Last week, Kathleen Sebelius peddled the idea that Obamacare is merely “a very bad brand” and blamed misinformation via “a lot of paid advertising” for it; she also calculated spending on anti-Obamcare ads to be around $400 million:
“So Obamacare no question has a very bad brand that has been driven intentionally by a lot of misinformation and by a lot of paid advertising and I think we may need to call it something, in the future, different. But it’s working and now people are getting coverage. I think by the time that the enrollment started in 2013, clearly we had a terrible eight weeks of website disaster, which didn’t help. But by that time there had been $400 million worth of ads that had been run against the law”.
The problem with the narrative is that the Administration spend nearly $700 million during the same time frame touting the law. What’s more, even the government’s own advertising used the term “Obamacare”, which completely dispels the idea that Obamacare is “a very bad brand”.
Three days after the close of the first enrollment period, Washington Free Beacon gave a rundown of various federal and state costs associated with advertising Obamacare. The amount, compiled by the AP, was calculated to be $674 million for TV, radio, social media, and print advertising. The Obama Administration also took some some unconventional approaches to reach various audiences, including cartoons, a hippie playing the guitar, “doge” memes, cat GIFs, and paying NFL teams. You can read the detailed breakdown here.
And what about those government advertisements? Most of the ads paid for by the federal government with your tax dollars used the term “Obamacare” in them. For instance, remember the particularly visual ads run for the Colorado exchange? You can still view them here, at the catchy “Do You Got Insurance” website (can we at least use proper grammar?) EVERY single one of the ads has “thanks Obamacare!” emblazoned on them. That is the very definition of “branding” right there.
The Obama Administration embraced the term Obamacare because it was supposed to be the signature policy of Obama’s presidency — until disaster after disaster occurred: the website went awry, enrollment was under projection, Jonathan Gruber spoke out; you name it. Ad nauseum, ad infinitum.
Just how much as the Obama Administration paid to advertise Obamacare? No one actually knows. In September, 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) explicity reported that the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) “did not provide estimates of fiscal year 2014 obligations for certain categories of Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight-related transactions, such as advertising and other public relations activities.”
And that’s not all the GAO report found, with regard to Obamacare spending. The report also stated,
“GAO was unable to consistently verify the reliability of the data received from CMS. Specifically:
GAO was able to determine the reliability of CMS’s estimates for total obligations for fiscal year 2014, which was $3.7 billion; the number of staff as of September 30, 2013, which was 347; and total salary expenditures from March 2010 through fiscal year 2013, which were $79.8 million.
GAO could not determine the reliability of any of the other financial information CMS provided because CMS’s core financial system did not produce totals for much of the CCIIO-related information requested. For example, the system did not produce expenditure totals for CCIIO-related polling, focus groups, or advertising and other public relations activities because of how these activities are captured in the system.
Similarly, information related to reassignment of staff to CCIIO from other CMS and HHS units was not readily available. Consequently, the staff reassignment information provided to GAO was not complete, was not supported by documentary evidence, and could not be verified.”
So, $3.7 billion was spent on Obamcare for Fiscal Year 2014 alone — we just don’t know where. For Kathleen Sebelius to whine about $400 million in advertising against Obamacare just goes to show the depth of desperation for the Obama Administration to blame someone, anyone, for the failure that is Obamacare. And that the most toxic part of the brand Obamacare is “Obama”.