July 10, 1998

Health 1-2-3 Platinum growing thanks to television ad campaign

Health 1-2-3 Platinum growing thanks to television ad campaign

reporter_7.10.98_11.jpg (24k)

Willard Scott

An advertising campaign featuring folksy television weather personality Willard Scott is proving highly effective in attracting new members to Health 1-2-3 Platinum, Vanderbilt Health Plans' Medicare health maintenance organization.

"Before the ads started running, we were adding around 400 new members each month," said John K. Warren, director of sales and marketing for Health 1o2o3 Platinum. "With the new ads it¹s jumped to about 675."

Scott came to Nashville for a day of shooting in January and the spots began airing in March. In the commercials, he answers questions about the plans during a mock enrollment meeting.

The ads invite seniors to call for information. Using different phone numbers allows Vanderbilt Health Plan (VHP) personnel to track the relative effectiveness of the various media employed in the campaign. So far, television has been most effective, with direct mail a close second, Warren said.

The campaign, designed and executed by Los Angeles-based ad firm BGM Health Communications, follows earlier advertising efforts for which the health plan used local agencies. Previous ads featured testimonials from plan members.

"This time we decided we needed a trusted spokesperson to break through the Œtoo-good-to-be-true¹ stigma common to Medicare HMOs," Warren said.

Senior citizens in conventional fee-for-service Medicare must purchase insurance supplements (averaging around $125 per month) to protect themselves from expenses not covered by the Medicare safety net, but the competitive power of managed care is such that members of HMOs can expect this extra coverage at no cost, a bargain that Warren says leads to misapprehension and resistance.

Medicare HMOs were first introduced in 1981, and Warren explained that their rapid growth is connected with certain recent federal regulations that are inadvertently spurring pension programs to select HMOs.

Established in April 1996, Health 1o2o3 Platinum is Tennessee¹s oldest and largest Medicare HMO, with more than 9,400 members in 18 counties. Members choose from a network that includes 28 hospitals and 3,000 primary care doctors. With Scott as spokesman the plan is on track to add 7,000 new members this year. The closest competitor is Healthnet 65, jointly owned by Baptist and St. Thomas hospitals, which has 4,500 members in five counties.

Warren said recent internal changes at the health plan have also contributed to the new membership growth. Health 1o2o3 Platinum restructured its sales force, opened new access for customers, expanded telemarketing and redid the brochure.

"Everything has worked wonderfully, beyond our expectations."

Approximately 600 of Health 1o2o3 Platinum's 9,400 members have selected a Vanderbilt Medical Group (VMG) doctor for primary care. The plan has a global capitation agreement with VMG and Vanderbilt University Hospital which ensures that the medical group and hospital have accepted nearly all the insurance risk for Platinum members who see VMG doctors for primary care.

Health 1o2o3 Platinum reserves only a portion of the government¹s premium to cover marketing, administrative costs, drugs and vision care and sends the rest to VUH and VMG in monthly payments. If plan members stay healthy, VUH and VMG keep the monthly payments as income. When members get sick the hospital and medical group bear the expense of care.

For more information on Health 1o2o3 Platinum, call Susan E. Albano, communications manager, at 782-7884.