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ObamaCare Clusterfuck: A good product sells itself. And then there's ObamaCare....


Extrapolated across the entire U.S., the cost of marketing and advertising to get Americans to sign up for coverage is expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Here’s a link* to all of the federal grants, including marketing funds, allocated to states across the country by the Obama administration to set up marketplaces and educate consumers.

And the ad spending doesn’t end with government dollars. Private insurers are spending huge sums as well.

“We have had several plans in place to reach different audiences through various channels, including direct mail, billboards, online, radio and TV,” said Greg Thompson, spokesman for the nation’s fourth-largest health plan, Health Care Service Corp., which is selling health insurance products on exchanges via Blue Cross and Blue Shield products it owns in Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Montana.

Needless to say, in a single payer system, all that money would go to patient care. To health care.

Every single dollar is wasted.

NOTE Of course, advertising money for a project that should not exist in the first place is walking around money for the creative class, who do the media work, write the scripts, do the demographics, make the ad, act in the videos, and on and on and on. All of it completely wasted.

UPDATE I forgot to say that the link to "all of the federal grants" is a little masterpiece of obfuscation. First, the map is in Flash, a proprietary data format that's also flaky and often blocked.. Second, there's no data available in the form of a spreadsheet or even a CSV file, so there's no way to collate it all, or even get an overview of it. Third, the data is all aggregated by state Department. For example, the California Health Benefit Exchange got $673,705,358 for this and that. But the really interesting breakdown is what CA does with the money: That is where all the Democratic organizations get their walking around money -- and all the Flex Nets and Flexians, too. A gigantic stream of wasted money to which all these organizations -- well-meaning, many of them -- will become addicted. That is how ObamaCare will develop a constituency, not from its crappy policies.

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danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

I'm sure this is lost to history, but surely there was some kind of advertising around Medicare in 1965, no? A major new program gets rolled out and you have to let people know it exists.

I'd love to see how the government initially tried to raise awareness on it, but again that's probably not possible. I poked around a bit, but search results on Medicare, history and advertising brings back, well, see for yourself.

Submitted by Dromaius on

Lambert actually wrote a nice post on the Medicare rollout.

People like to compare Medicare with Obamacare. I roll my eyes. Back in the day, Medicare was a free program that made no sense to avoid. Obamacare on the other hand is an extremely expensive (for the participant), part public, part private, convoluted program, loaded with snafus (things like the subsidy cliffs, different implementations across states, governments double-debiting your account), etc. People are going to be leery of Obamacare. Thus, the path to trust will be exceedingly steep, and the advertising dollars spent on attempting to convince people that it's a good policy (which it isn't, other than a few minor points) are going to be greater.

It's not the same thing at all.

Submitted by lambert on

.... which is PDF I am attaching to this comment. It looks like they faced many of the same kind of technical problems, just with the technology of that age. Here, specifically on marketing:

I’m sure that most of you know that between September 1 and October 15, we mailed spe- cial punchcard application forms, together with background pamphlets, to 15 million Social Security and Railroad Retirement ben- eficiaries on the rolls. This group, of course, does not need to do anything about the basic Hospital Insurance protection, but they do need to file an application for the voluntary plan.

As of this morning, we have had returns from over 8 million of this group and 88 percent of them have indicated that they do want the supplementary insurance. I rather doubt whether at any time in history over 7 million people in the course of about 10 weeks have ever before signed up to pay $3 a month on a continuing basis for anything.

Via Gluck, M.G., and Reno, V., (eds.), Reflections on Implementing Medicare (Washington, DC: National Academy of Social Insurance, January 2001).

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Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Poor brokers!

Jeffrey Ensign, an insurance agent in San Diego, was trying to find out whether married clients could apply for separate health plans offered by different carriers, making repeated calls to Covered California.

He was baffled by the responses, which included five different answers.[Nearly as useless as Chat on HC.Gov!]

"I was told, 'Yes, they can,' 'No, they can't,' 'Only if they're at the same tier,' " he said.

Ensign said wait times on the state phone line for agents can be an hour or more. He and a partner in his office share the burden by taking turns waiting on hold.

What a great use of these brokers' (or anybody's) time! What do the MBA-CEOs have to say about this system from their Power Point Schema of "synergies," "efficiencies of scale," "streamlining," "eliminating excess processes," and so on.

(This devouring of citizens' time -- worse even than the time wasted by people commuting in traffic -- is totally separate from (and in addition to) the more important point, underscored often by Lambert, on the astronomical moneys spent on the system (by companies in advertising and payrolls; by the marks on junk overpriced products) that could give us cradle-to-grave Medicare for All (the Platinum version with no "cost sharing" and "shared sacrifice) for the last three years and counting forward.

It does make you sick. It's destruction of millions of moments of people's lives. For nothing.