‘There Is No Bad News!’: Check Out These Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange Ads

ACHI proposed Obamacare magazine ad
Proposed health care reform magazine ad developed by Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (click for larger)

At last week’s Arkansas Health Care Benefits Exchange Summit in Little Rock, event organizers mentioned some ad products that had been prepared to promote the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare launch in the state. Some of the ad materials were presented at the summit meeting, but have not been available to the public.


I requested copies of the materials that had been developed under the $1 million planning grant the state had received from the federal government to plan the state health insurance exchange. The Arkansas Insurance Department (AID) kindly provided said materials, as seen here.

The ads had originally been planned to run this month, but AID spokeslady Alice Jones says these efforts are on hold, since Gov. Mike Beebe elected not to pursue the next stage federal grant for establishing the exchange. All the products were developed under the banner of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.

At the top of the post is a magazine ad targeted at small businesses, aimed at selling them on the benefits of Obamacare in general and the state health insurance exchange specifically (you can click the image for a version that is larger but still kind of hard to read). AID also provided a direct mail piece that reflects the same design theme and message as the magazine ad.

Meanwhile, click on the audio player below to hear a 60-second radio spot pitching the “good news for business owners” message:


“The bad news? There is no bad news!” the overcaffeinated announcer tells us. Well, OK, then!

That means we can ignore these studies from, say, Wisconsin and Ohio showing that the the health care reform law will only lead to higher health insurance premiums. Or the McKinsey survey from this summer suggesting that many more employers will drop health insurance when Obamacare kicks in than had been previously expected. Fear not! There is no bad news! 

(Incidentally, in response to an Arkansas Project reader inquiry, the Health Care Benefits Summit cost $10,023.64, according to AID. This, too, was paid for with funds from the federal planning grant, and the event was required under the terms of the grant. The cost was offset somewhat by 111 attendees who paid $25 each to attend, Ms. Jones informs me.)

It’s all in keeping with the point that, despite what you may have been told or led to believe, the state health insurance exchange is alive and well and completely and totally a thing and is being set up right now, regardless of what they claim. That’s the bad news. The good news? There is no good news! Have a good weekend!

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10 thoughts on “‘There Is No Bad News!’: Check Out These Arkansas Health Insurance Exchange Ads

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  • October 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Lest you forget, the “Obamacare” “launch” went into effect late last year. Oh yes, we should do all we can to keep businesses with under 25 employees in the shadows about the benefits available to them under the law. We wouldn’t want to speak out of one side of our mouths by saying we are protecting small businesses and then stifle current and accurate information about how insurance can be made more affordable to them. Ahh, but that’s status quo for your populist–read, sans well-informed–perspective.

    If you actually pay attention to the wording of the ad, the message is that there will be an exchange, which although unlikely to be state-based now, will be available to employers in 2014. And you don’t have to spout off about the ongoing litigation. You and everyone else who is halfway cognizant of the fundamentals of law know that the exchange won’t be the issue before the Supreme Court. In fact, it’s more than likely that the Court won’t even reach the merits of the case; it is likely to be thrown out on jurisdictional grounds. (I’ll add that imaginary attorneys such as Rep. Burris should refrain from making jesters of themselves in speaking about how dicta from a lowly district court judge will inform how the Court proceeds. It’s laughable and contrary to over two centuries of Court precedent.)

    You are very much on point that we should pay attention to various studies about the effects of the law, both in terms of costs and employer decision-making. However, you should always look to the methodologies of those studies for their veracity. Further, you shouldn’t ignore the number of other, more detailed studies (specifically, the McKinsey study was merely a survey and, even at the admission of McKinsey, was probably less accurate than studies using micro-simulation models).

    So, the good news, well the good news is that you are clinging to dogma. The bad news…your tunnel-visioned dogma ignores the detail that could actually help the constituency that you claim to be protecting.

    • October 23, 2011 at 6:42 am

      Thanks for the note.

      My principal objection to the ads is the patronizing and misleading happy talk — “There is no bad news!”, and the notion that “Things can be just like they are right now.” That may have been what the Obamacare boosters were hoping for, but I’m convinced that’s an impossibility.

      It’s unavoidable that there will be huge changes and ramifications, many of them unintended and unwelcome, from this massive attempt to overhaul the health care sector. You call the ads “accurate information,” but you’re being charitable. It comes off more like propaganda to prop up what is going to gradually be revealed as a poorly designed and explosively expensive reform project.

      (I don’t know what you’re referring to in your comment about me “spouting off about the ongoing litigation.” This post makes no reference to the litigation.)

      Is it “clinging to dogma” to have an abiding mistrust of the Obamacare project? You might be right. But your apparent trust that this shoddily designed law is going to “help” people and that the skeptics will be proven wrong is equally dogmatic. And probably founded on shakier ground.

    • October 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Ethan, I think you have missed some important points.

      1. It is highly objectionable for ads about Obamacare, funded by public money, to send a message to employers that “Things can be just like they are right now!” The reason it is objectionable is that it is Obamacare that is pushing premium prices higher.

      2. You have misconstrued what Rep. John Burris said, which was in response to Joel Ario’s announcement that, as a matter of practical litigation politics, it wouldn’t damage a state’s constitutional argument against Obamacare if it simultaneously accepted Obamacare subsidies. Burris responded that Judge Vinson expressly disagreed with that very point in his opinion. Ethan, I admit it is possible that maybe you know more than a federal judge about the way the federal judiciary works! But maybe not — and I think that your inability to represent John Burris’s point correctly here (a point which has nothing to do with “two centuries of Court precedent”) suggests that the jester here is you.

  • October 23, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Regardless of whether or not it’s good news, I can’t fault them too much for putting out an ad dealing with something that is, barring any upcoming ruling, inevitable. As far as whether the message of it is “propaganda”, well, probably about as much propaganda as a Budweiser ad. They certainly weren’t going to put one out with a guy leaping for joy that says “Uncertainty, but maybe higher premiums!”

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