Increased deductibles and skyrocketing premiums are no laughing matter, but Illinois is hoping to use a bit of comedy to promote the Affordable Care Act, partnering with The Onion to increase enrollment among “Young Invincibles.”
It’s the perfect marriage of a law promoted by ads that scream, “You have got to be kidding me,” and a website dripping with satire. And Illinois is chalking up $150,000 to advertise on “America’s finest news source.”
“Reaching the population known as ‘Young Invincibles’ is an important part of our effort to educate and enroll all of Illinois’ uninsured population,” Jennifer Koehler, executive director of Get Covered Illinois, said in a press release. “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.”
Get Covered Illinois — the state’s exchange — began running banner ads on the satirical website Monday. The promotions feature a man who is forced to sell his action figures to pay his medical bills, all because he lacks coverage. In addition to the ads, The Onion will also create a video, run an editorial and form a “news” section about the exchange. The efforts will launch in anticipation of the open enrollment period’s deadline, March 31.
“This is a great opportunity for Onion Labs to work with Get Covered Illinois, and do what The Onion does best – create irreverent-yet-relevant comedy and put it to work for an organization that wants to reach Millennials,” Steve Hannah, Chief Executive Officer of Onion, Inc., said.
But lawmakers don’t see Get Covered Illinois’ partnership with The Onion as something to celebrate, especially as scores of Americans receive cancellation notices from insurance companies.
“The irony of Get Covered Illinois promoting Obamacare on a satirical news site is almost too much to handle,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told Red Alert Politics in an email. “Thousands of Illinoisans have lost their coverage and the rollout of the law has been a painful comedy of errors. Unfortunately, the American people are the butt of this joke.”
And Illinois state Sen. Dave Syverson (R) fears the exchange’s ads could confuse potential enrollees as the lines between satire and reality are blurred.
“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.”
The Prairie State also plans to amp up outreach to “Young Invincibles” by posting video content across Get Covered Illinois’ social media accounts.
According to figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services, only 23 percent of those who selected plans via Illinois’ marketplace — which works in conjunction with the federal exchange — were between the ages of 18 and 34. The White House projects youth enrollment to hit 40 percent by March 31.
Should youth enrollment fall short of the Obama administration’s expectations, experts warn of a “death spiral,” where premiums increase for all receiving coverage under Obamacare.