Insurers take exchange marketing, education into own hands

Despite the Obama administration's effort to highlight the wide popularity of health insurance exchanges, very few consumers actually know the online marketplaces opened only two days ago.

A recent survey from Kaiser Family Foundation found most consumers, particularly those without health coverage, were unaware exchanges were opening on Tuesday. Of the 1,503 adults polled before open enrollment began, 66 percent didn't know when the marketplaces opened.

But there's hope yet for insurers banking on exchanges to boost their enrollment numbers. In Kentucky, the only southern state running its own exchange and one of only two expanding Medicaid, people are slowly becoming more receptive to the reform law. Many consumers are showing interest in the state's exchange, called Kynect, saying said they would visit the marketplace to see if they qualify for Medicaid or federal subsidies, reported Kaiser Health News/Washington Post. And the Kynect customer service center already has received more than 4,000 calls since opening in August.

"If the law can go in Kentucky, it can go anywhere," Mark Rothstein, professor of law and medicine at University of Louisville School of Medicine and Brandeis School of Law, told the newspapers.

Meanwhile, many insurers aren't waiting for states to educate consumers and are launching their own marketing campaigns. "We need to not only protect our turf, but we've got to acquire our fair share of the new market that's up for grabs, because a segment of consumers are going to be looking to different sources for information," WellPoint Chief Marketing Officer Patrick Blair, told Advertising Age.

Insurers are primarily using digital media to attract young consumers. UnitedHealth, for example, has a "10-minute guide to health reform" that explains changes under the reform law and available healthcare options. Cigna has a five-minute guide that answers five simple questions as part of its multichannel direct-response campaign running during the exchange open enrollment period.

And Blue Cross Blue Shield in Tennessee redesigned its website, making it more consumer-focused as part of a campaign to educate consumers and position itself as a clarifying voice amid the complexity surrounding the reform law, reported The Chattanoogan

To learn more:
- here's the Kaiser survey
- read the Kaiser Health News/Washington Post article
- see the Advertising Age article
- check out The Chattanoogan article

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