Over the past year, Florida Blue has doubled its spending on media targeted to Hispanics, a demographic that Snell says is crucial to their membership and growth objectives. The Univision partnership is a key part of their outreach. During prime time hours, Univision gets nearly three-quarters of the Spanish-language television audience. In one week in July, it beat out all other networks for viewers under age 50 — leading the network to adopt the tagline “ Número Uno is the new Number One.”
Hispanics tend to be younger than the general population, so they are just the sort of consumers that insurers (and the Obama administration) hope will sign up. Because young, healthy people need fewer medical services, insurance companies can use their premiums to balance the costs of care for older or sicker patients.
“If I were Health Med or Kaiser Permanente or any of the other health plans, I might think, ‘Wow, we just got out-maneuvered,’ ” says Daniel Zingale of the California Endowment, a Los Angeles-based foundation that has given Univision $20 million for a separate ACA campaign, in reference to the WellPoint partnership in California.
Consumer advocates had a mixed reaction to the rule and the Univision deals.
“We want the plans to compete by being the best value for the consumers, not by capturing that consumer early in the process and preventing them from seeing what their options are,” says Lynn Quincy, a senior policy analyst at Consumers Union.
But the challenge to sign qualified people up for insurance is a daunting one, other advocates say.
“We really do need any boot on the ground. At the end of the day, the government will never have the money to have the kind of media campaign we need, so we need the carriers to get involved,” says Elisabeth Benjamin, an advocate at the Community Service Society of New York. “My hat’s off to WellPoint; it’s very clever.”
Much of Univision’s digital health content is created and owned by a privately-held Hispanic health information and advertising company called HolaDoctor, which is managing Univision’s relationships with health insurers. On HolaDoctor’s corporate website, the company promised insurers that the new partnerships will “leverage the Univision brand to position your health plan as the preferred health insurance company for Hispanics in your service area.” That section of the website was taken down shortly after KHN interviewed HolaDoctor Executive Vice President Dirk Schroeder.
Lisa Rubino, a senior vice president at Molina Healthcare Inc., which is also offering health plans on the California and Florida exchanges, says she’s not overly concerned about other plans having exclusive sponsorship arrangements with Univision.
Enrolling Hispanics in coverage is about “more than just a media position,” says Rubino. The company’s strategy is to focus on community partners such as churches, schools, markets and physicians — trusted advisers that Hispanics generally go to for help.
“When it comes down to actually enrolling, there are relationships that have been established for years beyond WellPoint and Florida Blue,” Rubino says.
Consumer Union’s Quincy says that despite her concerns, partnerships between insurers and other private companies like Univision may be inevitable. “Someone got into the insurance market and yelled, ‘Free money! New demand!’ They’re all trying to figure out how to be the place where people spend their tax credit dollars,” she says.
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.