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Payday: ‘Private Option’ Supporters Getting Thousands From Taxpayers

Updated: Apr 13

A design idea for the coming Obamacare vans.

A design idea for the coming Obamacare buses.

If you watch TV, listen to the radio, or use the internet in Arkansas, chances are pretty good that you’ve heard an advertisement promoting the “Arkansas Health Connector.” It’s very cleverly named and marketed, leaving many Arkansans unaware that the “health connector” is the Arkansas Obamacare insurance exchange. So, why all the ads? Part of the implementation of Obamacare (the “Affordable Care Act”) is a massive, taxpayer-funded public relations offensive. The objective of the offensive appears to be two-fold: 1. Change public perception of the law (it’s vastly unpopular) and 2. Entice more folks to enroll in the program. It’s kind of like that saying in business, “Spend money to make money.” Except in this case it’s more like “Spend other people’s money to spend more of other people’s money.” The federal government has recently been involved in talks with the NFL about the league promoting the flailing law. Earlier this week, Breitbart reported that actor Will Ferrell will produce a series of pro-Obamacare videos. And most appropriately, we’ve learned that Obamacare ads will be displayed on porta-potties! All of this to implement a law that is unfundable, unpopular, and unworkable. How much taxpayer money is being spent in Arkansas to promote the law, and where? I’m glad you asked. After half a dozen attempts to get a breakdown of advertising expenses from the Arkansas Insurance Department throughout last week, I resorted to filing a Freedom Of Information request on Thursday. (And remember: this is the more efficient, “business-like” version of the exchanges, according to legislative Republicans!) I finally received a phone call from Heather Haywood, spokesperson for the Arkansas exchange, after filing the FOI request. She was very helpful once I found her, but it took four days to reach someone that would even attempt to answer my questions. I can only imagine how great the consumer experience will be! The documents provided to me reflect all exchange advertising spending to date. The state has entered into a contract through May 2014 with Mangan-Holcomb Partners, a large Little Rock-based marketing firm. MHP will be executing the majority of the advertising campaign. The contract is valued at $4,297,196.22. Here’s a breakdown of how the money will be spent:

  1. Strategic Planning and Account Management: $107,500

  2. Creative and Production: $368,000

  3. Digital Media: $715,220

  4. Public Relations: $319,400

  5. Multicultural Marketing Consulting: $150,880

  6. Travel: $7,500

  7. Statewide Media: $2,628,696.22

A look deeper into the contract shows a more precise list of spending:

  1. $60,000 will be spent on Pandora Online Radio ads

  2. $24,000 will be spent on a “social media campaign”

  3. $120,000 will be spent on “search engine marketing”

  4. Under “Multicultural Marketing Consulting,” the only item listed is $150,880 for “consulting services”

  5. The state will also have an iPhone app produced for the all-time low price of $26,465!

You can read the full contract here. The contract also reveals that several groups who pushed for the “private option” version of Medicaid expansion are now receiving large checks from taxpayers for Obamacare advertising. Here’s a breakdown, with links to a sample of each group’s “private option” advocacy:

  1. Arkansas Business – $16,006.12, $11,727.72, and $13,770

  2. Talk Business – $23,021.57 (perhaps they can use some of that cash to buy a sign that says “paid shill from Benton.”)

  3. Arkansas Times$13,650.00 (Remember this the next time they scold an organization for taking money from the “Koch Brothers.” At least Americans for Prosperity is getting its money from voluntary donors — the ArkTimes, on the other hand, is getting its money from taxpayers!)

The FOI request also revealed a contract between the Insurance Department and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), a direct beneficiary of Medicaid expansion. That contract is valued at $1,469,450 and includes another slew of advertising expenses, as well as direct mail. Last but not least, the documents reveal that the state is purchasing two vinyl wraps to be placed on white buses for a fee of $1765 per month. The total cost for the wraps, produced by On The Move Advertising, and rent is $23,594.02. All of this spending only gets us through September of this year. Future spending has not been broken down by category yet, but Haywood tells me it will amount to an additional $3,798,750.00. With all of the taxpayer money being spent wasted, I just hope the exchanges aren’t a third-world experience.

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