* From July 12, 2013…
Fleishman-Hillard, a unit of New York-based Omnicom Group Inc., apparently beat out a dozen other bidders to market the online exchange where Illinois consumers and small businesses will shop for health insurance this fall.
The Illinois Department of Insurance filed a notice of intent today to award the $35 million federally funded contract to Fleishman-Hillard, according to a state procurement website.
* October 08, 2013…
The Quinn administration could have alleviated confusion by launching a simple education campaign at least six months ago to give consumers a heads up the exchange would be coming.
“This is a really complicated topic,” said Sue Fogel, chairwoman of the marketing department at DePaul University. “It does the program no good at all to be launched in the middle of chaos.”
But an extensive PR blitz didn’t begin until a few days before the Oct. 1 debut of the online marketplace, dubbed Get Covered Illinois. That same day, the exchange previewed its first television ad, saying that radio spots and online digital ads would come later.
* Fast-forward to Friday…
President Barack Obama’s home state agreed to spend $33 million in federal money promoting his health care law, hiring a high-priced public relations firm for work that initially was mocked and spending far more per enrollee on television ads than any other large state.
After getting a late start and facing intense pressure to avoid more embarrassment for the much-maligned law, Illinois officials last summer inked the most lavish contract in the history of FleishmanHillard’s Chicago office. The goal was getting uninsured residents to sign up for coverage.
More than 90 people, including executives from the firm and its subcontractors, billed at least $270 an hour for salary and overhead during the first 4 months.
The hourly amount far exceeded the contracts other states signed for similar work. Colorado paid its ad agency $120 per hour, for example. In Connecticut, a similar contract had rates topping out at $175 an hour.
A key subcontractor working on the campaign to promote President Barack Obama’s health care law in his home state is a Chicago political strategy consulting firm owned by three former aides to powerful Illinois Democrats. The three political strategists — Mike Noonan, Victor Reyes and Maze Jackson — are among the individuals whose billing rate of $282 an hour is raising questions about whether Illinois did enough to rein in taxpayer costs within a $33 million contract funded by a federal grant. The hourly rates were first reported this week by The Associated Press.
Their firm, Compass Public Affairs, could take assignments directly from Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration under a special provision of its subcontract. Compass was part of a team assembled by the main contractor, the Chicago office of public relations agency FleishmanHillard.
The contract was pretty small in comparison to the overall program, about $250,000. But that billing rate is quite high.