Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace

The Challenge

In November 2015, Arkansas launched My Arkansas Insurance, a state-based health insurance exchange for small business owners.  Hawthorne Strategy Group is one of three agencies working with the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace (AHIM), the public-private organization charged with managing the marketplace in Arkansas.

Since 2013, when the federal health insurance marketplace launch, the experience in Arkansas had been mixed. A significant percentage of the uninsured in the state were covered by Arkansas unique approach to Medicaid expansion, commonly called the private option, business and middle income uninsured had been largely ignored after the initial public education effort related to the federal marketplace was discontinued before the end of the first open enrollment period. As a consequence, the level of awareness of health insurance options was extremely low and confusion about the difference between federal and state actions was extremely high, particularly among small business owners.  Our challenge was to change the story of the past, overshadowed by the perceived difficulties and shortcomings of “Obamacare,” we have the opportunity to change the story – to start a new story that is specific to Arkansans small business owners.

The Solution

Hawthorne, in partnership with CJRW and FleishmanHillard, developed a brand unique to Arkansas SHOP, My Arkansas Insurance, following research with small business owners, their employees, and influencers, such as agents and broker.  The brand was launched in October with a series of business leader breakfasts, insurance agent workshops, and networking lunches across the state.  Simultaneously, a web site and full set of collateral materials, in English and Spanish.  This was supplemented with statewide media outreach and a robust speaking tour to organizations and businesses across the state. An extremely small media buy was placed for approximately 4 weeks to support the grassroots education efforts.

The Results

On Sunday, November 1, the Arkansas SHOP marketplace opened and the first business enrolled that day.  In its first two months of existence, Arkansas SHOP enrolled roughly the same number of businesses that the federal SHOP did in its first two years.

Since SHOP never closes, work continues to educate and engage small business owners through an integrated communication effort, touching small business owners through a variety of communications vehicles.