A local CBS affiliate in Raleigh opened its phone lines for seven hours Tuesday to promote Obamacare.
With the deadline for enrollment fast approaching, Raleigh’s WRAL brought in 27 Obamacare “experts” — including navigators, certified application counselors, and marketplace-savvy insurance agents – to answer callers’ questions from noon until seven in the evening. WRAL’s news broadcast also cut into its normal coverage to advertise the experts and the number to reach them.
“For 1.3 million North Carolinians who are currently uninsured now is the time to think about getting coverage,” Renee Chou, a WRAL reporter explained, while standing in front of people answering phones. “More than 160,000 people in our state have already enrolled in the marketplace as of January. Ninety percent — get this — 90 percent qualified for subsidized premiums and only the right plans sold on the marketplace offer lower premiums based on household size and income.”
“See if you can qualify for a subsidy by calling 919-744-3861 or 1-800-424-WRAL,” she said.
The station even offered bilingual experts for Spanish-speakers.
In addition to the phone bank, WRAL has been offering an entire resource center for the ACA, including tutorials about the benefits of Obamacare coverage and an online questions and answer session with an Obamacare marketplace agent named Tony Gutierrez.
According to Chou, this was the third Obamacare phone bank the station had hosted.
And while the coverage of the phone bank looked a lot like an advertisement for Obamacare, WRAL News director Rick Gall told to The Daily Caller that the intent was not to promote the program. Instead, Gall insisted, the station sought only to provide area residents information they need about the new law, especially given the penalty people who do not have health insurance will face.
“WRAL is committed to providing accurate, fair, and complete coverage of the Affordable Care Act,” Gall explained. “We are not promoting the Affordable Care Act, and I can assure you that we have not taken sides on the law, political or otherwise. We’re working hard to cover the latest developments, shine a light on issues, and provide critical information that will enable people to make educated choices. There are many people who didn’t have access to health insurance who now do.”
He pointed to the more than 2,000 calls the phone bank received Tuesday and the level of interest during the previous phone banks as proof the station was just offering a needed “community service.”
Gall also said that WRAL plans to provide a phone bank for people to call attorneys and another to call tax professionals as the tax filing deadline approaches.