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Illinois unveils health marketplace ads

Published: Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 8:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 11:53 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois officials plan to launch a long-delayed, $33 million advertising campaign to inform residents about a new health insurance marketplace Tuesday, the ads first appearing on the same day the marketplace goes live with details of benefits available under President Barack Obama's health care law.

The Get Covered Illinois ad campaign will start slowly with full-color newspaper ads in 50 cities, said Kelly Sullivan, chief marketing and communication officer for the marketplace. She provided copies of the ads to The Associated Press.

Sullivan said radio and TV ads won't start until officials make sure the web-based marketplace and a call center are working smoothly and that enough trained workers are ready to help people sign up for insurance. Hundreds of outreach workers are awaiting required certification in Illinois because of a delay getting them through a federal training program.

The campaign, orchestrated by St. Louis-based FleishmanHillard, gets underway as a new survey shows six out of 10 Illinois adults don't know about the marketplace or that it will offer many people financial help paying the cost of insurance. The findings, released Monday by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, come from a random sample telephone survey of 470 Illinoisans conducted July 15 through Sept. 8.

About 1.8 million Illinois residents are uninsured, 15 percent of the population. The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have insurance coverage or pay fines. The marketplaces, one in every state, offer a way for consumers to comparison shop for insurance and to see if they qualify for tax credits to help pay the cost.

"We know the majority of adults in our state are unaware of the marketplace," Sullivan said. "The idea (of the print ads) is to get the name into the consciousness of Illinois residents."

Later this fall, the campaign will address three barriers to purchasing insurance: cost, confusion and complacency, Sullivan said.

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos said Monday in Chicago that she doesn't think people should sign up the first time they sit down and look at the marketplace website.

"This is complicated. There's a lot of choices, there's a lot to think about ... and that's OK," Hamos said during a speech to women lawyers. "There's no reason people should feel they have to rush in."

The initial print ads don't include a telephone hotline number, Sullivan said, because officials don't want to overload the call center on the first day. But the phone number has been announced to the news media. Illinoisans can call (866) 311-1119 toll-free to get information. Starting Tuesday, the help line will be available seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Twitter and Facebook will be part of the marketing campaign, Sullivan said, with marketplace updates and messages tweeted and posted at CoveredIllinois.

The print ads show photos of smiling people superimposed on an outline of the state. The tagline is "Welcome to a new state of health." The first ads aim only to introduce the idea and the name of the marketplace to an audience that is largely uninformed about it, Sullivan said.

Last spring, Illinois officials were saying they hoped the ad campaign would launch during the summer. In an April interview, Brian Gorman, director of outreach for the marketplace, said a summer launch would prepare state residents to embrace a so-called "culture of coverage."

States running their own marketplaces are further ahead on advertising and promotion than Illinois. Kentucky, the only Southern state running its own marketplace, kicked off an $11 million advertising campaign in June. Ads have been running on TV, on radio, on the Web and in newspapers in that state and many others.

The federal government is operating most of the Illinois marketplace because state lawmakers didn't approve a state-run effort in time for this year. That left Illinois subject to federal delays and slowed the launch of the ad campaign, Sullivan said.

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http://www.getcoveredillinois.gov

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AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson

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AP writer Sara Burnett contributed from Chicago.

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