Insurance Advertising is Over the Line, Though Not Alone

Ideas and Issues

liesDallas    Going from office to office from Houston to Austin to Dallas then heading on towards Arkansas, going old school you get to hear a lot of what’s up on radio, including some zany scary songs on KNON in Dallas and RT’s great “Under the Influence” show on KABF with some Lou Reed songs by way of thanks for the effort.   Mainly though I found myself monitoring some of the advertising out there around issues like the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare and the Keystone Pipeline project.

There had been speculation that Big Insurance combined with some smaller government push might spend a billion in promoting ACA in general and for the companies their products in particular.  With some of the on-line enrollment problems it’s possible that some of them are holding their thunder, but I’m not sure why they would think that is smart. Incidentally, on the highway I got a message that the on-line enrollment is now working, which, if true, would be a month earlier than we were hearing yesterday.   Anyway, navigators have to be totally neutral as do the call center temps on the 800 number, but with 38 companies competing in Texas, the millions of uninsured are a big bone that a lot of dogs of all sizes are fighting over, so I heard a lot of promotions up and down Texas.

The company pitches have several things in common.   One is that all very deliberately said they were providing “affordable care” and they were the place to get “affordable care.” They also were very clear that were taking credit for people now being eligible with pre-existing conditions and a basic package of preventive services.  The strategy, including the ads from the Farm Bureau, which claims they are an agent of Blue Cross Blue Shield, the giant nonprofit competing nationally, all direct the consumer to come to them, even though that means that the applicant would NOT get any premium tax credits or cost sharing assistance, since you have to go through the marketplace for those benefits.  None of this was a surprise obviously, since insurance agents have been vociferous in Louisiana as well about the fact that they think navigators, consumer assistance reps, and anyone else helping folks access applications and is somehow competition for them even though navigators are not permitted to offer an opinion.  Mass confusion seems to be the message and the dominant strategy.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m just picking on the insurance industry because the most outrageous radio ad I heard was ostensibly from the International Union of Operating Engineers complaining that the government was foot dragging in not having approved the Keystone tar sands pipeline, and they wanted the couple of jobs they would get on the project, and they wanted they now by damn. The ad turned out to have been brought to us by the Oil and Gas Institute and their labor management committee, giving the sad impression they may have bought the union before they bought the ad.

This whole “truth in advertising” might be worth looking into if anyone is listening besides me and long distance truckers.