HHS adds $33m to Weber's federal exchange PR budget

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has allocated an additional $33 million to Weber Shandwick as it works to increase awareness about federally run insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has allocated an additional $33 million to Weber Shandwick as it works to increase awareness about federally run insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act, a department spokesperson confirmed.

Asked why CMS, a part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, granted the added budget to Weber, the spokesperson re-issued a statement from April that said the contract is needed to draw the attention of the uninsured to the marketplaces.

With this funding and previous financial awards from the HHS unit combined, Weber has received more than $44 million since last October to plan a communications strategy and promote the healthcare exchanges. The exchanges are marketplaces where consumers can compare and buy insurance plans.

In April, the federal agency hinted it would likely give the Interpublic Group firm more than its initial investment to promote the exchanges, pending performance.

CMS is running insurance marketplaces in 33 states that either decided not to create their own exchanges or to collaborate with the government to create hybrid marketplaces. Nearly 65% of the US population resides in these states.

The initiative will largely target healthy young adults, according to the contract obtained by PRWeek. A basic education and anticipation push by Weber will run through September, while an enrollment and "act now" segment is set to begin in October and proceed through next March.

The effort will have a sizable digital component, including earned and paid media and banner ads, videos, and blogging. A grassroots outreach element, in which partners will get access to campaign materials and messages so they can spread the word, is also expected.

Weber is also working to promote state insurance exchanges in Maryland and California. It just lost to FleishmanHillard in a competitive bidding process for Illinois' healthcare marketplace PR contract.  

A representative from Weber did not immediately return requests for comment on the additional funding it is receiving from CMS.

The budget boost comes one month after Enroll America, a nonprofit led by former deputy director of White House Office of Public Engagement Anne Filipic, launched a national multimillion-dollar effort called “Get Covered America.” GMMB is supporting that initiative, a spokesman from the organization said.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius drew criticism from Republicans prior to the campaign's launch for making fundraising calls for Enroll America.

CMS also hired Porter Novelli last year to promote Medicare initiatives.

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