What the Affordable Care Act Means for Marketers

Love it or hate it, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

The good news for marketers is that the law is predicted to be a boon for healthcare providers. And marketers, we are poised to mutually benefit from an influx of new consumers looking for healthcare services.

Of course, healthcare has always been a giant part of the economy and a good business to boot. With an aging American population and a growth in the sandwich generation, the healthcare industry was already positioned to grow exponentially. One study suggests that the healthcare industry will grow by 5.6 million jobs by 2020.

The Affordable Health Care Act promises to shake up this sector of the economy. Of course, any 1,000+ page law is bound to be confusing, and even this great and simple explanation of the law runs over 8 minutes on YouTube. It’s not exactly a copywriter’s dream.

So what does healthcare reform mean for marketers?

#1 More People Will be Consuming More Healthcare Products

Of all the uncertainty about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, one thing isn’t going away: the individual mandate. After the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate is constitutional, by 2014 the uninsured will be required to purchase a policy or face a fine. That provides a great opportunity for marketers to step in. As Lindsay Resnick, CMO of KBM Group told Advertising Age

Mr. Resnick said the next step for insurance companies will involve a lot of hyper-local targeting and attention to data. In many cases, health-care marketing agencies will be working closely with big consulting firms to look at clients’ segmentation and necessary changes to operational functions like call centers. “You better know in your markets who the uninsured people are who will now have access [to care], and who most likely will be taking advantage of the health exchanges.”

Healthcare reform won’t just affect insurance companies who will see increased sales in their policy options because of the individual mandate. Doctors, medical suppliers and pharmaceutical companies are all likely to benefit. More people who are insured means that consumption of medical services will vastly increase, as well as the uninsured who have expanded access to programs like Medicaid.

#2 People Are Confused, Help Them Out

Let’s face it, the Affordable Care Act is confusing. When does the individual mandate start? Do I have to buy insurance? Will this change my existing relation with my healthcare provider? We spoke previously about how in times of crisis the best thing marketers can do is to provide honest, helpful information. The same applies when it comes to people’s health. Radio has an amazing ability to connect people locally, so why not use that opportunity to connect local healthcare providers with those seeking healthcare? Or, confused small business operators who need to purchase insurance for their employees.

#3 Pharmaceutical Marketing is About to Get Confusing

Marketing pharmaceuticals used to be relatively easy. When respected doctors regularly prescribe your product, consumers tend to respond. Now, according to PharmExec.com, things are getting more confusing. As drugs are now marketed directly to consumers and with an influx of new potential customers, successful marketing is going to get harder. Gregg DiPietro argues:

Under the ACA, the target market has become more convoluted. The customer cannot be so clearly defined, and the criteria to satisfy these various stakeholders are disparate at best and conflicting at worst. The physician, patient, and payer audiences remain critical, but a platoon of other stakeholders has been added to the marketing mix. These include administrators, support staff, decision coaches, and purchasing groups, all of whom will be incentivized to achieve better outcomes at a lower cost.

Marketing will need to shift away from its old messaging focused on “safety and efficacy” towards a model that additional focuses on economic concerns like readmission rates  and resource utilization.

And, as Dipietro notes, it’s adapt or die. But that’s not just true of parhamaceutical marketing. Any business that doesn’t respond nimbly to all the new consumers and opportunities created by the Affordable Care Act will be pushed out by those businesses that do.