Millions of Dollars to Market Obamacare


April 25, 2013


Obama's sales pitch is coming - and you're paying for it.  The Obama administration has inked an $8 million  public relations contract to promote the health insurance exchange, which Sen. Max Baucus calls "the single most important provision of the ACA." According to an HHS official, PR firm Weber Shandwick will use "a range of communications tactics, with a emphasis on paid media and digital outreach" to raise public awareness of the exchanges. Politico says they'll be targeting "the young and healthy" for enrollment.

HHS spent even more last year. In 2012, HHS signed a $3.1 million contract with the same company, plus a $20 million contract with another firm, according to The Hill's Healthwatch. The most recent contract includes an option for HHS to spend even more based on Weber Shandwick's performance.

This is just the beginning. In his 2014 budget, President Obama asks for
$554 million for "Marketplace-related Consumer Information and Outreach," reports Marilyn Tavenner, candidate for director of CMS, in her 113-page letter to the U.S. Senate's questions about Obamacare implementation. The marketing strategies will be diverse. For example, Minnesota's contract calls for a "comprehensive plan that will permeate Exchange information to all corners of the state and to every citizen." Its tactics include:

            • Publications                          • Events/Promotions

            • Direct Mail                            • Town Halls

            • E-Mail                                   • Webinars

            • Media Relations                    • Traveling Exhibit

            • Advertising                            • Presentations

            • Interactive/Digital - Web Site, Social Media, Multimedia, Mobile Applications

Taxpayer-funded promoters will be in every state. They're called "Navigators," government-trained insurance guidance counselors or organizations that will draw people into the Exchange -- the government's lobster trap, where once you're in you may never get out. HHS is providing
$54 million in navigator grants for the 33 states that have refused to set up and fund a state-based federal Exchange. That's not much. New York is preparing to spend $27 million per year for navigators. Navigator grants won't be released until August 15 -- just six weeks before Exchange enrollment begins on October 1, 2013.

HHS fixed a legal snag -- by regulation. By law, navigators cannot be funded by federal Exchange "establishment grants."
So presto, chango! HHS wrote their own rule and devised a new not-in-the-law category of exchange workers called "in-person assistors" who can receive "establishment" dollars. These individuals will do the work of navigators until sufficient Exchange user fees (3.5% tax on premiums) are collected to pay the navigators. The fact that HHS has virtually no money for Obama's on-the-ground marketing force shows how poorly the law was put together.

The fear is palpable. U.S. Senator Max Baucus, who shepherded the bill through the U.S. Senate and last week famously predicted a "huge train wreck," is not confident about enrollment-readiness. He grilled HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on how many people would be on the ground helping people enroll, which states they'd be in and when they'd begin working this summer: "You need data. You've never given any data. You're just giving concepts." Just yesterday, Senator Baucus announced his plans to retire rather than face re-election.

CCHF is working to make sure the Exchange fails. The administration's biggest worry is that no one will enroll. But that's our greatest hope.
Please donate to the campaign we're building to discourage the young and healthy from enrolling in Obamacare's lobster trap. Once they're in the Exchange, they may never get out -- perhaps for generations to come.

Stopping the Exchange can be done, but we need your help!
Please donate generously!

For freedom's cause,

Twila Brase, RN, PHN
President and Co-founder