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Health Insurance Ads Range From Weighty To Whimsical
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Health Insurance Ads Range From Weighty To Whimsical



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

In states that have opted to run their own health insurance marketplaces, the Affordable Care Act is developing something of a personality. Whether through humor, catchy jingles or as straight talk, each effort has the same goal: to persuade uninsured Americans to buy health insurance as required by the federal health law. California has rolled out the first ads in its campaign. And as Stephanie O'Neill from member station KPCC reports, it's taking a no-nonsense approach.

STEPHANIE O'NEILL, BYLINE: California's $80 million ad campaign is targeting about 5 million uninsured residents who qualify to buy health insurance on the state-run marketplace called Covered California.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Soon, Californians from Sacramento to Salinas to San Diego will have equal access to quality health insurance.

O'NEILL: Phase one began airing on Labor Day in three test markets and includes this spot that takes viewers on a sort of road trip through California with highway signs welcoming them to what the narrator describes as a new state of health.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Those who need financial assistance will get it, and nobody will be denied because of a preexisting condition. Welcome to a new state of health. Welcome to Covered California. We are your health insurance marketplace.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #1: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

O'NEILL: A second welcome ad is in Spanish and shows smiling people welcoming viewers into their homes and businesses.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

O'NEILL: Subsequent ads will focus on real Californians with real stories about illnesses and accidents and the financial toll they can wreak on the unprepared. It's a straight talking strategy that Daniel Zingale with The California Endowment, a private grant-giving organization, says makes sense in a state as large and as diverse as California.

DANIEL ZINGALE: When you actually get down to the facts about what's in the law and, specifically, what benefits you and your family, that's when you get people's attention.

O'NEILL: But while just the facts may be just the ticket for California, some other states are betting on less conventional approaches.


LAURA GIBSON: (Singing) Long live the Oregon spirit. Long live the Oregon way.

O'NEILL: Oregon, for instance, launched its $4 million media campaign in early July with introductory ads showcasing local musicians such as Portland folksinger Laura Gibson, who croon not about health insurance but rather about the virtues of healthy living in Oregon.


GIBSON: (Singing) Each logger and lawyer and stay-at-home dad, every baker and banker and indie rock band, each student and teacher and neighbor and friend will live long in Oregon. Long live...

O'NEILL: In Minnesota, the state's nearly $9 million ad campaign relies on humor by showing folk legend Paul Bunyan and his sidekick Babe the Blue Ox in a series of painful mishaps that feature everything from woodpeckers attacking poor Paul to the lumberjack injuring himself in a waterskiing accident.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Whoa. Oh. Oh, oh.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Minnesota, land of 10,000 reasons to get health insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Babe, little help?

O'NEILL: And in Maryland, a $2.5 million ad campaign is extolling the virtues of health insurance with images of blue crabs, a hunky fisherman, a slew of smiling people and this catchy jingle.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #2: It's a new day. There's a brand-new way. Get the health coverage you need...

O'NEILL: But no matter how clever or creative these ads may be, their success ultimately will be measured by how many of the young and healthy residents they enroll in health insurance when they open for business on October 1st. For NPR News, I'm Stephanie O'Neill.

CORNISH: This piece is part of a collaboration with NPR KPCC and Kaiser Health News.

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