This case study was originally published on APCO Worldwide.

Health is Personal, not Politics

American seniors have a choice for their health insurance. They can use a government administered program (Medicare), or a program administered by insurance companies, but paid for by the government (Medicare Advantage). Even though Medicare Advantage delivers better outcomes and offers additional benefits, often at a lower cost to the consumer, because taxpayer funds are being used and the private industry manages the plans, the program is under constant political threat. Better Medicare Alliance, a leading coalition of advocacy organizations, aging service agencies, plans, providers, retiree organizations, and beneficiaries supporting Medicare Advantage as an option under Medicare, engaged APCO as a communications partner to help protect the program and the 18 million seniors who rely on it.

Mobilizing Happy Customers

The seniors who use Medicare Advantage overwhelmingly love it, with a 91 percent approval rating. We knew that if we harnessed and elevated those positive sentiments that leaders in Washington would pay attention. But seniors like the program for different reasons. So we used research to isolate five main drivers of support, and then built a digital platform fueled by big data to model, target and drive highly tailored recruitment messages to politically active, likely Medicare Advantage customers. Recruited seniors joined a community in which they could be educated, speak their minds and take action. As the capstone to the program, we launched high-profile ads in Washington that reinforced the program’s benefits and the incredible level of support among seniors that use it.

Reversing the Risk

The campaign recruited more than 165,000 seniors in under 12 weeks, at a cost of less than half of a traditional recruitment strategy. Those seniors produced hundreds of letters to newspapers and a handful to the government regulator itself. They attended events, spread the word on social media, directly contacted their Members of Congress and are committed to ongoing engagement for years to come. Our ads reached hundreds of thousands of Washington insiders, yielding tens of thousands of website visits and thousands of fact-sheet downloads. As a result, the government regulator revised its proposal to curtail the program and instead chose to increase its level of support in certain areas for both years the campaign has run.