With the target date for implementation of health care marketplaces for individuals looming Oct. 1 – the keystone of the Affordable Care Act –it’ll likely be a big focus for business journalists this month. In addition to the consumer primer, I’m tossing out a number of ideas for related biz stories you might take a look at:
Marketing. Tens of millions of federal dollars are being spent to inform and educate the public about their options under Obamacare; one of my previous blog posts includes examples and links to a variety of resources on that front. One twist might be “who benefits?” from opposition to the new law. I’ve been listening diligently and the majority of ads I’ve heard in my region have been anti-Affordable Care Act. Clearly some marketing and advertising agencies are making money by trying to persuade citizens against the changes. Here’s a Bloomberg story about how Obamacare-related ads are targeting women as healthcare decision-makers; it notes that opposition spending to the law outpaces that of advocates by five to one. You might check with local marketing, advertising and media-buying firms, as well as TV and radio stations, about what the next month is expected to hold. And of course, marketing industry gurus, academics and others might be able to weigh in on the efficacy of the advertising, much as they do on other political ads.
And here is a very interesting story about Florida Blue, an insurer in that state, advertising to preemptively prompt consumers into buying insurance coverage directly before the health insurance marketplaces kick in. It’s really an eyebrow raiser and worth checking into what, if any, direct-to-consumer advertising insurers in your area may be doing to lure purchasers outside of the exchanges.
Workplace ramifications. The debate over whether the Affordable Care Act mandates are good or bad for hiring continues, particularly in the realm of small business, and that’s always a good story to update. But now other ripple effects (or purported ripple effects; it’s debatable) are rearing up. The recent story about how delivery service UPS is curbing benefits for spouses of employees created a huge amount of buzz. The company cited the effects of Obamacare as contributing to its decision, though requiring spouses to obtain benefits through their own workplace, if possible, is not really a new idea. With open enrollment season looming, you might want to check in with your area’s big employers about health care costs, expected changes and details about how exactly the Affordable Care Act affects their ability to provide health insurance to workers. For reference regarding trends, here is a link to the 2013 survey of employers by consulting firm Towers Watson, which tracks employers practices and strategies about offering health care to workers. Noting the topics and metrics it covers will help you prepare questions for employers in your area.
Dental and vision care. The ACA mandates a certain level of pediatric dental and vision care, but not, in most cases, for adults. Here’s a Health Affairs blog post (note, I am not familiar with this organization but the essay does raise some interesting questions so I’m linking to it anyway) lamenting the lack of dental care options and pointing out how oral care increasingly is being related to serious disease processes. Optometrists are similarly concerned, noting in industry blogs that they too are on the front lines of spotting early systemic diseases and directing patients to appropriate physicians. Why not talk with practitioners of dental and vision care in your area – what are their concerns? Do they expect uninsured, cash patients to transfer their health care dollars to medical insurance plans and be left with no funds for pay-as-you-go dental and vision care? What are they doing to counteract this? And of the medical insurance plans to be offered in medical insurance plans available in your state, do any include eye or oral care components, or related policies for sale? Find out which firms offer direct-to-consumer eye and dental plans in your area – how are their marketing efforts changing, if at all? What about the charge cards and loans out there for these services; again, they’ll now be competing for medical insurance companies for consumer dollars. It’s an interesting and novel angle to pursue.