State-based Insurance Exchange Open Enrollment Marketing Plan: DC Health Link

DC Health Link is the health care exchange operated by the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (HBX). It implements a health care exchange for the District of Columbia.  The exchange has a consumer education and outreach budget of nearly $3 million annually. With more than $1 million of that budget targeted for outreach and marketing, DC Health Link invests heavily in an open enrollment marketing plan designed to encourage enrollment during the annual open enrollment period.

Here’s a look at their 2020 Open Enrollment period outreach plan and early results:

COVID-19 Response

A new obstacle — and opportunity — emerged in 2020 that could hinder DC Health Link’s ability to perform in-person events: the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, DC Health Link has shifted resources from in-person events to more virtual events. The exchange has created virtual events and campaigns like kickoff and community enrollment days and weeks of action designed to spread the word about the open enrollment period. Unlike past enrollment periods, in-person events just aren’t safe this year, so the team adjusted their marketing plan from in-person to virtual events.

DC Health Link COVID-19 Mask

Target Audiences

The pandemic also played a role in the exchange’s target audiences. Newcomers to the market as a result of a loss of job-based coverage were a new audience the exchange hopes to reach with its message. Other targets include:

  • Uninsured
  • Existing Customers
  • Non-Renewals
  • New Residents
  • Diverse Communities like African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and Latinos, Millennials and LGBTQ

By identifying these targets, the exchange was able to craft messages that appealed to these specific groups of people. Also, it enabled the exchange to target the channels these groups frequent.



The basic messaging the exchange leveraged focused on three key ideas:

  1. Affordability. Studies continue to show that most uninsured don’t understand the true cost of health insurance after subsidies. So DC Health Link decided to make affordability one of the pillars of their messaging. Messaging highlighted the low cost, the available financial help, and how individuals could get more  – the essential benefits included in all Affordable Care Act plans — for their money.
  2. Need. As we covered in a previous post about health insurance exchange marketing campaigns, most people assume they won’t get seriously ill. So another pillar of the exchange’s messaging highlights why people need insurance. The messaging focuses on why not to go uninsured, while also focusing on free COVID testing, diagnosis, and treatment. The exchange has also highlighted how standard plans cover most medical services.
  3. Help. Enrolling in health insurance can be complicated and confusing. DC Health Link’s third messaging pillar revolves around the help that’s available to enrollees. The best part: There’s free expert virtual assistance available to individuals to help them enroll.

In addition to these three core messaging pillars, the exchange used an overarching theme of “Get Covered. Stay Covered.” The theme not only pushed individuals to enroll in health insurance but also aligned with wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DC Health Link Shop and Save Open Enrollment Marketing

Outreach Strategies

Once target audiences and messages have been defined, the next step is to determine the outreach channels to use. The exchange identified four key channels to use:

  1. Partnerships and Influencers. Any good marketing plan leverages others to help amplify a message, and DC Health Link’s is no different. The state planned to leverage other government agencies, educational entities, community organizations, faith-based institutions, and other influencers to help spread the word during the 2020 open enrollment period.
  2. Virtual/Digital Outreach and Events.  As we discussed earlier, DC Health Link built more virtual events and outreach into their marketing plan as a result of COVID-19.
  3. Multimedia Outreach.  To hit their target audience, DC Health Link decided to take a multi-pronged multi-media approach. That includes print in the form of community newspapers, broadcast media like television and radio, and print and digital ads on Metro public transportation. The exchange also leveraged modern digital marketing tactics — like geo-fencing to targeted audiences, SMS text messaging, website banner ads, email marketing, and social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. They also leveraged digital media strategies like ads at drive-in movies, podcast outreach and ads, digital ads at Spotify and other music sites as well as gaming sites.
  4. Testimonials and Success Stories. The final aspect of the outreach strategy was the use of testimonials and success stories to help drive the message home.

DC Health Link Open Enrollment Plan Virtual Event




Open enrollment extends through January 31, 2021, though the early enrollment returns indicated an impactful open enrollment marketing plan. Through November 16th, 2020, the exchange enrolled 97,496 individuals in the individual market or SHOP program. That represented an increase of about 3% year-over-year.

Certifi helps private and public health insurance exchanges improve enrollment and build a better member experience with health insurance exchange consolidated billing and payment solutions.

Free eBook - 7 Examples of Great State Health Insurance Exchange Marketing Campaigns

Related Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search

Get New Posts in Your Inbox!

Skip to content