California to grow team marketing health exchange

SACRAMENTO, CA: The organization running California's Affordable Care Act-mandated insurance exchange is looking to bolster its marketing and communications team with nearly two dozen hires.

SACRAMENTO, CA: The organization running California's Affordable Care Act-mandated insurance exchange is looking to bolster its marketing and communications team with nearly two dozen hires.

Covered California is seeking the help of an outside firm to help it find candidates for its marcomms team.

“We've been having some trouble finding qualified candidates,” said Oscar Hidalgo, communications director for Covered California.

To address this problem, the state agency issued an RFP for third-party assistance filling as many as 22 spots. The budget for this solicitation is $900,000. Proposals are due May 17.

Hidalgo said the RFP is separate from the state's contract with Ogilvy Public Relations to promote California's exchange.

California's contract with Ogilvy was criticized last fall following a New York Times article that said the firm pitched launching a reality TV show to draw attention to the exchange. While the firm's original contract with the state was initially valued at $900,000 and was expected to run through this October, it has grown to about $17 million, including funding for subcontractors, Hidalgo said. Additional information about the expanded contract wasn't immediately available.

Even with the dramatic increase in the size of the PR contract, hiring more internal marketing staffers is “necessary for Covered California to reach the millions of people in California,” according to the RFP.

Open enrollment for the exchange will begin in October. The exchanges are marketplaces where people can compare and buy insurance plans.

Meanwhile, Minnesota has awarded BBDO Proximity a contract to create a public-outreach campaign for its exchange. The contract is worth up to $666,590.

Last year, Himle Rapp & Co. had a contract to do some initial marketing research, analysis, and communications planning for the exchange. However, that deal ended months ago and a new RFP was put out for the work that BBDO ultimately won.

Other states and the federal government have been active hiring firms to promote healthcare exchanges. Both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the state of Maryland hired Weber Shandwick in April to launch campaigns promoting insurance marketplaces mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Combined the contracts are worth nearly $14 million.

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