Oscar Health steps in on ACA advertising as government slashes funding

The health insurance startup launched a campaign this week that urges people to get covered.

NEW YORK: As the marketing budget for Affordable Care Act open enrollment is slashed, Oscar Health is stepping up.

Oscar’s latest campaign began Monday with ads urging Americans to get covered during open enrollment. The campaign, which will run through the open enrollment period, is led by Sara Rowghani, Oscar’s VP of marketing.

In August, President Donald Trump’s budget cut 90% of the federal government's spending on advertising for the ACA. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ (CMS) budget for promoting open enrollment this year is $10 million, compared to $100 million in 2016. The Trump administration also cut funding for navigators - groups that help people sign up for coverage - by 41% to $37 million.

"In a time of uncertainty, these things can get very confusing and we can lose sight of what's important here," said Anne Espiritu, VP of communications and CSR at Oscar. "No matter where the policy evolves today, tomorrow, or in a few months, the one fact that remains is that people's health matters and getting covered is a big part of keeping themselves healthy and getting the right treatment."

Another change to this year’s open enrollment is the shorter enrollment period. The time to sign up for health insurance for 2018 runs from November 1 to December 15, more than a month shorter than previous years when open enrollment ended on January 31. Espiritu said the shortened enrollment period is part of the reason why Oscar wanted to launch the campaign early.

The ads are running in Oscar’s six markets around the country: New York, New Jersey, Nashville, Texas, Ohio, and California. Each ad features a real Oscar member. The campaign is a bit of a departure from Oscar’s well-known cartoon ads it ran in the past.

Oscar is sticking to its usual print, digital, radio, and subway ads with this campaign, but also dabbling in TV and cinema advertising this year. The campaign both encourages people to sign up for individual insurance and Oscar for business, which launched in April.

"What we're hoping to convey is the importance of having health insurance," Espiritu said. "We thought it would be important to send a very simple message first and foremost to remind Americans they should get covered and from there connect with our members by featuring Americans’ real-life stories to bring to life the importance of taking care of your health."

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