Colorado is bringing health care reform to a TV ad near you.
With over 40 percent of Americans still unsure whether or not Obamacare is even the law of the land, and an open enrollment period for its statewide insurance exchanges that begins in less than five months, Colorado is pumping $2 million into an outreach effort aimed at preparing consumers for upcoming changes under the health law. This makes Colorado the first state to mount an aggressive push to raise awareness of one of Obamacare’s most important provisions for uninsured individuals and small businesses — although Oregon and Kentucky aren’t far behind with their own PR campaigns planned for next month.
Colorado is unveiling a state-run website to give residents more detailed information about Obamacare, and help them figure out whether they will qualify for federally subsidized individual or small business coverage once Colorado’s insurance marketplace opens up in October. For the next two months, the state will also run television spots and print, radio, and billboard ads highlighting the insurance marketplaces, where insurers must compete to offer Americans health coverage:
While the vast majority of Americans are already benefiting from Obamacare’s consumer protections and insurance reforms, enrolling the previously uninsured into health plans on the state-level marketplaces will be critical for successful implementation of the law, and integral to reducing America’s uninsurance rate while improving public health. Some 24 million Americans are expected to receive insurance through the marketplaces by 2016.
But not everybody agrees that now is the proper time to begin the outreach efforts. Some federal officials worry that such education campaigns may be premature, and end up confusing consumers by advertising a product that doesn’t even exist yet. “Our research has shown if you go too early, you don’t have anything to offer, and people lose interest. It will be intense, but the timing is important,” Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner explained to the Washington Post.
On the other hand, state leaders argue that the early outreach is necessary because there’s so much confusion — and general lack of information — surrounding Obamacare. “We needed to get a wider awareness of our organization in a short amount of time to help prepare people for the changes that will be taking place,” said Myung Oak Kim, the communications and outreach director for Colorado’s health exchange. Colorado also plans to run more detailed ads closer to October’s enrollment period.
Strikingly, Colorado’s PR push never even mentions “Obamacare” — it just presents the exchange as a new public health innovation coming to the state. Considering the hyper-polarized nature of political debates over Obamacare, and the fact that much of the confusion over the landmark reform law stems from deliberate misinformation campaigns by conservative critics and some in the media, that may just be a necessary omission.