Election 2012

Obama Administration Required to Spend $20 Million Advertising ObamaCare

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For the last two years, the Obama administration and its allies have been unsuccessfully attempting to boost ObamaCare's consistently struggling poll numbers through various messaging strategies. They tried telling people that in fact they really liked the law, Jedi mind-trick style. They tried not talking about the law at all. They tried selectively highlighting the parts of the law they thought people would like. They published ObamaCare-themed electronic Mother's Day cards, so you could tell her, really tell her, just how special she is to you.

Mom didn't come through for the administration. Neither did the rest of the public. Despite the various efforts, the law's poll numbers have remained stubbornly low.

But maybe a new $20 million ad campaign will succeed where previous messaging efforts have failed? Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius has her fingers crossed: According to PR Week, marketing firm Porter Novelli — the ad wizards that gave us both the USDA food pyramid and the Truth antismoking campaign — has won a $20 million contract to promote the law through a multimedia advertising blitz. The campaign will "inform the American people about the many preventive benefits now available to those with Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act," an HHS official told the trade publication.

You can't pin this campaign on desperation because it's required by the health law itself. According to The Hill, "The campaign was mandated by the Affordable Care Act and must describe the importance of prevention while also explaining preventive benefits provided by the healthcare law." How convenient: The law's authors set aside $20 million to advertise the law's benefits during an election year. Don't like the existence of the campaign? Don't blame the folks in the Obama administration: They had to do it.

How big is a $20 million marketing campaign? Big enough that when independent political groups spend the same amount on ads criticizing President Obama, the expansive adjectives start to roll: When Crossroads GPS, a conservative activist group led by former Bush adviser Karl Rove, announced a $20 million ad effort attacking the current administration's economic record, National Journal called the first $5 million ad rollout "significant," while ABC described the entire project as a "massive $20 million TV ad campaign."

It seems only reasonable, then, to describe this as a "significant," even "massive," expenditure of taxpayer funds to promote the president's health law during an election year.