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TV ads touting Affordable Care Act start airing in Illinois

Illinois is launching these TV ads Friday which urge residents 'get covered' through new options for health  insurance courtesy

Illinois is launching these TV ads Friday, which urge residents to "get covered" through new options for health insurance, courtesy of president obama's health care law.

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Updated: January 16, 2014 6:45AM



The long-delayed TV advertising blitz that aims to get uninsured Illinoisans to enroll in insurance coverage under President Obama’s health care law has launched.

The ads, which began Friday and cost $1 million in federal money, will appear in eight major markets across the state. The goal is to help reach more Illinoisans who may still not be sure what, if anything, the Affordable Care Act has to offer them. The state has also been running radio and doing digital banner advertising since Nov. 18.

But the delay in the TV ads in Illinois is a stark difference to how some of the other states went about advertising new options for health insurance.

California, for instance, was already running radio and TV commercials when two key pieces of the ACA started in October: health insurance plans became available on the newly created online marketplaces and Medicaid expanded to broader groups in then 26 states, including Illinois.

California leads the nation in those who have applied for a marketplace insurance plan as of the end of November at 107,087. Another 181,817 in that state qualify for health insurance through Medicaid or children’s CHIP.

Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota and a handful of other states, too, didn’t waste time running radio and TV ads or being visible at events like state fairs to make sure the uninsured knew changes were coming.

Unlike the other states mentioned, Illinois does not run its own marketplace.. That means residents have to go on the trouble-plagued federally run HealthCare.gov to see insurance options.

Federal officials say they have eliminated most of the glitches that made it hard for many Americans to peruse the site. Illinois officials said they were waiting for the fixes before they encouraged residents to start shopping on the website.

“Now that the federal website has improved, we are shifting from educating consumers to the next phase of encouraging enrollment,” Jennifer Koehler, executive director of Get Covered Illinois, said.

Illinois has held education sessions since September, ranging from targeted events for artists and for church-going African-Americans, as well as larger events that in one case, successfully got 50 people to complete an application.

Joel Shalowitz, director of health industry management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, said delaying the ads until HealthCare.gov worked “was absolutely the right thing to do,” because going to a site that didn’t work well would give consumers a negative association with it.

Sanjay K. Dhar, a James H. Lorie Professor of Marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, agreed.

“The only thing that I’m not sure of … is whether [Illinois] can get it all done in time, given that there are some deadlines that go along with this,” Dhar said, referring to getting the word out. “It’s almost like saying, ‘You’ll be opening the stadium a little late, but the game will start at the same time.’ So will you get everyone seated and get everyone kind of settled down before the game starts?”

Koehler insists that Illinois consumers still have “plenty of time” to either sign up for Medicaid or shop for an insurance plan on the online marketplace.

Consumers must enroll by Dec. 31 and pay their first premium to an insurance company to have their coverage start the first of the year, though the six-month open enrollment for the online marketplace will last until March 31.

Email: mjthomas@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MonifaThomas1



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