Burgess worked with the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) to promote its enroll207.com website to help Mainers sign up for affordable health plans under the Affordable Care Act. The results have far surpassed MeHAF’s targets for insured individuals during the four open enrollment periods, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-2017.
When Maine declined to set up and promote its own Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) stepped up to create enroll207.com, a website offering Mainers:
MeHAF engaged Burgess to promote the new site—and persuade Mainers to get covered under the new federal program.
MeHAF set a Year I goal of enrolling 20,000 Mainers in health insurance plans offered on Healthcare.gov. Of particular concern was attracting uninsured consumers, especially young adults, many of whom perceived themselves as immune to illness and injury. Burgess’s engagement with MeHAF only began just one month before the new insurance plans became available. And as everyone recalls, the Healthcare.gov website was a disaster at first.
Burgess worked with MeHAF and its affiliated organizations to implement a multi-pronged effort to build awareness of enroll207.com, position it as “Your Maine Connection to the Health Insurance Marketplace,” and establish persuasive reasons to go there and sign up for health insurance:
The range of media and other vehicles included transit (bus), TV, radio, print, online and social media ads; PR, flyers and rack cards for outreach professionals; special forums to reach business owners; and more.
As the March 31 deadline approached, we focused on the young adults who research showed to be the most skeptical of the need for insurance, creating targeted testimonial TV and radio spots featuring young adults who have signed up and young “assisters” offering personal help with the process; as well as edgier, attention-getting print and online ads.
Awareness of the enroll207.com website went from zero to 36% in the first two months of the campaign. The bottom line is that Maine has enrolled the highest number of people per capita of any state, more than 44,000 as of May 1, 2014. This represents 220% of MeHAF’s original goal for the program—despite the extremely rocky start because of the federal website’s technical problems.
MeHAF had many questions about the Year II enrollment period, especially among those who signed up in Year I:
In addition, there remained significant numbers of Mainers who still had not signed up for health coverage, and the consensus was that these represented those least able to afford coverage and most difficult to reach, particularly younger people and ethnic minorities. On the positive side, the success of Year I had produced many good stories of how getting covered with health insurance had genuinely improved the lives of many Mainers.
MeHAF set a Year II goal of re-enrolling 33,000 Mainers in Health Insurance Marketplace plans, and enrolling 15,000 for the first time—which was considered ambitious, since many hypothesized that most people who had a realistic chance of obtaining coverage had already signed up in Year I. A key challenge was that the enrollment period was cut in half from Year 1 to just three months, and there were two major deadlines to communicate, December 15 for coverage starting January 1, and February 15 for any 2015 coverage.
Burgess again worked closely with MeHAF and its affiliated organizations to implement a multi-pronged campaign with two distinct phases:
Telling stories of real Mainers
Thanks to the success of Year I, we were able to build our campaign around testimonials from subjects such as:
The heart of the campaign was a series of TV spots and online ads featuring these and three other subjects. Longer videos were edited for posting online, including Facebook, where our social media team made frequent posts.
Speaking everyone’s language
Other tactics included new event posters, brochures, rack cards and bus signs, one of which targeted the growing diversity of the population in Maine’s largest cities (Portland, Bangor and Lewiston/Auburn): it showed silhouettes of bus riders saying “I’m Covered!” in five different languages.
The multilingual outreach was also carried through in a TV spot featuring real members of Portland’s immigrant populations, and a series of six informational booklets about how to use one’s new insurance plan (in English, Spanish, French, Somali, Arabic and Creole).
By the February 15 deadline, over 75,000 Mainers had signed up for 2015 coverage—56% more than the original target. Data indicate that 47% of these sign-ups were first-time enrollees.
Key changes for Years III & IV were the dates (although the length remained at three months), and a substantial increase in the minimum penalty for not having health insurance during the year, from $325 to $695.
Given the robust portfolio of existing creative, the short time frame of the effort, and the overwhelming success of the first two periods, we decided to conserve budget and update Year II materials instead of producing new creative from scratch.
This strategy proved effective: enrollment increased to more than 84,000 in 2016, making Maine one of the few states that succeeded in significantly boosting its population’s use of the affordable plans. Despite the uncertainties of the Marketplace for 2017, enrollment to date of more than 79,000 is only 5% less than last year.