SANTA FE, N.M., LOS ANGELES and CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — New Mexico has received a nearly $19 million federal grant to market its Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health insurance exchange to uninsured individuals and businesses.
California could see more than $300 million invested in PPACA exchange television ads, online ads, billboards, door-to-door visits and other sales pitches and promotions for its state-based exchange.
In South Carolina, the federal government is pumping $3.6 million into community groups and health centers that will help promote the exchanges.
Nationwide spending on publicity, marketing and advertising to promote PPACA could hit at least $684 million, according to data compiled The Associated Press from federal and state sources.
Total spending in states ranges from $914,000 in Wyoming to $174 million in California.
Per-capita spending ranges from 46 cents in Wisconsin to $9.23 in West Virginia.
Federal officials say marketing will be critical maximizing the number of uninsured people who use the exchanges to check their options and sign up for coverage.
Maximizing total exchange enrollment will help the uninsured and reduce the amount of uncompensated care doctors and hospitals in a state end up providing, and maximizing the number of relatively young, healthy residents who enroll should help hold down coverage costs for all people with health coverage, officials say.
In New Mexico, officials are hoping the exchange program will enroll more than 80,000 uninsured New Mexicans in insurance plans next year and up to 211,000 people by 2020.
New Mexico wants to have its own state-run Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange for small businesses. But, because of the lack of time to fully implement its computer system, the state wants to start out having the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) run a “federally facilitated exchange” (FFE) for individuals.
New Mexico has about 400,000 uninsured New Mexicans and businesses that don’t provide insurance to their workers.
The New Mexico exchange has solicited bids from companies for advertising, education and public relations but hasn’t awarded a contract yet.
Applications also have been requested from organizations, including nonprofits and trade associations, to implement outreach programs and provide in-person assistance to those seeking health insurance through the exchange.
Jason Sandel, vice chairman of the exchange’s 13-member governing board, said New Mexico faces challenges serving people in rural areas that lack Internet service and dealing with uninsured people who aren’t computer savvy.
“What I continue to hear is that it’s incumbent upon the exchange to ensure that we have boots on the ground in rural communities across the state in a culturally sensitive kind of way. So if we’re going into a Native American community we need to be speaking with and through Native Americans and telling Native American stories and why it’s important for Native Americans to access health insurance,” Sandel said.
“And I think that effort is going to have to be expanded over what was originally conceptualized,” he said. “And frankly putting together that type of an effort in the very short amount time that we have to put it together is darn near an impossibility.”
The state had requested a $20 million grant from the federal government for promoting the exchange and its insurance options to New Mexicans. However, $18.6 million was approved earlier this month because of the government’s mandatory, across-the-board spending cuts, according to the state Human Services Department.
Under a preliminary budget prepared for the grant request, the exchange expected to spend about $13 million for marketing and education, including about $6 million for local events in partnership with counties, schools, universities, community-organizations, business and religious groups. Of that $13 million, $1 million was for outreach for Native Americans, such as efforts in Navajo Nation chapter houses, and $4 million was for advertising on television, radio, billboards and social media marketing.
The exchange budgeted another $6 million to contract with two organizations to implement the in-person assistance programs. Those vendors are expected to subcontract with community-based groups to provide the “navigators” and “assisters” — as they are known under the Affordable Care Act — to guide the uninsured through the insurance enrollment process.
“Our goal is enroll 84,000 in the first year and our efforts have to reflect that goal,” Sandel said. “We’re a little bit behind the eight ball is the way I would put it by way of time.”
Meanwhile, in California, builders of the state’s Covered California exchange face the task of reaching millions of uninsured state residents .
Covered California managers hope the exchange will serve 2.3 million people by 2017.
About one in four federal PPACA marketing dollars — $174 million — will go to California, or more than $174 million, according to the AP.
California’s per-capita ad and public relations spending will be $4.68, is among the highest in the U.S.