Press Releases

CMS Details Outreach Campaign Strategy for Open Enrollment 2017


CMS Details Outreach Campaign Strategy for Open Enrollment 2017
Better targeting and new tactics will connect with consumers, drive Open Enrollment success

Every year, the Administration gets better and more strategic in our efforts to help millions of Americans enroll in affordable coverage. While the uninsured rate has fallen to the lowest level on record, there are still too many Americans who remain uninsured and experience health and financial hardships resulting from lack of coverage. A key reason people remain uninsured is that they don’t know about the options that exist to help them obtain coverage. Experts continue to find that nearly half of uninsured adults are unaware of the financial assistance available to help pay for health insurance, even though about 85 percent of Marketplace-eligible uninsured Americans could qualify for financial help.  

Outreach is a proven strategy to help Americans understand their health care options and enroll in coverage. Our outreach efforts in previous years have proven very successful in enrolling new consumers. This year, we expect to do even better, as we incorporate best practices from last open enrollment (OE) to make our outreach more efficient and effective.

“Americans deserve affordable coverage, and we are running a data-driven program to better connect eligible people with health insurance,” said Kevin Counihan, CEO. “This year, we’ll be putting that knowledge to work with smarter targeting and new tactics. I’m confident our outreach campaign will give more consumers the information they need and help us continue our historic progress in reducing the number of uninsured.”

Going into the fourth OE, we’ll draw on three years of lessons learned from building an enrollment outreach program from the ground up. Our prior-year testing, data, and analysis will make us better than ever at reaching people who need coverage, with the right messages, through the right channels, at the right time.


Mailings to Americans who need coverage: Last year, we sent approximately 800,000 pieces of direct mail. This year, we’ll send more than 10 million. What’s more, we’ll be targeting that mail to groups of people who were recently uninsured, recently lost coverage, or sought coverage in the past through or a state Medicaid program. That includes reaching people who started to sign up at last year, but didn’t complete the process to sign up for coverage. It also includes sending mail to consumers who lost eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP coverage last year, or who applied for Medicaid or CHIP but had incomes too high to qualify. In addition, as previously announced, the Internal Revenue Service will conduct new outreach to uninsured people who paid the penalty or claimed an exemption, letting them know that tax credits are available for Marketplace coverage and providing information about their health coverage options.

Smarter Email: During OE 4, we’ll be able to reach more consumers by email than ever before. That’s because’s email list has grown by over 30 percent since the start of OE 3. We now have a list of more than 20 million people who’ve come to and signed up to receive more information, some of whom have started or completed an application or previously had Marketplace coverage. Email is among the most efficient channels for reaching consumers, especially young people, who are about twice as likely to enroll in response to email outreach as older consumers.


Last year’s testing taught us a lot about what messages matter and how best to deploy them. We’ll draw on that data to make our outreach through every channel more effective this year. For example:

Affordability: Cost is one of the top considerations for the Marketplace eligible uninsured when they consider purchasing a plan. Most assume coverage is out of reach, costing hundreds of dollars a month – as was true before the Affordable Care Act. When consumers learn that, thanks to financial help, most consumers can find a plan with a monthly premium between $50 and$100 that’s an eye-opening and powerful message for them.

Last year, we learned that simply reminding a consumer about their eligibility for financial assistance in an email increased enrollment rates by 17 percent compared to emails that did not include that information. We also learned what works best to encourage returning consumers to come back and shop. Emails informing returning consumers of increased costs in their current plan and encouraging them to review their options by shopping increased active renewal rates by 279 percent.

Deadlines: Previous enrollment cycles have demonstrated that consumers are deadline-driven. Not only are most forms of outreach more effective near deadlines, merely mentioning a deadline in an email increased enrollment by 14 percent compared to emails that did not mention deadlines. Young adults were especially deadline driven – significantly more likely to enroll near a deadline than the general population.

Penalty: The team will continue to remind consumers that if they choose to go without health insurance, they could face a penalty. In one study, consumers who received an email with additional language referencing the penalty were 13 percent more likely to enroll than those who received a standard outreach email. Another test found that more prominently displaying penalty information with the deadline (for example, in the email subject line) produced a larger lift in enrollment, 97 percent. And a message that gave higher-income people information about the higher penalty levels likely to apply to them increased enrollment by 18 percent. The penalty message is likely to be even more salient in OE 4 because consumers will be more aware that the penalty increased to $695 (or more for higher-income households) starting in 2016.


Targeted Platforms: We are expanding our outreach beyond traditional TV and radio to mobile and streaming platforms, as well as to new channels like gaming platforms that will help reach younger audiences. Recently, we announced our outreach efforts will include a partnership with Twitch, a social video platform and community for gamers. Today, we’re announcing plans to use additional digital platforms to reach young adults:

  • YouTube: Building on our YouTube outreach last year, we’ll run ads on YouTube throughout OE 4. In the lead up to the January 31 deadline, will take over YouTube’s homepage with messages about affordability, deadlines, and how to enroll
  • Instagram: For the first time, the team will be running image and video ads on Instagram. Currently, 48.2 million millennials use Instagram, and Instagram reaches 60 percent of all millennial smartphone users monthly.
  • Facebook: 82 percent of online millennials use Facebook and spend an average of 25.7 hours per month on Facebook’s mobile app (not counting desktop time). We’ll use the full complement of in-stream content including video, image, carousel, and canvas posts to get the word out about affordable coverage.

Optimized Search: Consumers searching online for information about coverage options are a major source of enrollment for the Marketplace. Over the last three years, we’ve continuously enhanced our search advertising program, testing tens of thousands of variations of ads and keywords to find those most helpful to consumers. In OE 3, CMS increased overall search conversion rates by 24 percent compared to the previous year. We’ll start OE 4 with these best practices in place and then continue to enhance our search program. For example, we now know that ads that connect consumers to “Affordable” coverage and “Official” information and that mention the deadline are especially effective. We’ll also optimize search ads to capture the surge in interest around enrollment deadlines. will be expanding and improving our use of search and digital platforms while maintaining our best-in-class privacy policies. Earlier this year, was recognized as the second-most trusted website on the internet by the non-profit Online Trust Alliance.


Smarter TV Advertising: Based on what we learned from OE 3, we’ll be improving the efficiency of our TV scheduling in OE 4. This year, we are using experience to determine the minimum amount of TV we need to buy to reach consumers with our messages. Our data also show that TV time purchased close to deadlines is even more efficient than anecdotes suggest. As a result, during OE 4, we’ll more than double the number of impressions a consumer sees (“Gross Rating Points”) on TV in the week leading up to December 15thcompared to the same week last year.

Getting people the information they need when they need it: In addition to contacting more people, we’ll have new tools this year to reach consumers with the information they need when they need it. For example, we’ll be able to send email reminders to consumers in near-to-real time if they open an account, start an application, or select a plan, explaining to them how to complete the next step in the process. Improvements to mobile optimization that we’ll be phasing in during OE 4 will also make our email program more effective by making it easier for consumers to click straight through from their phone or tablet and complete an application, compare options, see if a doctor is in network, or make a plan selection.


Previous OEs have taught us lessons about effective messages and tactics to reach the uninsured Americans who need information and assistance the most. Marketplace coverage provides consumers with access to care and financial protection, and Marketplace consumers are as satisfied with their coverage as those with employer-sponsored health insurance. This year, our data-driven approach will make our outreach more effective, helping more people get coverage, stay healthy, and achieve financial security.

Getting Ready for Open Enrollment

We’re putting the finishing touches on our plans for Open Enrollment 4. Between now and November 1, you’ll see a series of announcements from us about what’s new, what’s better, and what to expect during this Open Enrollment – including new tools for consumers, new outreach tactics and targeting strategies, and more information about continued access to affordable coverage. Today’s announcement is the third in this series. The first, on September 27th, focused on outreach to young adults, while the second, on October 4th, focused on outreach to off-Marketplace consumers eligible for financial help.

Americans can sign up for affordable health plans that meet their needs and their budgets at or their state Marketplace websites beginning November 1. Open Enrollment runs through January 31, 2017. Health coverage can start as soon as January 1, 2017 for consumers who sign up by December 15, 2016.