All-Out Obamacare Outreach Campaign Underway


Oct. 1 is the date for the Obama administration. That’s when the Affordable Care Act launches in earnest: People will be purchasing health insurance on the marketplaces created by the law, with tax subsides offered through the law. With three weeks to go, the administration and its partners in the states and the advocacy world are accelerating their campaign to inform Americans about Obamacare.

It’s a three-fold act. Grassroots groups — in a manner adapted from the Obama campaign’s famously well-honed micro-targeted outreach — are canvassing neighborhoods, taking the message to specific segments of the uninsured. President Bill Clinton gave a speech last week in Arkansas — the first of many, as described to TPM by the White House, from both the former president and others — trying to make the undeniably complicated law easier for people to understand.

And lastly, to fully complete the analogy with a campaign mentality, television ad buys are taking place all over the country, both from the administration and the individual state insurance marketplaces.Politico reported Thursday on a $12 million television ad buy by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If accurate — and it has not been confirmed by HHS — the ads are targeted to metropolitan areas in states that have generally not been very friendly to Obamacare: Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Michigan.

HHS has said that it will run targeted ads in the weeks before the marketplaces open; official details are expected soon. But targeting outreach to states with big uninsured populations and unhelpful state governments, like Texas and Florida, makes sense. The White House has also said those two states in particular would be a focus during the open enrollment period that starts next month.

HHS is running the marketplace for 30-plus states, but the other 18 states that are operating their own are also starting to buy up ad space. A few of them responded to TPM’s request on their advertising plans. Others have publicly announced their plans. Here’s how the landscape is shaping up:

  • California: $45 million in paid advertising planned, including television ads
  • Hawaii: $1.2 million in paid advertising planned, including television ads
  • Kentucky: $1 million television ad buy thus far
  • Maryland: $2.5 million in paid advertising planned, according to the Baltimore Sun
  • Oregon: $2.9 million television ad buy planned
  • Rhode Island: $2 million in paid advertising planned, including television ads
  • Vermont: $200,000 television ad buy thus far, plan for $2 million in paid advertising

If you want to know what those advertisements might look like, check out our round-up here.

It’s a heavy lift. According to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 77 percent of Americans said they know only a little or nothing at all about the law. The administration has said it didn’t want to launch its outreach efforts too early, so that people wouldn’t forget by the time open enrollment came around. But now it’s crunch time.

The White House wants to enroll in 7 million people — including 2.7 million young and healthy adults — in the marketplaces by March 2014.