Health Insurers Bet Affordable Care Act Will Withstand Repeal Drive

Cigna — one of the nation’s largest health insurers — is kicking off a $25 million ad campaign today designed to appeal to individual consumers. The new ad campaign signals that the industry is working to expand into a market that will grow with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act — a law that it believes will go into effect regardless of the political threats to repeal it and the industry’s own opposition against it:

About 14 million people currently are covered through individual insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the number of people buying their own insurance will more than double by 2016 under the new health law. Some workers also tart getting a lump sum from employers to select coverage. “The insurance industry is one that has traditionally been oriented around services to an employer or a government entity,” said Cigna Chief Executive David M. Cordani. “We want to orient around the individual.” He said that focus includes consumers who get insurance through their jobs, as well as those who will purchase coverage their own. […]

Other companies also are laying the groundwork for expanding sales to individuals. Seventy-three percent of insurers are planning to increase their marketing and sales capabilities in the near term, with a focus on the direct-to-consumer segment, according to a survey of industry executives this spring by Boston Consulting Group.

“Most insurers have not built enough brand equity with consumers,” said Raj Bal, a former WellPoint executive who is now an industry consultant. Also, employer sales often come through brokers, whose role will likely be less important in starting in 2014, he said.

Last week, the industry also bet that the health care overhaul will withstand a GOP repeal drive and joined the “Enroll America” campaign with health care and consumer groups. The effort is designed to “encourage states to make it easy for people to sign up for coverage, by providing model regulations” and “get the word out among the uninsured, through advertising and community outreach.”