Insurer advertisers wait for exchanges to run smoothly

Once the Obama administration fixes all the technical glitches plaguing the website, insurers plan to bombard the media, encouraging consumers to enroll in the exchanges and sign up for a plan. But they won't be selling "Obamacare" or even the reform law itself; they'll be highlighting the new availability of affordable insurance, reported Politico.

For example, Kaiser Permanente mailed letters to consumers in the Washington area to inform them about the federal subsidies as well as specific benefits and coverage options for "hassle-free coverage that won't let you down." But nowhere in the mailing did Kaiser mention the healthcare reform law, Obamacare or President Barack Obama.

Indeed, almost all major insurers are purposefully not discussing the reform law in their advertising. Only 18 percent of insurers' ads since Oct. 1 have referenced the Affordable Care Act.

There certainly won't be an increase in marketing and advertising by insurers before the federal exchange website is running without any problems. "What you don't want to do is direct people to a nonworking website," Sheryl Skolnick, managing director of investment analysis firm CRT Capital, told Politico. "That is not good business practice."

That's why WellPoint allocated $150 million for "exchange-related activities," including marketing initiatives, but basing its timetable for spending those funds on "the pace of overall exchange readiness--and tenor of consumer sentiment," a WellPoint spokesperson told Politico.

In the interim, some advocacy groups are using advertisements to appeal to consumers' mothers in a new attempt at attracting young adults to sign up for exchanges. For example, AARP ads urge mothers to send e-cards to their adult kids reminding them to enroll, while Organizing for Action suggests mothers have "the talk" with their children during the holidays, the New York Times reported.

Insurers too are aware of mothers' influence on the highly sought after young adult consumer group. Shaun Greene, chief operating officer for Utah CO-OP Arches Health Plan, told the Times he was surprised after answering several calls from parents who handed the phone to their children. "At least three of them had their kid by the ear," he said, explaining: "My son or daughter needs insurance. Talk to them."

To learn more:
- read the Politico article
- see the New York Times article