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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

February 19, 2014 at 4:52 PM

State using fake rappers, real patients in new health-insurance ad campaign


Washington Health Benefit Exchange

If you attend roller derby and ice hockey you may see something new: signs, booths and videos encouraging you — particularly if you’re young — to sign up for health insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state exchange marketplace.

The coveted “young invincibles” are the target of this new campaign, which is gearing up as the close of open enrollment looms on March 31.

To reel them in, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange has created the M.C.s, a flashy and fictitious health-care rap duo.

Health insurance may seem a subject unfit for a rapper, but consider pop star Macklemore, who has talked about his former drug abuse — drug and alcohol treatment is one of the essential benefits that must be covered under the Affordable Care Act — and, after a concert, visited with a kid recovering from a heart infection.

In ads beginning today, the fake rappers conduct interviews with real Washington residents such as Rian, who turned 26 and could no longer stay on her parents’ plan. In a YouTube video, Rian recounts her incentive: an appendectomy a year earlier.

Also featured are Patricia and Jon, who were repeatedly turned down by insurers because of their pre-existing conditions — a practice made illegal by the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Since the two previously spent over $200,000 in out-of-pocket health-care expenses, they were pleased to get covered — with financial help — through

“For many young adults, the thought of getting health insurance occurs only after an accident or illness,” said Michael Marchand, director of communications at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “These new ads use humor and pop-culture references to get people’s attention as well as make a serious message stick.”

The Exchange has also made deals with hockey teams across the state, including the Everett Silvertips, the Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs and the Tri-City Americans.

Roller-derby campaigns will take place during games by Apple City, Atomic City, Bellingham Roller Betties, Dockyard Derby Dames, Jet City Roller Girls, Oly Rollers, Rodeo City, and the Slaughter Country Roller Vixens.

And here’s a cheery note for those of us who could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered “young” or “invincible” — A new report from the Commonwealth Fund says enrollees’ health status, not age, is more important to keeping premiums low and stabilizing the state marketplaces.

So fit boomers count, too! We aren’t targeted in campaigns, I’m guessing, because boomers are already signing up in droves, despite premiums that are often triple those for young adults. Sara Collins, Commonwealth’s vice president for health-care coverage and access and author of the report, said very likely the role of young adults has been over-emphasized, and lower-than-expected enrollment this year won’t trigger market failure.

Even so, the best bet for getting those healthy folks is to sign up young people, and that’s what the exchange aims to do. “In order to break through and reach new audiences, we have to be in unexpected places,” Marchand says.

Comments | Topics: drug treatment, ice hockey teams, Macklemore


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