10/23/2014

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State health exchange debuts new ads aimed at young people



SEATTLE (AP) - Depending on your age, you may find the new commercials promoting the Washington health exchange laugh-out-loud funny, somewhat amusing or just plain cringe worthy.

That was - more or less - the intention of the new campaign debuting on TV, radio, online and in print on Wednesday, said exchange spokesman Michael Marchand.

The exchange wanted to catch the attention of young people, between the ages of 18 and 34, who are essential to making the exchange financially viable.

Of the 90,000 people who have bought private insurance through the exchange so far, only 23 percent are in the desired 18-to-34 age group. Young people tend to be healthier, and the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that they need to make up about 40 percent of enrollment in the federal health care program to balance out the higher costs of insuring older, sicker people.

The video and audio ads in Washington feature two new characters: rappers. In the commercials, they interview real users of the Washington health insurance exchange, to get some ideas for lyrics.

The subjects - who Marchand says are real people who now have insurance in Washington state thanks to the exchange - seem awkward and a little embarrassed by the attention.

One ad shows the rapper interviewing a 26-year-old woman who bought insurance when she was no longer eligible for her parent's coverage. The other shows a couple who were previously turned down for insurance because of preexisting conditions and paid for more than $200,000 worth of care out of their own pockets.

Marchand says the young people who checked out the ads before they aired found them very funny and so did the people featured in them. Some folks over 40 may not be amused.

"We have a lot of outtakes that we're going to be sharing on social media," said Marchand, 47. "A lot of this stuff was very, very funny."

The ads will run through the end of March - when the open enrollment period ends - on 17 television stations in the Seattle-Tacoma, Spokane and Yakima media markets, as well as cable TV. Radio ads in both English and Spanish will run on more than 30 radio stations across the state.

New print ads in English, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese are running in 25 publications through Washington, but most won't mirror the broadcast ads.

The exchange has launched several other marketing initiatives to reach out to young people without insurance. They include partnerships with a major music promoter, eight roller derby teams and four junior ice hockey teams.

The Washington exchange has a goal of selling private insurance to 340,000 people by the end of March, according to a federal report of enrollment targets.

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