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Full accounting needed for ACA marketing dollars

Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014 8:36 a.m. CDT

Carla Johnson’s [Associated Press medical writer] excellent June 12 investigation, “Illinois’ health care campaign among nation’s costliest,” revealed that “more than 90 people, including executives from the firm and its subcontractors, billed at least $270 an hour for salary and overhead during the first four months” as part of a $33 million federal grant to Illinois to promote the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.

Johnson correctly pointed out that not only do those hourly wage rates for public relations professionals seem excessive, but Illinois also spent more on TV marketing and promotion than any other large state.

But that is just a dent in the total federal grants that Illinois has received to implement and promote the president’s health insurance scheme. 

According to federal records, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, awarded the state of Illinois $155 million in total grants (including the one that was the focus of the AP investigation) to implement and market the ACA in Illinois.

While this money was spent in a number of areas, this total is the equivalent of almost $700 a person who selected a health insurance plan (but didn’t necessarily purchase one). 

Even though there has not been a full accounting of how, where, and by whom these funds were spent, HHS is already doling out tens of millions more dollars to states to promote enrollment in 2015. Taxpayers deserve to know whether the state bureaucrats are spending these scarce resources wisely.

Before Illinois bureaucrats accept another dime of federal taxpayer dollars, there should be a full accounting of these funds. Without oversight and transparency, the opportunities for further shenanigans seem endless.

Note to readers: Naomi Lopez-Bauman is director of health policy for the Illinois Policy Institute.

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