HHS spends millions marketing something everyone's required to buy


Though the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate provision requires all American adults to buy health insurance, the Department of Health and Human Services is spending millions of unsequestered taxpayer dollars to market the health insurance plan. “The White House recently released details about how it plans to market ObamaCare to the uninsured,” Investors Business Daily wrote April 3.

According to an Associated Press report,

With the nation still split over President Barack Obama’s health care law, the administration has turned to the science of mass marketing for help in understanding the lives of uninsured people, hoping to craft winning pitches for a surprisingly varied group in society.

The law’s supporters will have to make the sale in the run-up to an election – the 2014 midterms…

Marketing for the new system will start this summer, going into high gear during the fall…

It’s already started

In fact the marketing started earlier, with an audience segmentation study whose findings the government released this week.

As you’d expect, the study focuses on the 48 million adult Americans – 18 percent of the population – who don’t have health insurance. It breaks them down into six demographic and psychographic segments.

But as you might not expect, it calls for marketing Obamacare mainly to the segment least likely to need it.

This segment is what the study calls the Healthy and Young, who it says comprise nearly half – 48%, or 23 million – of the 48 million of the nation’s “nonelderly uninsured adults.”

As this name implies, the Healthy and Young are very, uh, healthy. Only 4 percent have a chronic condition and 5 percent have a reported disability.

The main reason they have what the study calls “low motivation to enroll” is that 54 percent don’t think they can afford it. When you realize that in a recession that hits younger workers harder, 43 percent of this segment is unemployed, you can understand why.

Complacent? Or just realistic?

The study predicts that the Healthy and Young will have only a “mid-level response to mass media ads” selling Obamacare. This, they say, is because the group is “complacent from being healthy and free of medical problems.”

But according to another HHS agency – the National Institutes of Health – what the study calls complacency is actually realism.

According to their guidelines, women 18 to 39 years old need only

  • a blood pressure check every two years
  • two physical examinations in their 20s
  • a complete breast exam every three years
  • a Pap smear every two years

For men 18 to 39, it’s just

  • a blood pressure check every two years
  • a cholesterol screening every five years after age 34
  • checking height and weight and screening for alcohol and tobacco use and depression every two years

Why this target?

All indications are that HHS is making the Healthy and Young – the audience segment that least needs health insurance – their primary marketing target. And it’s not just because there are more of them.

It’s because their Obamacare premiums will be paying for someone else’s health care – say, the 29 million adults in the Sick, Active and Worried group. Two-thirds of them – 67 percent – have chronic conditions, and 37 percent report disabilities. Their care’s going to generate lots of costs, as will care for others who can get coverage for pre-existing conditions without being charged extra for it.

Money for that’s going to have to come from somewhere. And what better place than people who don’t yet need health insurance but are mandated by law to pay for it?

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