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Taking the pulse of CT’s Health Insurance Exchange

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

As health insurance reform begins to take shape here in Connecticut there are many important elements of implementation that the Health Insurance Exchange Board, their staff and advocate/stakeholders need to focus on. But nothing is more important than educating health care consumers. Securing reasonably priced, quality health insurance is hard enough; how health care reform, and the Exchange, will help consumers is complex. The educational message needs to reach all segments of our population, bridging age, race, gender and geography. One of those critical groups is entry level employees of small businesses that do not provide health care. Recently, the Exchange board hired a marketing firm, which has been reaching out to groups and individuals to collect and mine data, with the goal of educating the public. But sometimes feedback from a "boots on the ground" approach to data collecting is as helpful, or even more helpful, in bringing clarity. I run such a business, providing commercial maintenance services. To that end, a member of my staff and I spent two weeks talking to two people each day as we did our business at area big box home improvement stores. We asked 3 questions: 1. Are you an employer yes / no? 2. Do you have health insurance ? 3. Do you know what the Health Insurance Exchange is? Of the 40 individuals we interviewed, 31 were employees; 9 were small business owners. Not one of the 40 individuals had ever heard of the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange. Not one of the 31 employees knew about health care reform. Seven of the 9 employers believe that health care reform will increase their costs; 2 employers (interestingly enough) believed that health insurance would be FREE under reform. One individual confused the CT Health Insurance Exchange with the NY Stock Exchange. Our survey wasn’t scientific, to be sure. But it does provide a very telling indication of just how much work needs to be done on brand development and awareness of the Exchange. And we haven’t even touched yet on the complexities of what it is the Exchange will do. Our informal survey highlights just one of the many challenges the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange is facing. I am hopeful that the new marketing firm, and the Exchange board will make good use of the wealth of knowledge of the many health care advocates. Where small business owners and employees buy their wares might be a good place to get the message out. Kevin Galvin, owner, CT Commercial Maintenance
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