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Covered California’s Promotional Bust

Monday December 23rd, 2013   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 7:22am PST   •  

bullhorn_200Troubles mount for the Affordable Care Act but a default position among Obamacare acolytes is that the state exchanges are a shining success story. A recent Sacramento Bee report calls that into question.

Covered California is “spending tens of millions of dollars on two-year grants ranging from $250,000 to more than $1 million” to “trusted” organizations who promote the legislation at “clinics, campuses, sanctuaries and street fairs.” This evangelism comes in addition to an “$80 million television, radio and internet marketing campaign.” So how are the trusted groups doing?

Not very well according to the first reports they filed, and which Covered California was not eager to reveal. The Sacramento Bee had to deploy the California Public Records Act to get them. With all the money spent on outreach, “Californians had trouble associating the state insurance exchange with President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.” Bienestar, an advocacy group, was conducting outreach at nightclubs. One marketer described the iPad as “the best marketing strategy for me” because the Apple device, as the report noted, “continued to function even when the website was acting up, or removed for maintenance or scheduled upgrades.” Others lamented the lack of “freebies” to give away. Through it all, “community members had little interest in approaching booths for organizations they didn’t know.”

The promotional groups claim to face challenges from “the prejudice surrounding the law.” That is likely a reference to legitimate criticism of Obamacare for its dysfunctional and insecure website, incompetent contractors, bumbling bureaucrats, prodigious waste, and what the New York Times famously called “incorrect promises” by President Obama. Millions of Americans stand to lose the health insurance plans they wanted to keep. So how many have already gained better coverage as a result of the “tens of millions” California is spending to promote Obamacare?

According to the Bee report, “nearly 110,000 Californians selected plans through the exchange in the first two months.” That is not a high number for a state of 38 million people, and it remains to be seen whether the nearly 110,000 actually secured and paid for the plans they selected. That may well be doubted. Tens of thousands of Californians went online to assess their options but requested that they not be contacted. Covered California promptly gave their contact information to insurance agents, a blatant violation of privacy.

So despite “tens of millions” to “trusted organizations” for promotion of Obamacare, Californians now have more reason not to trust Covered California.

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December 2013