The CMS has awarded a research and outreach contract to several companies worth up to $45 million. The move comes nearly two months after CMS announced plans to slash advertising for the Affordable Care Act.
The companies are Aeffect, Alan Newman Research, Insight Policy Research, L&M Policy Research, Saltermitchell, QNA Chicago and CommunicateHealth. The contracts run through Aug. 31, 2022.
The companies are tasked with researching, strategizing and performing outreach to target those enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program or who buy plans sold through HealthCare.gov, as well as those who may be eligible for those programs.
This past summer the CMS announced that it would spend $10 million on marketing and outreach for the 2018 Affordable Care Act open-enrollment period beginning Nov. 1—a fraction of the $100 million that the Obama administration budgeted last year.
The agency said the new budget is in line with spending on outreach for Medicare Advantage and Part D programs.
Health reform experts say marketing and outreach is critical to the success of open enrollment, which has been shortened this year from three months to 45 days and ends on Dec. 15. The enrollment period previously ended Jan. 31.
Margaret Murray, CEO of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, called the decision to cut advertising "disappointing." "It makes it harder to attract younger consumers who don't prioritize health insurance," she said.
"We're concerned this will depress enrollment, particularly among younger, healthier people," Murray said. "Our plans are committed to getting people in, but you need the force of the federal government."