You must be joking: IL partners with The Onion to push Obamacare


By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois is turning it’s Obamacare sales pitch into a joke.

THE NEW FACE OF OBAMACARE: Illinois using an action figure to push health care.

To get more people to sign up for health care, the state is bragging it will spend $150,000 on ads for the satirical news site The Onion.

“We know that to effectively reach Young Invincibles – who are 53 percent of our uninsured residents in Illinois – we have to work with non-traditional, and especially digital, sources for news and entertainment. That’s where The Onion fits right into our outreach strategy,” Jennifer Koehler, executive director of Get Covered Illinois said in a news release.

Neither Koehler nor anyone at Get Covered Illinois responded to Illinois Watchdog’s request for an interview.

Koehler’s statement said the partnership will focus on fake headlines and fake news stories about someone forced to sell their action figures to pay medical bills.

But on a site already filled with fake stories about non-committal cult members and lamenting rhinoceroses, state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, worries Illinois’ funny ads won’t land.

IT’S FUNNY?: Syverson says people look to the Onion for jokes, not health care.

“You always have to be careful when you’re advertising on the Onion,” Syverson told Illinois Watchdog. “Because readers don’t always know if that’s a joke ad or a legitimate ad.”

Syverson said it’s clear the ad agency doesn’t understand Obamacare.

“Consumers aren’t stupid,” Syverson said. “The reason Obamacare is not having success is because the coverage is very poor, the benefits are very poor and the cost is very expensive.”

Illinois’ last round of Obamacare enrollment numbers showed just 61,000 people selected an insurance plan, and it’s unclear on how many actually bought a plan.

Syverson said few of those people are the “uninsured” Obamacare was supposed to help.

“Between 70 percent and 75 percent of those who have been enrolled since this program began in October were people that were previously covered,” Syverson explained. “People who were on (Illinois’ state based high risk insurance) or people who had private health policies, that now that the federal government is offering a subsidy, they just switched.”

Illinois has added almost 150,000 people to Medicaid, because of Obamacare.

But the state hasn’t added enough young and healthy people to pay for the older and sicker people already enrolled.

“Get Covered Illinois understands their target demographic and is taking a creative approach to tailor a message to that audience that goes beyond traditional marketing,” Mike McAvoy, President of Onion Inc., said in the state’s news release.

Illinois has been using $30 million from the federal government to do anything it can to sell Obamacare. Remember the Day of the Dead sales pitch?

The new Onion ads will start soon and ramp up as the March 31 deadline for coverage draws closer.

You can contact Benjamin Yount at and find him on Twitter @BenYount.

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