The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


June 12, 2014

Illinois health campaign among nation's costliest



— Of the top five bidders for the work, the FH contract included the highest hourly rates, ranging from $158 to $282 per hour, plus a 2.85 percent commission for placing ads. That commission was the lowest among the top bidders, but it represented less than 2 percent of the contract amount.

In comparison, a state contract with ad agency J. Walter Thompson to promote Illinois as a tourist destination pays at one blended hourly rate of $165, with no commission for ad placements.

— The FH contract also lacked standard curbs found in other states' contracts for promoting the health law. In Minnesota, the ad agency BBDO Proximity's contract has no hourly rates. Instead, the contract is task-based with payments specified and paid only when the work is delivered and accepted by the state.

— Illinois, the third-largest state to conduct a campaign promoting the law, spent $37 per enrollee on television ads — one of the highest rates in the nation. That's nearly double California's $19 per enrollee and nearly quadruple New York's $10, according to an AP analysis using data from nonpartisan Kantar Media CMAG.

— The branding research was costly and fraught with delays. After the focus groups rejected "Wellinois," the firm recommended "HealthIllinois," but state officials sent the agency back to the drawing board.

The resulting "Get Covered Illinois" name, unveiled less than a week before the marketplace launch, was untested by focus groups. It was very similar to "Covered California," which that state selected a full year earlier.

Illinois officials predict costs will come in under the $33 million ceiling when the contract ends in August. They point out $7 million worth of PSAs and other media promotions that cost taxpayers nothing. They say they're scrutinizing invoices and have kicked some back to FleishmanHillard for adjustments.

"We're making sure there are legitimate justifications for every expense," said Jennifer Koehler, an attorney and the state's top official for Get Covered Illinois. "The federal government has been very generous to Illinois, but we want to make sure we're getting the absolute best value for the taxpayers."

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