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California unveils ads to raise awareness of national health law

August 29, 2013|By Anna Gorman and Chad Terhune

California unveiled its new ad campaign for the national health law Thursday, saying the spots will help raise awareness about new coverage options and show uninsured residents that they can get peace of mind by enrolling.

The ads, which will be tested next week, emphasize that Californians can get financial assistance to buy health insurance and that they can’t be turned down based on preexisting conditions.

One of the ads shows people driving along the roads of California with signs that read: “Welcome to getting care” and “Welcome to feeling at ease.” A Spanish-language ad shows smiling faces inviting people into their homes, repair shops and cafes as they say, “Bienvenidos.”

Two more ads -- in both languages -- play on the fear of those without insurance, showing scenes of car crashes, bike accidents, sports injuries and crowded emergency rooms.

The video clips are part of an $80-million media campaign by Covered California, the state-based health insurance marketplace. Covered California is also planning to spread the word through radio, social media and on-the-ground outreach efforts, said executive director Peter Lee.

People can begin enrolling in new coverage in October, and the insurance will take effect in January.

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, said that unlike ads in New York or Oregon, the California campaign provides useful information for people looking for new coverage options. “It is about people identifying their own stories of both the fear of being one emergency away from financial ruin and the relative ease of getting new financial security through coverage,” he said.

Xavier Morales, executive director of Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, said the ads might not get Latinos or others to enroll but will remind them that health coverage changes are coming and may prompt them to ask for more information.

The state is getting help promoting the law, including from The California Endowment, which is spending $25 million on a media campaign aimed at Latinos and has committed $200 million more to grass-roots outreach. Not all of Californians eligible for coverage trust the government, so it’s important to have information from other organizations, said Daniel Zingale, senior vice president at the organization. “To get to the millions we have to enroll is going to take boots on the ground,” he said.

As they roll out their media campaigns, states face an enormous task: overcoming a lack of knowledge about the health law. In California, there is the added problem of a diverse population -- geographically, ethnically and linguistically.

“It is an incredible communication challenge,” said Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “Bakersfield and Santa Monica and San Francisco and Arcata are varied. There are different messages that might work better in different parts of the state.”

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Twitter: @annagorman, @chadterhune

anna.gorman@latimes.com; chad.terhune@latimes.com

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