By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE â€“ The R.I. Health Benefits Exchange will soon have a new name and a new website as part of a marketing campaign to introduce the new online marketplace where consumers can research, shop, compare and purchase health insurance products, according to Ian Lang, associate director of marketing and communications for the exchange.
â€śWe are shooting for a mid-June launch of the website,â€ť Lang told the Providence Business News. â€śItâ€™s a place where Rhode Islanders can learn about the exchange; itâ€™s also a place where we can have an ongoing dialogue with Rhode Islanders.â€ť
The exchange, he continued, is in the â€śfinal stages of the naming process,â€ť legally reviewing some choices.
A draft communications plan is also being finalized, Lang said.
In addition, the exchange is expected to issue an RFP in the next few weeks to hire a firm to conduct the exchangeâ€™s marketing campaign, according to Lang, who said that the exchange has already conducted extensive market research and focus groups.
The results from a statewide survey and focus groups conducted with Rhode Island residents, small employers and health care providers will be discussed in detail by Michael Perry from Lake Research Partners at a May 17 meeting of exchange stakeholders.
According to minutes from a recent meeting of the exchangeâ€™s advisory board, the research found that there was a strong interest among consumers and small employers to use the exchange, motivated by the desire to find health plans that fit within a budget, with side-by-side comparisons, and with options for both higher quality and lower cost products.
The marketing campaign, Lang promised, â€świll not be glitzy.â€ť Rather, it will be built upon the ongoing educational and outreach efforts focused on small businesses and individuals.
When asked exactly how much money would be spent on the marketing effort, Lang demurred from giving a number, saying: â€śWe will have sufficient resources to put our messages out to individuals and small business.â€ť
The exchange is scheduled to open for business on Oct. 1, but the first details of the actual health plans to be offered on the exchange are not expected to be released by R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller until later this month. Negotiations are ongoing between the exchange, the insurers and providers. Some innovative health plans â€“ offered in partnership between health insurers, hospitals and physiciansâ€™ groups â€“ are be developed, according to Dennis Keefe, president and CEO of Care New England. The actual plan filings for the exchange are scheduled to be discussed on May 15 at an advisory committee briefing.
Because the exchange is a new, iterative endeavor â€“ part start-up, part government program, part innovative economic development initiative â€“ information about products to be featured on the exchange and details about the decision-making process have not been easy to discern by consumers or small businesses.
Jami Ouellette, president and brand manager of Imaj Associates, said that she expected the exchangeâ€™s marketing strategy would likely break out the target audiences into different groups, such as the uninsured, â€śyoung immortals,â€ť parents, and single parents. â€śTraditionally, women make the majority of health-care decisions,â€ť Ouellette said. â€śEach group will need to be looked at individually, versus lumping them all into one group â€“ a common pitfall in marketing to diverse demographics.