Idaho spends millions to push health exchange

A PR contract financed with federal money encouraged sign-ups for insurance.

KBOI-TVApril 26, 2014 

Your Health Idaho has one of the smallest staffs of any state-based health insurance marketplace in the country - just six people.

But by the end of February, Idaho ranked second nationally for per-capita sign-ups. That's in part because Your Health Idaho got some outside help with federal grant money under the Affordable Care Act.

"We are using vendors to help us get everything done that we need to do on the compressed timeline we're working on," said Jody Olson, director of communications for Your Health Idaho.

One of those companies is the storied Northwest firm Gallatin Public Affairs, which has offices in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

Gallatin landed an eight-month, $5.7 million contract with Your Health Idaho - that deal was set to expire this month - to carry out what was essentially a public relations campaign.

Gallatin launched a statewide media blitz to promote the health exchange.

"Build a website, create a brand, get a name for us," Olson said. "Do all the copyright stuff, earned media, create paid media campaigns."

According to Gallatin, the biggest portion of its contract went for paid media advertising, some $3.2 million worth.

The rest went to things such as market research, community outreach and social media.

"I think we've been very successful in getting the word out to Idahoans and reaching those people who are really most in need of getting the information," said Gallatin's John Kotek.

Your Health Idaho reported that Gallatin came in about $900,000 below budget.

The exchange's relationship with Gallatin is not over. On April 18, the state marketplace's board extended the Gallatin contract through June 30 in an amount not to exceed $406,000.

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