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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

‘We don’t need no education...’

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It never ceases to amaze me how little the average American knows about the health care reform law that kicks into its next gear in just a few short weeks — with the open enrollment in the exchanges.

(Hell, I guess it never ceases to amaze me how little the average American knows about health care, period. Which is probably what startles me about the rise of consumer-driven health products. Putting consumers in charge of their own health care spending is a lot like putting my 13-year-old son in charge of his homework. If it gets done at all, the finished product is a crumpled mess. A little bit of discipline — along with a lot of education — goes a long way.)

Anyway, the latest poll — from the experts at Gallup, no less — reveals 43 percent of uninsured Americans remain oblivious to the mandate (and the subsequent penalty) that kicks in with the new year. That’s nearly half the people the law is actually supposed to be helping. I bet more people can tell you who’s on Big Brother this summer.

(Speaking of which, maybe the suits at the E! should have an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians where they talk about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I don’t know, maybe Bruce Jenner could wonder aloud if Obamacare would cover his latest round of plastic surgery or something. Come to think of it, Kanye’s probably mentioned it in on his latest album.)

See also: On the Third Hand: PPACA English

OK, so maybe that’s not the best example. Which is probably why the administration is dropping something like $684 million a year to educate consumers and reach out to all of those uninsureds wandering around without a clue.

That might sound like a lot, but it’s worth noting that industry estimates peg McDonald’s annual ad budget, for example, at more than $1 billion, with more than $71 million on just outdoor advertising, according to the latest numbers from Advertising Age. Wal-Mart, another company targeting a similar demographic as many of those uninsured consumers, spends nearly $1.9 billion a year. 

Keep in mind, these would be mostly lower-income individuals (and families), so I would probably steer away from a lot of Web advertising. And I would definitely rule out a PBS documentary. Maybe a spot in next year’s Super Bowl? Doubt that would work. Nevermind the hell the administration would catch for such lavish spending, it would be a little late, at least a month after the mandate kicks in. (But I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Sunday spots as the NFL season ramps up this fall.)

Either way, the administration has its work cut out for it, because given all the free press the law’s received since its passage (both good and bad), it’s hard to fathom what more they could do to educate a public that hasn’t heard of the mandate by now. (Maybe some of those billboard McDonald’s is so found of? Just outside the caves these people have been hiding in.)

There is an upside, though. For those of you in the individual market, there are apparently throngs of people out there who need to get insurance soon. Wouldn’t you rather them hear about it from you?


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