HHS retains Powell Tate for 'Welcome to Medicare'

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has rehired Powell Tate after a competitive bid to conduct outreach for its "Welcome to Medicare" program.

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has rehired Powell Tate after a competitive bid to conduct outreach for its “Welcome to Medicare” program.

The Weber Shandwick unit has worked on the account with the Department of Health and Human Services unit since 2009. The firm will focus on increasing the number of people who receive the Welcome to Medicare prevention exam, which consumers are eligible for the first year they have Medicare Part B.

The exam “helps seniors and their doctors develop a personalized plan to prevent disease and improve their health with a comprehensive check-up,” according to a CMS representative. The goal of the $492,000-plus account is to generate awareness and increase utilization of this free check-up through a combination of earned media, grassroots outreach, and paid advertising.  

The Affordable Care Act ensured that the prevention visits, which were subject to 20% coinsurance until January 1, 2011, would be free. More seniors have received the exam since then. More than 66,300 beneficiaries had the screening by the end of May 2011, compared with 52,654 a year earlier.

However, that 26% increase only represents a small number of the millions of people who enroll in Medicare every year.

“Not enough beneficiaries are taking advantage of the benefit,” said Pam Jenkins, president of Powell Tate.

Medicare Part B is insurance that covers services like visits to the doctor, outpatient care, medical equipment, and home health services. It also covers some preventative services, according to Medicare.gov.

Previously, the agency partnered with AARP and Walgreens for a grassroots wellness tour to increase the number of patients who take the exam. It has also used media outreach, PSAs, and paid advertisements to draw attention to its benefits.

Powell Tate is developing a plan that will include some previous tactics, as well as different partners and advertising concepts, said Jenkins.

“We are big believers in prevention, and we really enjoy raising awareness and knowing our work is making a difference,” she said.

Last fall, Weber was one of five “preferred vendors” selected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The federal agency also picked Ketchum, Fleishman-Hillard, and Porter Novelli.

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