Why Connecticut's healthcare exchange is a national blueprint for success

Health insurance marketplace Access Health CT's CEO, Jim Wadleigh, on making a health exchange work.

Amidst vocal opposition, the Affordable Care Act was rolled out in 2013. It was within this climate that President Obama’s signature piece of legislation faced one of its most serious setbacks: the botched rollout of the online federal exchange.

While the federal exchange was becoming a national punch line, Connecticut was in the process of introducing what is regularly cited in the media as one of the most successful state health exchanges in the country, Access Health Connecticut.

All successful products need promotion; the Connecticut health exchange was no different. From advertising campaigns to boost enrollment to the coverage of the 2014 data breach, which affected 30 million patients nationwide, the communications strategy of Access Health CT was defined by honesty and authenticity.

With a plan focused on managing public expectations, leveraging its brick and mortar presence, and sharing stories of real people to bring the exchange to life, Access Health CT did more than just roll out its health exchange. It surpassed enrollment goals for the first year and became a national leader in Affordable Care Act implementation.

Within the first year, Access Health CT also cut the state’s uninsured rate in half. But there were still hard-to-reach individuals — primarily made up of minority communities where cultural and language barriers made communications efforts challenging to execute.

This target audience did not want to be lectured by government officials and would not be convinced by an actor on TV. They wanted to hear about insurance from someone who looked and sounded like them.

This key insight led to a unique campaign featuring real people — not actors or politicians — telling real stories about their own positive experiences with Access Health CT. These unscripted interviews, in both English and Spanish, were edited to 30- and 60-second clips and placed throughout traditional, digital, and social media. The placement resulted in 20 million impressions and 170,000 clicks from the intended audience.

The campaign brought in more than 116,000 new enrollees, a 5% increase from 2015 and 13% up on 2014, making it our most successful open enrollment yet.

Access Health CT is continuing its strong performance each year. The statewide uninsured rate recently dropped to 3.8%.

Moving forward, our efforts over the next three years will focus on providing access to quality insurance choices for individuals and small businesses, delivering a positive customer experience, improving quality, cost transparency, and reducing disparities in healthcare. This will result in healthier people, healthier communities, and a healthier Connecticut.

Jim Wadleigh is CEO of health insurance marketplace Access Health CT

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