Monthly Archives: September 2012

Branding Health Insurance Exchanges To Make The Sale


By Pauline Bartolone, Capital Public Radio

September 25, 2012

This story is part of a partnership that includes Capital Public RadioNPR and Kaiser Heath News.

As states work to comply with the federal health care law, many are designing their insurance exchanges, where people will be able to shop for coverage.

But just the word “exchange” sounds to many like off-putting government-speak, and some states are eager to come up with a more appealing name for these new marketplaces.

Peter Lee, who directs California’s Health Benefit Exchange, says it’s up for a new name, and he says they want it to sound fresh, dynamic and innovative.

“What we’re trying to figure out is what’s a name that’s going to stick, that’s going to grab hold, that all Californians are going to say ‘Boy, that’s where I go to find healthcare,’ ” Lee says.

The exchange will have a website where people can buy private health insurance, and many consumers will have government subsidies to help them purchase the insurance. Planners hope at least 3 million California customers will enroll for benefits starting in 2014. But that 3 million is a diverse bunch — so organizers want a name that will graball of them.

“Almost half of the people that are going to be eligible for subsidized coverage in the exchange are Spanish-speaking,” Lee says. “But that’s not the only market. We have about 600,000 people that speak Asian-Pacific Islander languages. Some of them speak Mandarin; some speak Hmong.”

Lee and his team solicited names in California and got hundreds of suggestions. Among them: Avocado, Ursa, Eureka — names or concepts uniquely Californian. They tested them with focus groups.

The name Avocado got laughs but is now out of the running. Other names were borrowed from Spanish, like Calvida and Beneficia. They considered Healthifornia and Wellquest.

Claudia Caplan, a marketing expert with the RP3 Agency in Maryland, has done everything from naming fast-food hamburgers to marketing for a freight rail carrier. She says a name for a new health marketplace should have humanity but shouldn’t be too cute.

“This is a whole new world for people in terms of how they’re going to access insurance, and it might be wise to give them a name that makes them feel metaphorically wrapped in some nice, warm arms that are going to take care of them,” Caplan says.

Still, a name isn’t as important as what you build around it, she notes. “It’s going to be such a turnoff if you give it this great, nurturing name and it just turns out to be the DMV all over again,” Caplan says.

California’s exchange staff is sharing notes with counterparts in other states. Maryland just came up with its name and logo.

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland’s Secretary of Health and Mental Hygeine and chairman of that state’s exchange, says they tossed around action names. “We had some that had verbs in them like ‘Cover Me Now Maryland,’ ‘Cover Insure Maryland,’ ‘Get Health Care Maryland,’ those sorts of things,” Sharfstein says.

He says one person even suggested “” But the Maryland planners went with something safe and trustworthy: Maryland Health Connection.

“We thought it was simple,” says Sharfstein. “It illustrated the importance of connecting: connecting with insurance brokers, producers, connecting people to insurance products as well as connecting people to health care and health.”

California is expected to release its new name and logo in November. The frontrunners? Eureka, a reference to the gold rush (and the state’s motto), and Ursa, which is Latin for bear and a symbol on California’s state flag. Condor is off the table. While uniquely Californian, it is a vulture that almost went extinct.

This story is part of a partnership that includes Capital Public Radio, NPR and Kaiser Heath News.


Are Leaders or Managers More Valuable in Escaping an Economic Downturn?


 As we continue to live through the worst economic downturn in years, the question is raised: Do we need more leaders or more managers in order to push ourselves out of this weak and fragile economy?

It is important to distinguish between and leader and a manager and what each role brings to the table. In the article, “What Leaders Really Do”, John P. Kotter states, “most US corporations today are overmanaged and underled”.2  The leadership role requires having a long-range perspective and keeping one’s eyes on the horizon.4 Furthermore, a strong leader challenges the status quo and inspires and motivates others within the company to think outside the box.4 Kotter states that leadership is about coping with change and with more change demands more leadership.2 Kotter describes the leadership role best when he uses the analogy of a peacetime vs. wartime army when stating, “a peacetime army can usually survive with good administration and management up and down the hierarchy, coupled with good leadership concentrated at the very top. A wartime army, however, needs competent leadership at all levels. No one yet has figured out how to manage people effectively into battle, they must be led”. 2

If a leader serves as an architect, than a manager serves as a competent contractor that understands the architect’s vision and points out flaws in the design if necessary.1 Managers need to plan, organize, problem solve and coordinate to get the job done, while simultaneously, serving as a role model to others.1 If a leader proposes a plan, a manager will need to understand the logistics behind getting the plan executed successfully, on time and on budget. Kotter points out that strong leadership with weak management is no better than strong management and weak leadership.2 He states that, “without good management, complex enterprises tend to become chaotic in ways that threaten their very existence. Good management brings degrees of order and consistency to key dimensions like the quality and profitability of the products.2 Moreover, leaders typically do not do the bulk of the hiring, managers do. Managers need to have a good understanding on what the staffing needs are, what to look for in an employee, and make logical and ethical hiring decisions to fill the company with a competent workforce. Weak managers making poor hiring decisions can topple a company from the bottom up. Additionally, after hiring employees, managers must develop peer relationships, carry out negotiations, motivate subordinates, resolve conflicts, establish information networks and subsequently disseminate information.3

One reason why we are still in weak economy is because leaders are acting more like managers by maintaining the status quo rather than forging ahead.  In order to improve a weak economy, managers are needed to “stop the bleeding” caused by the damage made by previous poor economic decisions and leaders are needed to cut our way out of the woods with a sword of innovation. In other words, in order for us to make significant improvements in the economy, we need more innovative leaders that make pioneering decisions coupled with organized, ethical managers that can execute the concepts that the creative leaders produce.

  1. Cruz , E. (2012, Sept. 10). Turning managers to leaders. Business world online, Retrieved from
  2. Kotter, J. (2001, Dec.). What leaders really do. Best of harvard business review, 85-96.
  3. Mintzberg, H. (1990, March). The manager’s job: Folklore and fact. Harvard business review, March-April(1990), 163-176.
  4. Murray, A. (2009, April 07). What is the difference between management and leadership?. The wall street journal, Retrieved from