The Affordable Care Act has overhauled the healthcare industry and starkly changed the way Americans purchase health insurance. But it's also complicated the process of educating the wildly diverse population on the best plan for their needs.

For more than 9 million Americans eligible for Medicare and Medicaid dual enrollment, rising healthcare costs have come as an even bigger shock. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been working to improve services and develop integrated care models to reduce program expenditures while increasing the quality of care.

But for these programs to succeed, marketers need to tackle a new challenge: delivering their messages to this diverse client base in a targeted and efficient way.

Variances Among Eligible Dual Enrollees

Many companies solely define dual Medicare/Medicaid recipients as 65 or older. But there are more than 40 million people in this age group, with 21 percent identifying as an ethnic minority. For marketers to effectively communicate healthcare messages to them, they need to understand the best ways to reach each subset.

For example, research has shown that African-Americans watch more TV--more than seven hours a day--than any other ethnic group, and they're most receptive to local media outlets. However, Asian-Americans and Hispanics largely turn to personal computers and mobile devices to consume media, shop, and network.

Bilingual Asian-Americans trust media and services presented in their native language over English-only media, and 43 percent of Hispanics 65 and above rely on Spanish-only media.

But seniors aren't the only stakeholders in dual-enrollment programs; marketers must also reach their caregivers and influencers. Here's a breakdown of the three main audience groups:

  1. Prospects (ages 65+): This senior population has a tendency to follow the easiest path when making decisions, and they find the healthcare-selection process overwhelming. They don't typically conduct independent research, but largely trust the recommendations of social workers, caregivers, or other influencers.
  2. Caregivers (ages 40-55): This group tends to value communication infrastructures that allow them to quickly and easily comprehend information about the health of their loved ones. They appreciate messaging that supports their role as caregiver and provides strategies for making their lives less stressful.
  3. Influencers: This expansive group includes those who have a vested interest in the health conditions of the elderly, such as doctors, healthcare professionals, local politicians, community leaders, friends, and neighbors. This group's level of expertise surrounding long-term care programs and benefits varies.

3 Strategies for Reaching the Dual-Enrollment Audience

By understanding the characteristics that comprise the diverse dual-enrollment population--as well as their influencers and caregivers--marketers can craft a message that resonates with their target audience. To hit home with this group, marketers must:

  1. Target the right audience. Tailor your message to your clearly defined audience of primary consumers, influencers, and caregivers. Generally, prospects in this population appreciate simple yet broad messages that demonstrate how programs have benefitted others just like them. Caregivers respond to messages that offer reassurance and helpful resources for both prospects and themselves. Influencers prefer materials that differentiate brands and aid in their capacity to help prospects.
  1. Deliver the message through efficient mediums. Research which media outlets and mediums each population and ethnicity trusts most. Don't limit yourself to only traditional general-market outlets; expand your marketing scope to include targeted ethnic and online mediums to reach the widest audience possible.
  1. Recognize and embrace diversity. Craft messages that are as culturally diverse as the audience they're meant to reach. This requires far more thought and consideration than selecting the right outlets, translating the message, or including some generic stock photos. Embrace cultural nuances to build trust and increase receptivity.

When educating relevant audiences about changes to healthcare programs for dual Medicare/Medicaid recipients, identifying the subgroups and acknowledging the ethnic diversity among them is vital to a campaign's success. Just as consumers need more than one healthcare option, they also require more than one marketing approach to truly accept a message.

Published on: Oct 27, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.