Trump Has Trouble Making Obamacare Ads Disappear
Advertising firm steps in to run promotions that the new administration canceled.
With just a day left for consumers to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a left-leaning digital advertising firm has stepped in to offset the Trump administration’s decision during its first week to cancel some Health and Human Services department ads encouraging potential enrollees to learn their options on Healthcare.gov.
DSPolitical, which calls itself the world’s leading voter targeted digital/online ad network, announced on Monday that it is now running the canceled digital ads while embarking on a GoFundMe campaign to pay for it.
When Trump officials came into HHS, they curbed outreach ads as part of the unfolding effort by Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress to repeal Obamacare, Politico reported last Thursday. “The federal government has spent more than $60 million promoting the open enrollment period," an HHS spokesman said. "HHS has pulled back roughly $5 million of the final placement in an effort to look for efficiencies, where they exist."
The Trump team a day later lowered expectations, saying it had been able to cancel only the major digital ad buy planned for the final week of the enrollment period and return funds to the Treasury, while continuing the ACA’s staff’s automated email, Twitter and phone outreach.
In a statement to Government Executive on Monday, a senior communications adviser at HHS said, “We aren’t going to continue spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars promoting a failed government program. Once an assessment was made, we pulled back the most expensive and least efficient part of this massive ad campaign which was set to run over the weekend.”
The official added that HHS staff will continue to respond to email and phone inquiries about enrollment. Ads that had already been placed on broadcast and cable outlets as part of an overall $75 million campaign continued to run.
Nearly 12 million have signed up this season for the ACA, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, with enrollees motivated in part by the prospects of the law being repealed.
The rescue effort from DSPolitical, which was also working with HHS, drew backing from two major HHS officials from the Obama administration: Andy Slavitt, CMS administrator, and Josh Peck, chief marketing officer for Healthcare.gov.
“In the early days of the Affordable Care Act, DSPolitical was proud to be part of the effort that helped target uninsured Americans with digital advertising designed to get them signed up for affordable health coverage,” said Jim Walsh, DSPolitical’s co-founder and CEO. “After the Trump administration made its announcement, we knew we had to act. There isn’t much time but we will do everything we can to get people signed up for coverage as this is literally a matter of life or death for millions of Americans.”
Also working to shore up the outreach effort before the Tuesday at midnight enrollment deadline is the nonprofit advocacy group Families USA, which is seeking to “create a social media storm.”
Some state governments are also intervening. The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services announced Friday that is spending an additional $100,000 to expand its online marketing to prospective enrollees on Youtube, Facebook, Hulu and Pandora.