Four Lessons From Massachusetts Health Reform

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media , September 23, 2009

Plan for an extensive marketing campaign
DeBor says two of the biggest keys to the Massachusetts exchange have been marketing and Web site design. He adds the two work in concert to deliver the education piece, both about healthcare and the individual mandate.

Massachusetts was inundated with marketing about the reform program in the months before the coverage deadline. There were countless commercials, ads on sides of buses and billboards, and collaboration with Boston sports teams to promote the idea.

As I mentioned earlier, this education included not just information about the mandate, but also explained the healthcare system, the definition of health insurance, and why—nearly every Massachusetts resident must have it.

Expect future enhancements
Once the insurance exchange is created, don't expect that the shiny new Web site means the journey is over. Massachusetts has also improved the site through enhancements, such as a benefits calculator and plans to add Web 2.0 offerings, such as a list of what other people are buying.

The redesigned Web site also separates the pathways for users depending on the customers' needs (such as whether they are searching for an individual or subsidized plan). This allows the individual purchaser to navigate easier.

As these insurance exchange tips show, approving a new health reform law is the easy part. If a comprehensive health reform plan actually makes it through Congress this year, policymakers and health leaders should remember these items from Massachusetts and spend a great amount of time studying the Massachusetts experience and learn from both its successes and failures.

But it's not just policymakers who can learn. Health insurance plans that are looking to promote their individual offerings should also learn from Massachusetts. That learning will become more important as the employer-based health insurance market continues to erode.

Les Masterson is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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