Gov. Pat Quinn's administration has renewed its contract with the public relations firm that handled promotion of Get Covered Illinois in the first year of greatly expanded health insurance coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law.
The $25.6 million contract with St. Louis-based FleishmanHillard includes tighter controls over who gets paid at the highest rate of $282 per hour. The first-year contract drew criticism for its hourly rates, which far exceeded contracts other states signed for similar work, when first reported in June by The Associated Press.
"We negotiated very aggressively on this point as to who can bill at what rate" in the renewed contract, said Jose Munoz, the state's chief marketing officer for the Get Covered Illinois campaign. The new contract was obtained Friday by the AP as a result of a public records request.
Munoz said he and other state officials clamped down last year on the spending and, when the billing is final, they will bring the work in $3 million under the projected $33 million. "We wanted to put in writing what we ended up putting into practice" last year, Munoz said.
The money comes from federal grants under the Affordable Care Act, but the work is supervised by the state of Illinois.
Nearly $8.3 million of the new contract will be for hourly fees. Sixteen individuals can bill at $282 per hour, compared to 68 people last year in documents reviewed by the AP.
Under the new contract, five individuals are authorized to bill at $270 per hour. That compares to 24 people billing at $270 per hour last year. Most other positions will bill at $160 per hour.
A projected $12.5 million will be for buying advertising. And a projected $4.7 million will be for other direct costs, including printing of field materials, research and Spanish translation.
The new contract expires April 30, making it a nine-month contract, rather than the original 12-month span of the first agreement. Compared to last year, this will be a shorter enrollment period for people buying health insurance marketplace coverage, beginning Nov. 15 and ending Feb. 15, 2015. Last year's enrollment period lasted six months, October through March.
The Illinois campaign could spend on average $2.84 million each month under the new contract, compared to $2.75 million per month under last year's contract.
"It's a shorter time period and a very tough time period," Munoz said. Advertising to promote health insurance coverage will compete in October with the last of the political ads for November's statewide elections, and then with holiday shopping.
More than 622,000 Illinois residents have signed up for coverage, either buying a health plan on the marketplace or qualifying for coverage under an expansion of Medicaid. But the new campaign will "double down" on efforts to reach Latinos, blacks and young adults, Munoz said. Nationally and in Illinois, enrollment of Latinos was lower than expected.
Illinois could have sought bids for a new contractor, but decided to keep FleishmanHillard and a team of subcontractors because it was satisfied with the agency's performance. Illinois didn't want to start from scratch with a new agency, Munoz said.
"Had we gone out and tried to rebid this, we would have lost a lot of the learning of the first year," Munoz said.
FleishmanHillard released a statement.
"We are committed to working with the state of Illinois to enroll as many uninsured residents as possible in quality health coverage," the statement said. "Building on the team's experience and successes from year one, we will extend the reach of our statewide, multicultural public education campaign. We value the opportunity to further establish Illinois' culture of coverage to benefit all its residents."