$70 million blitz to promote health overhaul in Illinois

Associated Press
Updated 7/24/2013 5:02 PM

More than $70 million in public money will be spent in Illinois to promote new opportunities for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. That places the state at the forefront of a campaign the Obama administration and many states are launching this summer to get the word out before enrollment for new benefits begins in October.

Here are five things to know about the money to be spent in Illinois:

1. FEDERAL MONEY. The money, which works out to about $5 per Illinois resident, comes from federal grants. Half will feed into a huge advertising and marketing campaign to be orchestrated by St. Louis-based FleishmanHillard, once the contract is final later this week. The other half goes to community groups and health centers throughout the state.

2. JOBS CREATED. Community groups with grants soon will start hiring and training people for "in-person counselor" jobs. These counselors will help consumers apply for coverage starting Oct. 1, when a new, Web-based health insurance marketplace opens for business. In addition, 42 Illinois health centers with grants expect to hire 132 additional workers to assist with enrollment.

3. COMPANIES INVOLVED. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and Walgreens announced this month they're teaming up to educate Illinois residents about the health law through a website and brochures at Walgreens stores. These efforts are in addition to the government-funded marketing campaign.

4. MESSAGES ABOUT TRUST. Creating an appealing brand identity for the Illinois health insurance marketplace will be a top job for FleishmanHillard. The state told agencies competing for the contract it wants to brand the marketplace as something consumers "can trust, rely on, and want to be a part of."

5. TRACKING WHAT WORKS. The Illinois effort will collect email addresses and phone numbers of the uninsured when they seek help or information and then track whether they take action to enroll for health insurance. FleishmanHillard is prepared to build a customer database so the state can track whether people are clicking and then leaving the state's Web-based marketplace, or staying with the site long enough to enroll.

For a list of Illinois health center grantees, visit www.hrsa.gov/about/news/2013tables/outreachandenrollment/il.html. For a list of Illinois in-person counselor grantees, visit http://1.usa.gov/14n289e.

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