“Illinois on Friday awarded marketing and public relations firm Fleishman Hillard a $35 million contract to market and promote the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace, an online exchange where individuals and small businesses can compare and purchase private health insurance beginning Oct. 1.
Fleishman Hillard, along with several partners, will lead a massive multimedia outreach and advertising campaign to promote enrollment in the state-based insurance exchange, a key aspect of the Affordable Care Act.
With less than three months before open enrollment begins, the firm faces a substantial challenge to raise awareness among a group of confused and skeptical consumers, many of whom never have had health insurance coverage before.
A number of recent studies have shown Americans are largely in the dark about the law and its requirements, spurring insurers, hospitals, community groups and pharmacy chains such as Walgreen Co. to launch their own educational campaigns.
St. Louis-based Fleishman beat 12 other firms for the contract, fully funded through the federal government by money set aside under the new health care law.
The contract now goes under a two-week review and challenge period. It is scheduled to take effect July 26.
“Our hope and desire is to kick off (the campaign) immediately,” said Maxine Winer, a senior partner and general manager of Fleishman Hillard’s Chicago office, which employs about 80. “We’re ready to go, and we delivered a fully integrated plan that was ready to go.”
Working with a slate of partners, including the advertising firm Downtown Partners Chicago and the media buyer Conroy Media Group, Fleishman’s campaign relies on a multichannel strategy to reach potential customers in Illinois who will be eligible for government-subsidized insurance starting in 2014. It plans include a digital and social media campaign, grass roots and targeted marketing and public relations.
Its other partners include Elemento L2, which focuses on the Hispanic market; Compass Public Affairs, which will lead grass-roots efforts; and Hawthorne Strategy Group, which will target small businesses, Winer said.
“Once the contract is finalized, we expect that the firm will assist our efforts to increase awareness about the access to quality, affordable health coverage that Illinois residents and small businesses will gain as a result” of the health care law, said Mike Claffey, a state spokesman.
Many Americans for the first time will be guaranteed access to health coverage, even those with pre-existing conditions. Most low-income families will qualify for federal subsidies to help pay for insurance. Those who don’t carry coverage will face a penalty, starting next year at $95 or 1 percent of household income, whichever is greater.
About 7 million people are expected to use the insurance exchanges to shop for coverage in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office. In Illinois, nearly 1 million residents will be eligible for subsidized health insurance next year, though state officials expect only about half of them to sign up.
They’ll be able to choose from among up to 165 plans offered by six insurers, according to the state, which has until the end of the month to vet plans and recommend approval to the federal government.
The insurers who have said they submitted plans include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Coventry Health Care Inc., Humana Inc., and Land of Lincoln Health.
Fleishman, which also is working with the Missouri Foundation of Health to promote that state’s insurance exchange, is a division of Omnicom Group Inc.”