Uninsured individuals have strained healthcare costs in nearly all states, and Wisconsin is no exception. Research indicates that about 300,000 residents lack any health coverage at all, and another 1.1 million lack prescription-drug coverage.
A number of drug-discount cards are available in the state, but Navitus Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit manager, believed that its BadgerRx Gold program would offer even deeper savings to residents.
The program, an offshoot of the state government's employee drug program, negotiates discounts not only with pharmacies, but also directly through manufacturers. In addition, it determines which drugs to cover based on recommendations from healthcare professionals so that patients get not only the least expensive drugs, but also the most appropriate.
The challenge for Navitus and agency Thorp & Co., however, would be to differentiate BadgerRx Gold and successfully enroll Wisconsin residents.
Despite tight time constraints, Thorp undertook extensive research ahead of the program's launch. The agency first identified the markets where there were a significant number of uninsured and underinsured individuals. It then put together a statewide media plan.
Thorp SVP David Schull notes that the agency knew that run-of-the-mill pitching would not generate enough buzz. Wisconsin had 40 other drug cards, and none were considered particularly newsworthy.
"A simple media [overview] led us to believe that there was not a lot of coverage about drug- discount cards," he says, adding that in the short window in which they launched the program, there were a number of competing news events.
"The challenge had to do with the speed with which we had to put everything together,"
he recalls. "The time frame was very compressed; there was no room to breathe."
The agency also focused on forming partnerships with advocacy groups, as well as on taking its awareness campaign directly to local pharmacies.
Navitus and Thorp found a high-profile spokesman in Gov. Jim Doyle (D), who had first mentioned the program in his January state of the state address. But Thorp still had to prep Doyle on how to explain the difference between BadgerRx Gold and other drug programs. In particular, Schull notes, Doyle was told not to refer to the Navitus program as a "discount card."
The PR team also promoted quality initiatives that are part of the BadgerRx Gold program, such as the drug-utilization review, which checks for counter-indications among a patient's prescriptions.
"The experience, professionalism, and ability to build relationships with the governor's office were key," says Darlene Mednick, SVP and COO of Navitus. "It truly was a partnership between the state and Navitus."
The PR team also partnered with residents. "We had people talk about what they called their 'point of pain,'" Schull notes.
Navitus and Thorp then brought their promotional tour to the state's pharmacy chains and community festivals. Local advocacy groups also agreed to endorse the program and distribute information to members.
More than 5,000 Wisconsin residents enrolled in the BadgerRx Gold program within the first three months. In addition, the PR team secured more than 5.3 million impressions.
"What a phenomenal success," Schull says. "We actually exceeded our goals."
Mednick calls the campaign results a "pleasant surprise," adding, "I really didn't think we would hit these numbers."
She also praised the speed with which Thorp was able to launch the enrollment effort, identifying where resources were needed and then deploying them.
The next phase of the effort will be concentrated over the summer. Schull notes that Navitus will focus on sponsoring events to further increase enrollment.
PR team: Navitus Health Solutions (Madison, WI) and Thorp & Co. (Coral Gables, FL)
Campaign: Introduction of BadgerRx Gold
Time frame: March to May 2005