President Barack Obama celebrated a victory for his signature health-care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday. The president lauded the accomplishment of 7.1 million enrollees who signed up on the new health-care exchanges by the March 31 deadline. The 7-million number was the administration’s goal, and reaching it would be proof, they claimed, that the system was working, according to a blog post from The New Yorker.
While the number of signups will likely be contested by politicians opposed to the controversial plan, others are claiming that the president was disingenuous in some of his other remarks from Tuesday.
“We didn’t make a hard sell,” Obama said. “We didn’t have billions of dollars of commercials like some critics did.”
Maybe not billions, but a story from The Washington Free Beacon reports that the administration did spend nearly $700 million in promoting the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare. The story cites an Associated Press report from last summer that estimated the administration’s marketing campaign would cost at least $684 million.
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The Free Beacon story indicates that taxpayer funding went to all 50 states to encourage people to enroll in the private insurance exchanges. The story lists some of the more lavish and controversial expenditures, including $28 million to the Washington State Health Benefit Exchange.
Oregon took in $10 million and used the money to fund an advertising campaign, called “Cover Oregon,” that did not mention the word “insurance.” The campaign made it into the “Wastebook,” an annual report put out by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that lists examples of wasteful federal spending. According to the Wastebook, one commercial featured “what appears to be Gumby riding on the Beatles’ yellow submarine.”
Illinois topped the list of recipients, taking in $33.3 million, yet only signed up 13 percent of the state’s uninsured.
Getting people signed up was the goal; many believed the system could not support itself without healthy, young people purchasing insurance.
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“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 COO, Triz de la Rosa.
Since the 7-million-enrollee goal was reached, the nationwide campaign appears to have been a success. The wasteful claim may, then, be disputed. But the aggressive advertising campaign and its huge budget do make it seem like it took a “hard sell” to get there.