Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Legislators reduce Obamacare ad spending; object to spending in Ark. Times and Ark. Business

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 5:25 PM

click to enlarge DISAPPROVES Sen. Jonathan Dismang sends a message to media on ad content.
  • DISAPPROVES Sen. Jonathan Dismang sends a message to media on ad content.
Benji Hardy at the Legislative Digest reports today on the Review Subcommittee of the Legislative Council, which effectively stripped $600,000 from a planned $4.5 million federally funded campaign by the state Insurance Department to encourage enrollment in the "private option" version of Medicaid expansion and Obamacare approved by the Arkansas Legislature.

It's another one of those occasions where the legislature has imposed its will on an executive agency, a veto that an agency dare not defy lest worse things happen.

Advertising in smaller TV markets will be reduced from 16 to 9 weeks and digital and social media campaigns will be scaled back.

At the urging of leadership, the department said (Sen. Jonathan Dismang led this push), all future advertising (at least of a certain sort) was stripped from the Arkansas Times and Arkansas Business.I seem to recall the amounts budgeted previously were around $13,000 each. UPDATE: Dismang, in a series of written and phone discussions, persuades me this was an incorrect way to phrase this. His objective is to prevent repeats of the ads run previously in the Times and Arkansas Business — explanatory inserts on the health program — regardless of where those ads might be placed.

[Deputy Commissioner Cynthia] Crone also said that “at the urging of leadership”, advertising inserts would no longer be placed in publications like the Arkansas Times or Arkansas Business. Some members, added Bradford, had said those ads were insufficiently focused on enrollment and were instead “too political” in their implicit expression of approval for the ACA.

Dismang thanked Crone and Bradford for “considering our concerns” about the budget and praised the $600K reduction, which he said would accomplish the goals of enrollment while also saving money.

 Sen. Joyce Elliott (D – Little Rock) was less pleased. “Unless I fell asleep somewhere,” she said, “this wasn’t going to happen when we left off talking at the end of the last meeting [in August].” She asked why she’d not been informed about the cuts and asked the commissioners, “who else was a part of this discussion? The Chairs of the committee?”

Rep. John Burris, father of Obamacare in Arkansas, also objected to the advertising that had appeared in the Times and Arkansas Business.

Burris said that he had not been part of the “leadership” discussions with the Insurance Department, but he also praised the cost reduction. He especially emphasized the need to limit outreach efforts to “enrollment only” and again brought up the ads that appeared in Arkansas Business and the Arkansas Times, saying they were “feel good, change-your-mind stuff.”

I don't know about ads planned for the future and don't know the content, but might it be possible that feeling good about the "private option" might encourage people to enroll, rather than fear it?

Just a thought.

I fear this is all pretext. Mike Huckabee did everything he could to punish critical voices such as the Arkansas Times. The new Republican majority is, if anything, capable of more vindictiveness. They don't appreciate free speech, except of the cheering kind. We think we are a good vehicle for advertising and deliver a lot of desirable readers and demonstrated response. That's the important test for any business to make in buying advertising. Buyers are free to disagree with what our sales people claim. But .... If a client prefers a different message in advertising, it IS possible to change it rather than cancel the ad. Do Burris and Dismang mean to send a signal that political opponents won't get state business? They insist not. Bigger men than they have used that tactic against Alan Leveritt and he's been publishing for 40 years, before they were born.

UPDATE THURSDAY: As I mentioned later last night, Dismang objected to the general tenor of the original post here. He contended the meeting has been misreported. He contends objections were to past, not future, expenditures and then as to content, not where money was spent. He objected  to advertising inserts that were explanatory in nature about the health coverage plan, but which he viewed as "propaganda." Given the fact that the meeting Wednesday, an earlier meeting of the same committee and abundant commentary by Republican figures all targeted the tiny (less than a quarter of 1 percent of the budget) expenditure in this publication, I remain justified in some defensiveness. Dismang insists I'm mistaken, but that I probably didn't help my cause with the outburst. Time will tell, as it does in all things. I did recast the headline and made several editing changes here to reflect his point of view and regret getting overheated. That's non-productive. Dismang will talk about issues and, for that alone, deserves more consideration.

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