Ted Gaines Condemns Covered California Infomercial Folly and Demands Transparency

Sacramento, CA…Senator Ted Gaines, candidate for California Insurance Commissioner, today issued a letter to Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, criticizing the recent “Tell a Friend, Get Covered” infomercial fiasco and calling on Mr. Lee to open the health exchange’s books on all advertising and outreach spending.

A copy of the letter can be found here and the text of the letter below.

Peter Lee
Executive Director
Covered California
560 J St., Suite 290
Sacramento, CA 95814

January 18, 2014

Mr. Lee,

Recently I became aware of a Covered California marketing effort called “Tell a Friend, Get Covered,” and a roughly six-hour, taxpayer-funded infomercial that was at least a part of that campaign.

On first review, this long advertisement seems a wasteful, unserious and insulting effort, especially when viewed against the backdrop of at least a million Californians having their health coverage, coverage they liked and wished to keep, cancelled as a result of Covered California’s actions. Instead, more than a million of our friends, neighbors, and families are being herded towards Covered California’s vastly more expensive “Obamacare” plans. Millions more will be losing the health insurance plans they depend on in the coming year. It seems to add insult to injury to force them to pay to promote what has been so generally harmful to them.

In the interest of transparency and taxpayer protection, would you please provide the following information regarding the “Tell a Friend, Get Covered,” advertisement(s):

1. How much money did it cost to plan, execute and broadcast the entire six-hour production?
2. What was the breakdown between state and federal dollars used to pay for the advertisement?
3. What metrics is Covered California using to determine the value of the recent infomercial? For example, how many people were expected to sign up for an exchange plan as a result of this infomercial? In what time period? Were these goals met?
4. Was the infomercial targeted at any particular demographic?
5. What are Covered California methods for determining the effectiveness of all marketing efforts? Please release these methods and results immediately so citizens can be made aware of what Covered California considers a valuable use of taxpayer dollars.

I am worried this infomercial indicates that Covered California disregards the welfare of working Californians and ignores the fiscal challenges facing your agency. Covered California is expected to face a $78 million shortfall in fiscal year 2015/16. I question whether this is the time to pour tax dollars into what appears to be an ineffective and embarrassing quarter-day long marketing effort.

Besides the information requested above regarding the “Tell a Friend, Get Covered” campaign that spurred this letter, I am requesting that Covered California also release its entire plan for advertising and outreach, answering the same questions regarding state and federal funding breakdowns, performance metrics, and any other details and data that would add clarity and accountability to your efforts.

These answers will be a great benefit to taxpayers, and I am calling on you to address these concerns immediately.

I look forward to your timely response.


Senator Ted Gaines