Obamacare national marketing campaign to cost $700 million

Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Associated Press:

It will make you stronger. It will give you peace of mind and make you feel like a winner. Health insurance is what the whole country has been talking about, so don't be left out.

Sound like a sales pitch? Get ready for a lot more. As President Barack Obama's health care law moves from theory to reality in the coming months, its success may hinge on whether the best minds in advertising can reach one of the hardest-to-find parts of the population: people without health coverage.

The campaign won't come cheap: The total amount to be spent nationally on publicity, marketing and advertising will be at least $684 million, according to data compiled The Associated Press from federal and state sources.

About 16 percent of Americans are uninsured, but despite years of political debate and media attention, more than three-quarters of them still know little about the law known as "Obamacare," according to recent surveys.

"It's not sugar cereal, beer and detergent," said Brooke Foley, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based Jayne Agency, one of the advertising firms crafting messages to reach the uninsured.

The Obama administration and many states are launching campaigns this summer to get the word out before enrollment for new benefits begins in October.

The targets are mostly the working poor, young people who are disengaged, or those who gave up their insurance because of the cost. Three-quarters are white. Eighty-six percent have a high school education or less. Together they make up a blind spot in the nation's health care system.

"They've been shut out. It's too expensive and it's incredibly confusing," said David Smith of the advertising agency GMMB, pitching the health law's benefits in Washington and Vermont.

"We're going to sell him like soap flakes," Joseph Kennedy was quoted as saying about how they were going to elect his son John. Can they sell Obamacare?

I could sell an abstinence program to Anthony Weiner if I had $700 million. As the AP article points out, the government will be cherry picking - spending more in states where the public is receptive to Obamacare and much less in GOP states. In this way, the administration is hoping to avoid disaster by signing up enough healthy, young invincibles so that the sick and chronicly ill don't overwhelm the insurance pools.

The effort will be intense:

Ads based on research about the uninsured will soon start popping up on radio, TV and social media. Grassroots organizers are recruiting their pastors, barbers and mothers and arming them with carefully worded messages. In some neighborhoods, volunteers will go door-to-door.

The pitch: If you don't make much money, the government can pick up some of the cost of your health insurance. If you can afford a policy, by law you have to get one. People will be directed to healthcare.gov, a government site, for more information.

The administration has enlisted labor unions to do some of the heavy lifting. Although some unions are balking now that the effects of Obamacare are being felt, others, like SEIU, are pitching in enthusiastically to give their friend President Obama a hand.

From the standpoint of signing people up for the insurance exchanges, they will probably avoid a total disaster. But with all else that's wrong with Obamacare, it will hardly look like a triumph.

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