White House, Weber Shandwick Slice and Dice Audience for Obamacare Push

Marketing Effort Segments 48 Million Consumers Into Six Distinct Groups

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With the GOP doing everything it can to give Obamacare a bad rap and the actual implementation of the Affordable Care Act hitting speed bumps, the Obama administration has tapped public-relations giant Weber Shandwick to help it sell the president's health care plan to the uninsured.

Weber Shandwick won a $3.1 million contract to help the Department of Health and Human Service roll out a campaign to convince skeptical -- or simply confused -- Americans the Affordable Care Act is good for them and convince them to enroll in a health plan.

Weber Shandwick's contract is limited to work on the rollout of Obamacare and it's not likely the agency will be involved in defending the administration in the latest dustup over Obamacare. It seems businesses who want to purchase insurance coverage in state exchanges may only be able to offer their workers one plan next year because some states may not have exchanges for businesses fully set up by next year's deadline.

Rather, Weber Shandwick, which didn't return requests for comment, will be tasked with implementing roll-out communications based on old-fashioned marketing principles.

One tactic involves the use of marketing -- and the help of Experian and other companies that target audiences -- to understand the psychology of the uninsured.

The department is getting a handle on "what worked best when we launched other large-scale health programs like [the Medicare prescription drug program' … and building from those experiences in order to be ready to execute effective tactics," said a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service, the HHS agency in charge of the campaign.

Tailoring the message
CMS said it will tailor its message to different sectors of a consumer group that is 48 million strong but not monolithic.

CMS broke down the uninsured by geographic location and income levels. It also divided the uninsured into six basic groups based on attitudes.

Three of them won't be targeted. They are the "Informed, Healthy and Educated," the "Mature and Secure" and the "Vulnerable and Unengaged."

Instead, CMS will home in on three other groups that make up about 90% of the uninsured. They are the "Sick, Active and Worried," "Healthy and Young" and "Passive and Unengaged."

The Sick, Active and Worried people are Baby Boomers and Generation Xers who are savvy about health insurance but worried about cost and may have pre-existing conditions or a chronic illness that puts insurance out of their reach financially.

The Healthy and Young group are those in good health and think healthcare is unimportant. The Passive and Unengaged group is older but healthy and its members don't understand much about health insurance or care because they "live for the day."

An "anticipation" -- or "Get Ready" -- phase of work will begin in summer ramp up in the fall. Under the Affordable Care Act, uninsured individuals can start shopping for a health-care policy from state insurance exchanges in October and must be enrolled in a plan on Jan. 1, 2014.

CMS has already launched Facebook and Twitter campaigns, a new Web site, HealthCare.gov, and a new slogan "Take healthcare into you own hands."

While Republicans don't have the strength in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, their continued criticism may hurt the enrollment campaign.

The GOP plans to return to a strategy of campaigning against Obamacare in 2014.

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