WA exchange spends $2.6 million on rap videos to promote Obamacare signups


By Katherine Rodriguez | WatchdogWire.com

The Washington State Health Benefit Exchange has spent $2.6 million on an advertising campaign in order to convince young people to sign up for Obamacare.

Its latest advertising push features a rap duo who interviews people who have signed up coverage through the state’s health exchange through Washington Healthplanfinder.

“For many young adults, the thought of getting health insurance occurs only after an accident or illness,” said Michael Marchand, director of communications at the exchange, in a statement in the Puget Sound Business Journal. “These new ads use humor and pop culture references to get people’s attention as well as make a serious message stick.”

One ad called “Baby Bird” shows 26-year-old Rian encountering the rap duo in a restaurant talking about she found her coverage through the exchange after she turned 26 and experienced an appendectomy a year before.

“It wasn’t a big deal, it just worked,” Rian said in response to the duo on her experience signing up for the exchange.

The 30-second ad ended with a screenshot that said, ”Low cost plans: check it.”

The second ad “Hospital Billz” shows elderly couple Patricia and John chatting with the rap duo about pre-existing conditions that made it impossible for them to get health insurance and being saddled with $200,000 in medical debt as a result.

“Two-hundred grand- that is depressing,” said one of the rappers.

But Patricia says she got financial help, all because of the state’s healthcare exchange which allowed her to enroll in coverage and get a subsidy to help pay for it.

The ad did not say exactly how the couple recovered from the $200,000 in medical debt, just how the couple got enrolled in coverage.

Watchdog Wire called a general customer representative from Washington Healthcareplanfinder in order to find out whether or not the state pays for existing medical debt and how much they cover.

“If you fill out the application for free and low-cost health insurance and you provide information about your unpaid medical expenses and you are eligible for Washington Apple Health [state medicaid], we may be able to help pay for bills incurred in the three months immediately prior to your application,” the customer representative said.

When asked if there was a limit to how much medical debt the state will pay, the customer representative did not have an answer and transferred Watchdog Wire over to an automated message.

The wait time to speak with a customer service specialist? 34 minutes.

Even with Washington Healthcareplanfinder’s long wait times and reported website issues, officials have started partnerships with the music industry to boost enrollment.

Watchdog Wire reported yesterday that the state plans to slash two thirds of its overall budget and completely cut its advertising budget in 2015 when the exchange loses access to federal grants.

But advertising, and the spending to go along with it shows no signs of slowing down.

Exchange officials announced a partnership with Live Nation, the company that puts on the , in January in order to send health agency representatives to the festival and other concerts to get young adults to sign up for health insurance.

Administrators also posted a three-part interview with Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla on his experiences signing up for the exchange and why he thinks all touring musicians should sign up for health insurance under the exchange.

“It was a seamless, easy experience,” Walla said. ”I was able to create my account quickly, compare and contrast accounts easily and it justworks.”

Officials have not responded to requests saying how much it cost to make the partnership with Live Nation or how much it paid Chris Walla to appear in videos promoting the healthcare exchange.

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