CHICAGO (AP) — Most Illinoisans without health insurance coverage know very little about the federal health care overhaul and how it might help them. It’s Brian Gorman’s challenge to make sure they learn.
Gorman, 38, a former campaign organizer for President Barack Obama, has been hired by Gov. Pat Quinn to increase the number of Illinois residents with insurance by telling them about features of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Within months, Gorman plans to roll out a campaign featuring TV ads, radio spots, tweets and billboards — possibly featuring sports teams — to promote a so-called “culture of coverage” and urge people without insurance to sign up.
Gorman, as director of outreach and education for the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace, will be paid $71,500 this year to spread the word. He’ll oversee professional marketers and grassroots groups and spend up to $115 million in federal money — awarded Monday — with the goal of covering more than 1 million uninsured residents.
Below are edited excerpts of what Gorman told The Associated Press about the plan:
Q. Do Illinois residents know about the insurance exchange, the online site where they’ll be able to shop for coverage starting Oct. 1?
A. When we conduct Illinois-specific research, we suspect the data will reflect what we’re seeing nationwide. We’re anticipating 4 out of 5 of our likely customers, the people we need to engage, don’t know we’re doing the work we’re doing.
Q. That’s pretty daunting, correct?
A. It’s a challenge. But we’re also really excited about the opportunity we have over the next five months to get the word out, to let people know what the marketplace is and how it will make their lives better by providing access to quality, affordable health care, which has been elusive to so many people in Illinois.
Q. Will this campaign have more in common with a political campaign, or with an ad campaign for a product like soap?
A. I like to think that it’s a bit more important than a campaign for soap. It’s not unfair to analogize it to a political campaign. We need to raise awareness and inform likely customers of our product, what it means and what it can do, how it affects their loved ones, their family members, their pocketbooks. We have to aggressively raise awareness and you have to get those folks to take action. All that awareness is pointless unless we’re actually able to get people to enroll (in a health plan).
Q. What’s your background?
A. I worked on the 2008 and 2012 Obama for America campaigns. Between the period from 2009 and 2011, I worked as an organizer for Organizing for America, advocating for the president’s legislative agenda. The major legislative accomplishment of his first term was the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But I also organized around other issues of importance to the president, like the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and support for Supreme Court Justice (Sonia) Sotomayor.
Q. How are other states branding their health insurance exchanges?
A. California is known as “Covered California.” It’s the “Connector” in Massachusetts. We want something people will recognize that’s a little less wordy than “Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace.” (It will be up to the marketing firm that wins the Illinois bid to design a logo and come up with a name.)
Q. Who else will be involved in reaching people without insurance?
A. Nonprofits, community-based organizations, government agencies, volunteer groups, labor unions. We want to inform and empower everybody to play a part in this.
Q. What’s the budget for this campaign?
A. We were awarded from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services $115 million. We have the resources we need to create something unique and strong and trusted in Illinois.