Marketing Strategies

How health insurers can prepare for a renewed Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, was a comprehensive healthcare reform that established state and federal insurance marketplaces and expanded Medicaid coverage. As of 2019, the United States still had 29 million uninsured people, a number that has undoubtedly grown as the country experienced millions of job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.1 The Biden administration promises a renewed commitment to the ACA (with a longer open enrollment period and an ACA subsidy boost as part of the COVID-19 relief package). Now, many health insurers are considering re-entering the marketplace or expanding their plans on the Federal Health Insurance Exchange.

Ongoing legal battles surrounding the ACA and a new political landscape mean some uncertainties remain (will the individual mandate stand? will Congress make changes to the law?). Yet, innovative health insurers are already thinking about how to best prepare for changes to the ACA.

Here are 5 strategies health insurance marketers can use to reach the millions of Americans eligible for subsidized policies on the exchange.

1. Use email marketing as an acquisition tool

Email acquisition can be an underutilized resource for health insurers. Many marketers mistakenly think, “wait, isn’t that just spam?”. Those in the know count on email acquisition solutions to reach a multi-sourced email database of contacts that have opted in to receive third-party offers. Health insurers can create privacy-compliant email acquisition campaigns that target and reach a unique segment of consumers based on demographic, psychographic, and firmographic data who are most likely to be in-market for exchange plans.

Brand example: Oscar

Health insurance companies looking to take advantage of email acquisition can provide educational content via email to people who are ready to learn about their options for ACA policies. Health insurance startup Oscar sends an information-rich email to audience members who express interest in learning more about ACA-compliant plans. While this example was not delivered as an email acquisition campaign, Oscar could use this type of content to build an acquisition campaign to target and reach prospective customers.

2. Create content to guide and educate

A recent study found that nearly half of uninsured adults may have been eligible for subsidized insurance through the ACA exchange. However, two-thirds (67%) of them had not examined their coverage options on the exchange. Of those, one-third (36%) said they didn’t think they could afford health insurance.2 With millions of newly uninsured Americans navigating the open exchange, it is more important than ever to create informative content. Health insurers can grab their audience’s attention by answering questions, helping consumers understand their options, and outlining how subsidies may change insurance plans’ affordability.

Health insurers offering plans on the exchange can provide free educational guides, landing pages, and quizzes dedicated to informing consumers about ACA-related plans.

Brand example: United Healthcare

United Healthcare has a website dedicated to informing the public about their exchange plans. The website features easy-to-spot customer service phone numbers, simple calls-to-action, a straightforward and informative FAQ section, and details about three plan options.

Example: AARP

The AARP created a quiz to test their members’ knowledge of the ACA. With extended open enrollment periods under the Biden Administration, health insurers could make a similar quiz to educate consumers about recent changes to the ACA.

3. Use lead generation programs & content syndication to spread the word

Content syndication allows you to get your content and resources in front of consumers outside of your network who may be actively looking for information about exchange policies. For example, health insurers that use Data Axle’s Lead Generation services give us their downloadable assets (whitepapers, case studies, ebooks, etc.) and choose who they want to target (e.g., their best customer lookalikes, those showing purchase intent or browsing for specific types of plans, etc.).

The content is then promoted through digital placements and co-branded email campaigns. Insurers receive highly qualified, verified, and warm prospects who interacted with their content. The leads can be fed directly into your CRM platform, database solution, campaign deployment tool, or given to you in the format you prefer.

Brand example: BlueCross BlueShield

BlueCross BlueShield created this ACA guide for the Arkansas market. The guidebook outlined key benefits and copayment information for six different ACA health plans available in the state. To increase exposure for the brand, they could build a lead gen campaign around the ebook targeting prospects within their chosen audience.

4. Build lookalike models to find prospects similar to your best customers

Lookalike modeling is an essential predictive marketing tool for companies in sectors that need to carefully manage risk – like health insurance. Using your first-party customer data, you can apply advanced statistical analysis and custom modeling to identify prospects who “look like” your best customers. Then, armed with a list of target prospects, you can build cross-channel campaigns to reach them.

Brand example: Aliera Healthcare

Aliera wanted to expand their sales strategy beyond relying on brokers and agents and target consumers directly in the digital space. To reach the D2C (direct-to-consumer) audience, the company created a campaign centered on their healthcare sharing plans as a good alternative to traditional insurance for ACA. Aliera used their own customer data to create lookalike models and then used those insights to create a custom audience on Facebook with similar characteristics to their best customers. The campaign hit Aliera’s target cost-per-lead and successfully drove new leads and conversions for Individual & Family plans.

5. Analyze consumer data to create personalized messaging that resonates

According to McKinsey, personalization can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50%, lift revenue by 5-15%, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by up to 30%.3 Health insurance companies can tap into a wealth of knowledge about consumers and use that information to build highly relevant campaigns and messaging. For example, you can use your own member data and then partner with a data provider to fill in any gaps with demographic and psychographic details on your audience.

The data can help health insurers segment their audience based on specific characteristics and create personas to represent types of policyholders to guide messaging and understand their needs. You can then use those insights to drive personalization at scale within your campaigns.

Brand example: Humana

Humana’s ACA marketing material mentions avoiding penalties from the individual mandate as motivation to look into an individual plan. An analysis of your customer segments might reveal a portion of consumers are particularly motivated by messaging around avoiding penalties.

Alternatively, you might create unique messaging based on demographic segmentation. For example, “Young invincibles” (aka young adults) are a key target for health insurers due to their relatively low risk. This email from Humana provides unique messaging for young adults.


While there are still some uncertainties about how the ACA will evolve under the Biden administration, individual market insurers can prepare for a revitalized ACA through data-centric marketing strategies, targeted campaigns, and relevant messaging.


Want more tips to help you bring new members to your company?
Check out The Customer Acquisition Playbook for Insurers.

Elyse DeVries
Content Specialist

Elyse DeVries is a Content Specialist at Data Axle where she is responsible for developing content to educate and inspire marketers. For the past decade, she has been sharing her passion for marketing technology as a digital marketer in the B2B software and services industry. When she isn’t creating content, Elyse enjoys exploring the forests, mountains, and seaside towns of the Pacific Northwest and traveling overseas with her husband and daughter. A proud SciFi & Fantasy nerd, Elyse spends her free time gaming, reading geeky novels, and seeing each and every Marvel movie on opening day.

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