Nevada seeks agency help to promote health exchanges

CARSON CITY, NV: The state of Nevada is seeking a communications firm to promote its health insurance exchange.

CARSON CITY, NV: The state of Nevada is seeking a communications firm to promote its health insurance exchange.

The state is referring to the system as “The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.” The exchanges are marketplaces where consumers buy insurance and insurers sell plans. The Affordable Care Act mandates that states create exchanges by January 1, 2013, so individuals and small employers can purchase coverage from them by the start of the following year.

The RFP comes shortly after Hawaii posted an RFP of its own for a firm to promote its exchange. It also follows a wave of bad press about Ogilvy Public Relations' contract to promote California's exchange.

Specifically, California is facing criticism about Ogilvy reportedly developing a reality show about life without the healthcare law and its hiring of popular TV personalities to promote the exchange on the taxpayer's dime.

The organizers of Nevada's exchange have monitored the media coverage about other exchanges and promise a more conservative approach to its outreach.

“When you look at articles, it appears that they're reaching into different areas." said CJ Bawden, communications officer for Silver State Health. "In Nevada, we're going to stick to the benefits of the exchange, how to use it, and the products that are available.”

Bawden pointed out that his state's exchange has been transparent throughout the formation process and that federal grants are funding the formation of the exchange and its promotion. The federal money is being given to all states that establish an exchange.

“If we didn't use the federal grant money," he added, "state funds would need to be used and it's possible taxes would have to be raised to pay for the establishment of the exchange.”

The RFP has three main directives: establish branding for the exchange, an education campaign, and an outreach effort.

The winning firm will begin work by January 9, 2013, and its contract will end March 31, with the option of a one-year renewal beyond that. The deadline to apply is November 1.

By September 30, 2013, the state's goal is to have 85% of eligible Nevadans aware of the deadline for open enrollment, that there will be subsidies to make insurance affordable, and that the exchange will allow them to obtain coverage.

Outreach will take place via TV, radio, outdoor, and other media, as well as PSAs. Social media must also be used, according to the RFP.

Vendors will suggest their own budgets, Bawden explained.

In the coming weeks, Mississippi and Minnesota are expected to announce the winning firms that will promote their exchanges. States such as Washington, Maryland, and Massachusetts already have exchanges in place.

For those states that decline to establish an exchange, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is searching for a firm that will help it promote the federally run versions.

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