To implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states are creating online exchanges in which people can shop for health insurance. Designed to act as the go-to insurance marketplace for millions of people from diverse backgrounds, the exchanges will provide each consumer with the range of coverage options available in his/her state.
Some states are currently grappling with how to make the exchanges sound less bureaucratic, lest people be deterred from using them by flashbacks to experiences waiting in interminable lines at the DMV and other government agencies. Those overseeing the health insurance exchange rebranding process in participating states hope the new names will convey a sense of cultural relevance and caring, no small feat when the populations served by the exchanges are so diverse. They also note their desire for the new names to sound fresh, dynamic, and innovative while still maintaining clarity about what the exchanges are.
Outcomes aside, the process of rebranding has provided people with an opportunity to engage with the exchanges in a playful way. For example, one person suggested the name “Avocado” for the California exchange, and a person in Maryland proposed “www.icantbelieveitsthiseasytobuyhealthinsurance.com.”
Branding can influence consumer’s perceptions of a broad range of products, from school lunches to bank services. Do you think branding matters for health insurance exchanges? Would consumers use them out of necessity regardless, or might cultivating a positive image increase the number of people seeking new insurance?
What other steps besides an engaging name can states take to cast the insurance exchanges in a positive light?
I guess it’s not surprising, but it is disappointing to hear about a study just published in the American Journal of Political Science: “The Spillover of Racialization into Health Care: How President Obama Polarized Public Opinion by Racial Attitudes and Race.” What the authors found, in short, is that how Americans feel about health care policies and whether we should even have universal health coverage has everything to do with who they think espouses those policies.
I know. I’m revealing some real naivete here. But I’d hoped we were growing beyond this stuff; that the color of the skin of the person telling us we all need to be covered by some kind of health insurance would affect how any one of us feels about the idea. Communication really should be about the message, and maybe the medium, but …what the speaker looks like? (Sigh.) Especially on something as important as whether the U.S. will catch up with every other civilized country on Earth and make sure all its citizens have some kind of health care coverage. Here we are spending more than any other developed country on health care–with results nowhere near as good as most of them–and we still can’t get it right. If we spent what it would take to make sure every man, woman and child in the U.S. could always see a doctor when they needed to, rather than only requiring hospital emergency rooms to treat all comers, we would likely spend LESS per person on health care than we do now.
And yet the debate comes down to this: politics. How you (or I) feel about making sure all Americans have health insurance depends on who’s telling us that should be so.
It’s a health communication issue that really shouldn’t even be, but it’s determining the fate–and health–of us all.