Getting uninsured Californians into Obamacare

Ogilvy PR, USA

After surviving 38 congressional attempts at repeal and a US Supreme Court challenge, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act created a new era of health care in the United States. The main vehicle is the insurance exchanges which opened for business in October 2013. California’s exchange, Covered California, is the most watched of all exchanges as the size and demographic complexity has meant overcoming external political opposition and constant public scrutiny.


Covered California (California's Health Benefit Exchange)


There are 5.3 million eligible uninsured Californians – more than any other state. Overlay this with the population’s multicultural and multilingual makeup – 59% Latino, 11% Asian, 5% African American and 23% white – and the enormous scope of launching this new system and motivating the uninsured to enroll is evident. Most importantly, this is the largest social marketing program that California has undertaken since the launch of anti-smoking campaigns. The client's goal is to move from a 'culture of coping' to a 'culture of coverage'.

Campaigns and Activities

In a state the size of California with the most diverse targets and audiences, the strategy was to leave no stone unturned – from ongoing aggressive earned media to public relations and community outreach. The California Health Benefit Exchange knew that it had to do everything, and more, to help Californians get covered. The plan includes: a combination of media outreach and education tactics, advertising, social media, direct marketing and partnerships; specialized outreach to California’s multilingual communities; a partnership with a firm that specialized in training and monitoring an entirely new 'assisters/educators' program, a critical component for individual enrollment; and a community-based grant program to take advantage of key partner channels to extend the reach of our campaign (more than 350 community groups applied for grants; 48 were awarded a total of $43 million).


The true measure of the results of our efforts are the enrollment numbers, and as of March 14, 2014, more than 1,000,000 have enrolled in a new Covered California health insurance plans – more enrollees than any other state and exceeding California’s enrollment goal in advance of the close of the first open enrollment period. But key to these results was the understanding that our plan had to include effective strategies to reach our diverse targets in meaningful and relevant ways on a consistent and ongoing basis.

Lessons Learned

There are many stakeholder groups closely tied to this effort and it was critical that we gain their trust and support from the onset, listen to their ongoing feedback and adjust our program accordingly. In addition, the constant monitoring of enrollment numbers and demographics allowed us to hone our program to focus efforts on particular target segments in particular regions.

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