health coverage through their employer will have little recourse but to buy their own insurance at the newly created state exchanges,” as the New York Times observes. “Still in effect is the requirement that people without insurance buy it by 2014 or face fines.”
So, beginning now, a major marketing battle is unfolding to win the hearts and minds of individuals without coverage. On the immediate horizon is the October 1, 2013 opening enrollment gate. And the initial marketing, advertising and public relations media blitz between now and year-end will be significant.
Here are a few of the key issues and challenges ahead:
- The Target Audience is unaware and uninformed. Most estimates have it that more than 15 percent of Americans are uninsured. About half of this audience (19 million) is in the 18 to 35 age range, and historically are people who feel they don’t need insurance. And perhaps most surprising, three out of four individuals have little knowledge about the Affordable Care Act.
- Finding and convincing a hard-to-reach group. “The targets are mostly the working poor, young people who are disengaged or those who gave up their insurance because of the cost. Three-quarters are white. Eighty-six percent have a high school education or less. Together, they make up a blind spot in the nation’s health care system,” nwi.com reports.
- Insurance is likely to be hard to sell with young prospects. “Many young people rarely seek medical treatment and they tend to view healthcare coverage as a luxury, not a necessity,” says MoneyNews. “For the system to operate as planned, millions of healthy 20- and 30-somethings will need to sacrifice a chunk of their disposable income to purchase insurance plans.” The alternative fines may be more appealing to many people.
- Federal and State marketing programs have big budgets. To inform the public and attract enrollments, both the administration and many state insurance exchanges will be spending, by some estimates, at least $684 million…or as much as $1.25 billion according to other news reports.
- The messaging will be hard to miss. Major marketing, advertising and public relations firms throughout the US are rolling out the first of the promotional works to include production and distribution of brochures, direct mail, print ads, social media, Internet advertising, outdoor/billboard and radio/TV ads. Call centers, community organizations and customer service agents—at the national and at the state level—will be working in support of the efforts.
The marketing efforts in the next few months will likely be intense, especially in Florida, California and Texas where many of the 18-to-35 year olds reside…and were support for insurance exchanges vary. For more on this topic, click through to our recent post and podcast, Futurist Views: 2014 is the Tipping Point for Healthcare Reform.