With days to go before an important deadline, the state of Illinois is launching a long-delayed TV advertising blitz on Friday telling people to "enroll now" for insurance coverage under the nation's health care law.
The $1 million television ad buy in eight major markets across the state comes just 10 days before a Dec. 23 sign-up deadline for people who want their health coverage to start Jan. 1.
One 30-second ad shows people at work in factories, on farms and in kitchens. The voiceover says, "Now we can all be covered." The ads direct people to the Get Covered Illinois website, a gateway to the new insurance market where people can shop for subsidized private insurance.
Other ads focus on one of the law's key protections for people with health care needs, the requirement that insurers cover everyone regardless of their health.
A 15-second spot shows a man walking while a voice says, "Last year I felt like my name was `preexisting condition.' Now I'm just James. That's all I ever wanted." Another 15-second ad shows a pregnant woman thinking about her child while a voice says, "I know he'll have one thing I wasn't born with: Health insurance."
The TV ads had been postponed because of severe problems with a federal enrollment website. State officials waited until now to make sure the HealthCare.gov site was working, so consumers wouldn't be frustrated with error messages and frozen screens. The federal government is operating the Illinois marketplace because state lawmakers didn't approve a state-run effort in time for this year. That left Illinois subject to federal government's website problems.
With the federal website working better, Get Covered Illinois and more than 250 community agencies are scheduling several hundred events to promote coverage around the state before the Dec. 23 deadline. Consumers must enroll by that date and pay their first premium to an insurance company by Dec. 31 to have their coverage start on the first of the year.
"With the upgrades to the federal website that were recently put in place, the enrollment system is working much more smoothly. Now is the time to select a plan and get covered," said Jennifer Koehler, executive director of Get Covered Illinois, the state's marketplace, in a statement.
Federal tax credits will help make premiums more affordable for households earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line. That's $11,490 to $45,960 for an individual, $23,550 to $94,200 for a family of four.
Others will find they qualify for Medicaid, which has expanded to cover more people under the health care law.
Produced by Downtown Partners Chicago, the TV ads will run in Chicago, Springfield, Carbondale, Peoria, the Quad Cities, Quincy, Rockford, East St. Louis and other cities in those markets.
The blitz is part of a $33 million campaign orchestrated by St. Louis-based FleishmanHillard and funded through a federal grant. Radio and digital banner advertising began on Nov. 18.
About 1.8 million Illinois residents are uninsured, 14 percent of the population. The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have insurance coverage or pay fines.