#StateOfEnrollment: Why We Didn’t Send Consumers Directly to HealthCare.gov

By William Tomasko

Strategy: Simple, direct information from an independent source on how to get covered

When it was used: Before and during open enrollment

Notable metrics:

  • 1.75 million unique site visitors
  • 1 million consumer email addresses collected 

Best Practices to Replicate:

  • The obvious action step isn’t always the best one.
  • Give consumers tools and information in a simple, easy-to-understand format.
  • Present information for targeted consumer audiences in a way best suited to them, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.

Throughout the first open enrollment period, whenever we engaged consumers as part of our Get Covered America campaign — from farmers markets and barbershops to phone-a-thons and social media — we didn’t send them directly to HealthCare.gov. And it wasn’t because the website wasn’t working. It was part of a broader consumer engagement strategy. So, why did we do this?

1. HealthCare.gov had to be all things to all people.

 HealthCare.gov had to cater to a broad audience with a variety of needs. It wasn’t made explicitly for our target audience of uninsured consumers. Based on our experience and research in consumer marketing, we knew that the site design and user experience for our target audience required a particularly simple, clean, and easy-to-navigate website. We needed to provide consumers with easy-to-understand tools and information that would give them confidence to move forward with an application on HealthCare.gov or their state marketplace.

2. Consumers needed access to tools and information before they would commit to starting their application.

When HealthCare.gov launched, a lot of information about plans, costs, and eligibility for financial help were locked behind the application. We needed to get consumers excited about this opportunity before they’d consider starting an application. We built a jargon-free website with tools and resources (like our calculator, assistance locator, and plan picker tools) that were helpful to consumers who might be learning about health insurance for the first time or who previously had a bad experience with health insurance.

3. Consumers wanted a third-party, non-partisan source for information on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Our research showed that consumers were confused. They had very limited understanding of their opportunities under the ACA and wanted help from a trusted source. HealthCare.gov was not positioned to serve as that resource. Our position as an independent third party allowed us to separate ourselves from the politically charged conversation that surrounded the ACA and HealthCare.gov. In fact, we found success with very little explicit mention of the ACA or “Obamacare,” by simply helping consumers understand their new health insurance options.

4. We needed a way to operate our outreach and enrollment program independently.

By collecting email addresses and phone numbers of interested consumers on our website, we were able to continue the conversation about getting covered in a friendly tone from a trustworthy source, even while HealthCare.gov wasn’t working. This allowed us to continue to move forward with our digital and field outreach programs despite the early problems with HealthCare.gov. Our success wasn’t directly tied to the success of HealthCare.gov.

This investment in a consumer-first strategy has yielded strong positive results, with more than 1 million consumers signing up to receive more information from the Get Covered America campaign. And we succeeded in connecting more than 350,000 consumers to their marketplace or contact information for local assisters.

For more ideas on how to take your outreach and enrollment efforts to the next level in the coming months, register today for our national conference, State of Enrollment: Getting America Covered, in Washington, D.C., June 16-18.

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