Grassroots comms aids Amerigroup's TN effort

NASHVILLE, TN: Amerigroup Corporation used a grassroots communications campaign to aid its rollout of a Tennessee healthcare operation this week.

NASHVILLE, TN: Amerigroup Corporation used a grassroots communications campaign to aid its rollout of a Tennessee healthcare operation this week.

The company plans to offer healthcare coverage to about 170,000 enrolled people in Tennessee, one of 10 states in which it operates, through the state's TennCare program.

The effort intended to explain to potential beneficiaries what the company does and how it can provide preventive care to eligible residents. The program will cover two different groups of low-income people through separate Medicaid programs - mothers and children eligible though the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program and people with long-term illnesses and disabilities eligible through the Supplemental Security Income program.

"The communications challenges are pretty great," said Kent Jenkins, communications SVP for Amerigroup. "We must communicate with healthcare providers about why they should work with us, and we must do outreach to potential members to communicate who we are."

Jenkins noted that marketing to potential members was not permitted by state regulators, but that the company was doing general interest communications work to educate the public.

Amerigroup continues to reach out to hospitals and doctors to persuade healthcare providers to accept its insurance as it builds its network within the state from the ground up. Jenkins said the company is also conducting media outreach to combat negative impressions of the program, with adversary groups fighting back every step of the way.

"There is a negative stereotype these [groups] feed that says we don't want to get people to the doctors. We fight that in every market," Jenkins said. "Our business depends upon getting our members the right kind of healthcare, and we want to move them out of the emergency room and into the doctor's office."

Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-TN) has repeatedly stressed the need for reform in the TennCare program, and this month launched Cover Tennessee to assist those who are excluded by TennCare.

Amerigroup depends on regional support from CRT/Tanaka, and the firm identified Lovell Communications in Nashville to assist with the Tennessee operations. Amerigroup also works nationally with Burson-Marsteller.

Amerigroup currently serves 1.3 million people excluding the Tennessee operations. The company essentially serves as a statewide insurance provider that allows Tennessee to pay a fixed rate for providing healthcare to Medicaid-eligible residents.

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