Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Maryland award Weber combined $14m in tasks

WASHINGTON: Both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the state of Maryland have hired Weber Shandwick to launch campaigns promoting insurance marketplaces mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Combined, the contracts are worth nearly $14 million.

WASHINGTON: Both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the state of Maryland have hired Weber Shandwick to launch campaigns promoting insurance marketplaces mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Combined, the contracts are worth nearly $14 million.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services, tapped Weber to launch an awareness effort about federally run insurance exchanges. The initiative will largely target healthy young adults, according to the contract obtained by PRWeek. The CMS contract has a budget of more than $8 million, with an option for it to invest more based on performance, according to an HHS official.

This "healthy and young" segment represents the largest portion of the uninsured population, according to CMS. The contract will build on work Weber won last October to create a strategic plan for outreach related to federally run exchanges. That contract was worth $3.1 million. It is understood that this assignment is not a continuation of that agreement, but a new deal that was bidded out to several firms. 

An official from the Department of Health and Human Services said the contract “will provide CMS with resources from Weber Shandwick to conduct a public education and outreach campaign for the Health Insurance Marketplace, which will be one part of our wide-ranging outreach efforts.”

Over the next year, the Interpublic Group firm will develop education and outreach initiatives in multiple phases. A basic education and anticipation push will run through September, while an enrollment and "act now" segment is set to begin this October and run through March 2014.

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

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

The exchanges are marketplaces where consumers can buy insurance.

A CMS representative confirmed Weber's selection, but did not return requests for additional comment.

Weber has also won a $5.9 million contract from Maryland that will conclude in December 2014, according to an award notice. The scope of work includes PR, social media, education and outreach, marketing, and advertising.

The state's outreach efforts will target corporations, as well as community and faith-based entities. It is planning a tiered corporate-outreach strategy to garner support from retail, sports and recreation, trade, labor, and nonprofit organizations to reduce the number of uninsured citizens in Maryland, according to the RFP for the contract. The promotions targeting community and faith-based organizations will include messages and materials for outreach workers, ambassadors, advocates, and partners to target culturally diverse and hard-to-reach populations.

Similar to its relationship with CMS, Weber had a previous contract with the state, helping it with research, market analysis, and branding for the exchange. It won this new contract after a competitive process.

Maryland hopes to reach 730,000 uninsured residents with this new campaign. Once the first open-enrollment period for the exchange begins in October, the state hopes 180,000 people will get insurance during that period.

A representative from the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange did not return requests for comment.  Weber did not return inquiries about either contract.

This story was updated on April 19 to include more information from an HHS official. It was updated on April 22 to clarify that Weber's contract with the state of Maryland will end in December 2014.

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