Calif. Spent $1.37 Million on Richard Simmons Obamacare Video

Friday, 31 Jan 2014 10:33 AM

By Courtney Coren

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A California legislator is outraged that the state spent $1.37 million on an outreach video that includes Richard Simmons gyrating on the floor as part of a campaign for Obamacare in the midst of a $78 million budget shortfall.

Republican state Sen. Ted Gaines, a candidate for insurance commissioner, sent a letter to Covered California Director Peter Lee on Jan. 18, asking why he put taxpayer dollars into "an ineffective and embarrassing" advertising campaign, Watchdog.org reported.

"On first review, this long advertisement seems a wasteful, unserious, and insulting effort, especially when viewed against the backdrop of at least a million Californians having their health coverage ... [canceled] as a result of Covered California's actions," Gaines wrote.

Story continues below video.




The Simmons segment was part of a "Tell a Friend — Get Covered" campaign that featured an eight-hour live web stream that aired Jan. 16 on YouTube. It included other celebrities such as Olivia Wilde, comic Billy Eichner, Fran Drescher, and Tatyana Ali.

Lee responded, saying he thought the campaign was a success and that it took advantage of free social media in an effort to target the younger, coveted demographic needed to make Obamacare financially solvent.

"Covered California's programs such as Tell A Friend — Get Covered feature content that resonates among millennials and that can be spread by millennials to their friends and loved ones," Lee said.

Gaines asked that Lee provide a breakdown of how much it cost in both state and federal dollars to produce the program. The California Republican also wants to know if any effort was made to judge its success by changes in the enrollment rate.

If Gaines doesn't get a response, he may issue a formal request through California's Senate Standing Committee on Insurance, of which he is vice chairman.

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