Gov’t Spent $700 Million Promoting Obamacare

Doge memes, cat GIFs, $10 million on cartoon ads belie president’s claim that feds did not ‘make a hard sell’
Models promoting Colorado's health insurance exchange / AP

Models promoting Colorado's health insurance exchange / AP

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UPDATE April 4, 3:30 P.M.: A spokesperson for the Washington exchange informed the Free Beacon that its marketing budget cited in the July AP report was inaccurate.  Instead of $28 million, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange spent $18 million on advertising, lowering the total Obamacare marketing campaign to $674 million.  The spokesperson also said the state received $90,000 in additional funds to promote the law in January.

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President Barack Obama contended that the government did not “make a hard sell” for Obamacare, despite his administration spending nearly $700 million to promote the law.

“We didn’t make a hard sell,” Obama said in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, praising the 7.1 million sign ups for the Affordable Care Act. “We didn’t have billions of dollars of commercials like some critics did.”

However, last July the Associated Press reported that Obamacare’s marketing campaign would cost at least $684 million.

Taxpayer funding went to all 50 states in efforts to encourage people to enroll, including nearly $28 million for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, for television, radio, print, and social media ads.

Oregon received $10 million to push the law, which it used to create advertisements that did not even mention the word “insurance.”

The Portland advertising agency North, Inc., produced psychedelic cartoons for Cover Oregon that were described by Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R., Okla.) Wastebook as “what appears to be Gumby riding on the Beatles’ yellow submarine.”

Another ad, “Live Long in Oregon,” featured a woman singing a hippie folk song on a guitar, with lyrics such as “long live the Oregon spirit.”

“Whatever it takes to get them there, so whether it’s, y’know, a woman strumming a guitar, or whether it’s a rap, hopefully that message is there,” said Cover Oregon Chief Operating Officer Triz de la Rosa.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the White House also had staffers actively promoting the law, using everything from “doge” memes to cat GIFs to encourage sign ups. The administration gave the Baltimore Ravens $130,000 to sell Obamacare.

Obama himself appeared on Zach Galifianakis’ show “Between Two Ferns” to pitch the health care law.

Obamacare got help from nonprofit organizations, where alcohol was used to sell insurance in Colorado. The so-called “Brosurance” campaign, depicted keg stands to try to encourage young people to sign up. Enroll America, also a nonprofit, made a rapping pug video to promote the law.

Illinois recently paid the online satirical site the Onion up to $300,000 for online banner ads. One ad linking to the Cover Illinois website read: “Man without health insurance forced to sell action figures to pay for medical bills. Don’t sell your action figures.”

The funding was on top of the $33.3 million Illinois spent on marketing the law, despite signing up just 13 percent of the state’s uninsured.

Much of the funding went to the Jayne Agency, a Chicago-based advertising firm that helped market the law, whose slogan is “Creative that rocks. Not costly politics.”

Elizabeth Harrington   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Elizabeth Harrington is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Elizabeth graduated from Temple University in 2010. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, she worked as a staff writer for CNSNews.com. Her email address is elizabeth@freebeacon. Her Twitter handle is @LizWFB.