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updated: 6/16/2014 5:20 PM

Lawmaker wants probe of $33 million health campaign

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Associated Press

A Republican state lawmaker has called for an investigation into how Illinois spent $33 million in federal money to promote President Barack Obama's health care law -- including hiring a high-priced public relations firm and paying far more per enrollee on television ads than any other large state.

The request on Monday from Naperville Rep. Darlene Senger, who is running for Congress, comes after The Associated Press reported last week that the state's "Get Covered Illinois" campaign was one of the nation's costliest efforts to get uninsured residents to sign up for coverage.

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Illinois spent $37 per enrollee on television ads, nearly double and quadruple rates in California and New York, respectively. State officials also paid consultants from Chicago-based firm FleishmanHillard far more than other states under a contract with few built-in restraints. Three former aides to the state's most-powerful Democrats are among consultants who billed at a rate of $282 an hour and could take assignments directly from Gov. Pat Quinn's office.

Senger called the Quinn oversight of the campaign "troubling and reckless" in a written statement. She has requested an investigation by Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson.

But a Quinn administration spokesman argues that the bidding process was transparent and FleishmanHillard won the contract because it had the lowest price.

"By any measure, "Get Covered Illinois" carried out a highly successful and cost-effective enrollment campaign for the first year of the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace," spokesman Mike Claffey wrote in an email.

More than 217,000 new enrollees signed up, exceeding a federal target but lagging far behind the state's own goal of 337,000, according to an internal document obtained by the AP.

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