States' next major ObamaCare challenge: Marketing campaigns

The extended deadline for states to inform the Obama administration of their intentions for either creating a state-run health insurance exchange, forging a federal partnership, or fully resigning the responsibility to the federal government is tomorrow; nearly half of the states have so far definitively declined to set up their own exchanges and several have yet to decide. In the meantime, another two states have rejected the administration’s oh-so-generous opportunity to sign up for the administration’s proffered Medicaid expansion program:

The decisions by Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Mike Pence of Indiana leave 10 remaining Republicans who have yet to decide on expanding their participating in the federal-state health care program for the poor. …

In Wisconsin, Walker outlined a hybrid approach that involves tightening income eligibility for Medicaid, lifting a cap on a program that covers childless adults and forcing more people to buy insurance through a government-run marketplace known as an exchange.

Pence was not as definitive as Walker, saying that he would not expand Medicaid but asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow the state to use its Healthy Indiana Program to serve the expanded Medicaid population.

Not all of the states have been quite as hesitant about cooperating with the Obama administration’s wishes, however; plenty of Democratic-led states have happily signed up for both the Medicaid expansion and have decided to run their own insurance exchanges — meaning that, besides the huge and expensive job of actually creating and administering the exchanges, their next task is marketing the dang things.

How to persuade millions of uninsured, uninformed, and/or wildly suspicious Americans to sign up for health plans this fall? Why, with a good ol’ fashioned marketing, obviously. The WSJ reports:

Some 30 million people are supposed to gain coverage through the Affordable Care Act, and much of its success hinges on whether that many people sign up for the law’s new insurance options. …

Meanwhile, states that back the program have been eyeing the campaign used by Massachusetts to implement the statewide health-care overhaul it passed in 2006. That campaign included fliers and advertisements from state transportation, motor-vehicle and tax agencies as well as a high-profile partnership with the Boston Red Sox. …

Connecticut, meanwhile, is considering tapping into athletics but the state may have to shy away from the region’s pro sports teams because a big portion of the state roots for the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots, while a similarly big portion favors New York’s Yankees, Mets and Giants. …

Helena Foulkes, an executive vice president at CVS Caremark Corp., said pharmacists at the company’s retail stores know which customers lack insurance when filling prescriptions, as do staff at the chain’s Minute Clinics. “There are five million people walking in our stores each day,” Ms. Foulkes said. “We think we can play a role.”

Selling ObamaCare to a wary public is going to be about much more than deficiencies in branding or awareness, though, as Via Meadia points out; the law’s supporters need to convince Americans to buy a plan, and badly:

But the tax will be less expensive than the cost of coverage. The minimum tax per person will be $695 per year. Higher earning individuals will have to pay more: a couple who makes $100,000 per year, for example, will be taxed around $2,025. That may sound like a lot, but the CBO estimates that the annual premiums for the least-expensive plan offered under the new law would reach about $12,000 for a family and about $5,000 for an individual (all figures can be found here).

Meaning that is could very well be bad news bears when a bunch of Americans start figuring out that simply paying the penalty tax can be cheaper than actually purchasing a plan — and the government knows it.