Published December 27, 2017

During the 4th open enrollment period on the health insurance exchanges, Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies took new, strategic  approaches to attract and retain members in communities across the country. This was in part due to a shorter window for enrolling or re-enrolling – which closed on December 15, 2017 - and a reduction in resources for promotion on the federal level. Some BCBS companies took their message to the streets—literally – to remind communities about open enrollment deadlines and answer questions about health plan options. One put open enrollment tools right in members’ pockets.

For Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK), that meant visiting numerous rural and urban areas with English- and Spanish-speaking teams, along with placing ads in dozens of local papers, radio stations, billboards, and on social media. BCBSOK sent two “mobile enrollment kiosks” across the state, publicizing the Mobile Assistance Center’s arrival and reminding people that they could be eligible for subsidies to help pay monthly premiums for plans bought on the health insurance exchange.

“This year, our public relations team developed a comprehensive, strategic media and communications campaign for the duration of the open enrollment period,” said Lauren Cusick, Public Relations Unit Manager for BCBSOK. “We were able to monitor event attendance and enrollment activity to identify the best places to target our advertising dollars.” The insurer decided to strategically deploy resources where they were most needed, rather than expand the advertising budget.

For Independence Blue Cross (Independence BC), the communications and marketing teams’ mantra was: We don’t want anyone to wake up on Dec. 16 and realize it’s too late to enroll. Independence delivered the message that some customers might qualify for $0 premium plans with a federal subsidy. Independence BC relied heavily on its digital relationship with more than 550,000 customers who can receive text messages through a secure messaging program. This year, marketplace customers received a text that was applied to their coverage needs – for example a reminder to re-enroll with updated information on financial assistance available and an “easy” button to click for one-step re-enrollment.

Brian Lobley, Independence BC’s president of commercial and consumer markets, says the challenges of this open enrollment period inspired the team to find creative ways to reach customers and make enrolling as fast and easy as possible. The focus is on “meeting members where they are,” said Lobley, and targeting hyper-local markets. That meant, like BCBSOK, Independence BC put its open enrollment campaign on wheels, sending a big truck filled with computers and open enrollment specialists to shopping malls and other community gathering places.

BCBS companies across the country have been using similarly focused efforts to get as many as possible the coverage they need for 2018.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.