Next goal for Minnesota insurance exchange: Awareness

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSAND RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: April 30, 2013 - 9:22 PM

The state is moving ahead with online insurance marketplace and a campaign to spread the word.

Gov. Mark Dayton

With legislation now in hand, state officials are putting key elements in place to launch a new health insurance exchange, which is expected to help more than one in five Minnesotans who don’t get health benefits at work.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday appointed a seven-member board to oversee the exchange, known as MNsure, including a General Mills vice president, retired union executive and the state’s human services commissioner.

And coming this summer: a marketing campaign.

The state has awarded a yearlong contract worth $666,590 to ad agency BBDO Proximity to spread the word about MNsure, which launches in October and will be used by individuals, families and small businesses to comparison-shop among private insurance plans. Those who qualify will receive tax credits or subsidies through the exchange to make premiums more affordable.

BBDO, which arrived in Minneapolis in 1930 to help out George A. Hormel & Co., still markets Spam more than eight decades later, as well as Jennie-O, the Como Zoo and Conservatory, and other national and international clients.

“As an agency we try to focus on behavior-changing work,” said Neil White, BBDO Proximity CEO. “This is all about eliciting action and getting people, No. 1, aware of something and, No. 2, to take action. If you look at our case studies and some of our work, that comes through as something we do really well.”

BBDO has its work cut out.

A poll released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that four in 10 Americans are unaware that the Affordable Care Act, which calls for the exchanges, is the law of the land. That includes 12 percent who believe the federal health law has been repealed by Congress.

About half, 49 percent, still don’t know enough to understand how the insurance exchanges and other aspects of the law will affect their family. That’s even more true among the two groups most likely to benefit most from the law: the uninsured (58 percent lack enough information) and low-income households (56 percent), according to the Kaiser tracking poll.

Drawing people to the MNsure insurance exchange — especially healthy ones — will be key to building a large enough pool to keep premiums affordable.

Leslie Sipprell, BBDO’s senior vice president and group account director, said the MNsure campaign will get rolling midsummer and hit full stride by fall, when people will start using the exchanges to sign up for coverage that will begin in 2014.

Two goals of campaign

The campaign’s goal is twofold: build awareness about MNsure and the website www.mnsure.org in all corners of the state; and communicate its long-term benefits to individuals and the broader community.

Expect a full sweep of print, radio, television, social media and grass-roots efforts in multiple languages, Sipprell said.

Meanwhile, some of Dayton’s insurance exchange board members said at a Capitol news conference that they were hopeful MNsure will make buying insurance simpler and provide more and better choices.

“MNsure is going to provide an opportunity for affordable health care premiums without multi-thousand dollar deducible,” said Pete Benner, a board member and former union executive. “The number of people who are going to be touched by what we do is phenomenal.”

When asked, at least one board member stepped up to agree with Dayton’s earlier declaration that it is a gamble.

“It is a gamble absolutely. We are chartering something,” said Brian Beutner, former CEO of a health care software company, mPay Gateway.

“Our charge is to make it work for as many people as well as possible.”

Although several of the members have connections to unions and the health care industry, Dayton’s office said: “all appointed members of the board have demonstrated that they do not have any conflicts of interest.”

Board members indicated that there are both Democrats and Republican among their ranks.

jcrosby@startribune.com • 612-673-7335

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