States Promoting Insurance Exchanges: Maybe People Will Enroll if We Don’t Call it ‘Obamacare’

Leah Barkoukis

9/2/2013 3:00:00 PM - Leah Barkoukis

National polls continue to show that the public is very wary about Obamacare—44 percent of U.S. adults think the ACA will make the healthcare situation in this country worse, according to a recent Gallup poll, and a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from last week shows 42 percent of Americans disapprove of Obamacare, while 37 percent favor it. With this level of unease about the law, the states that are running their own health-insurance marketplaces have developed a marketing strategy to boost enrollment: call it anything but Obamacare.

At the Minnesota State Fair, state employees are promoting a health-insurance marketplace called MNsure by handing out fans imprinted with pictures of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

The legendary lumberjack and his sidekick are just part of a pitch—including a humorous reference to the state as the "land of 10,000 reasons to get health insurance"—that seeks to sidestep references to "Obamacare" or the long-raging national debate over the Affordable Care Act and instead promote the marketplace as a home-grown creation.

Minnesota, along with thirteen other states and Washington, D.C. that are fully running their own health-insurance marketplaces, is marketing this way because it believes it will draw customers, even if it doesn't change popular impressions of Obamacare, the health overhaul designed to provide coverage to those who don't have it from their employer or elsewhere.

"We have to grab people's attention," said April Todd-Malmlov, MNsure's executive director. She said she told the ad agency designing the marketplace's ads to come up with something "out of the ordinary" and humorous.

States are ramping up their marketing efforts as the enrollment date, which is set to begin Oct. 1, nears.