Richard Simmons’ massive, eight-hour, $1.37 million Obamacare ad spurred a California state senator to request a full audit of the state exchange.
The YouTube ad, featuring a gyrating Simmons and chock full of Hollywood celebrities, was an attempt to get Californians to enroll in Obamacare coverage.
But the prohibitive expense is raising questions given the fiscal predicament Covered California has already gotten into.
California will have to pick up much more of the Obamacare tab next year once federal grants to start up the program run out — and it’s already got a $78 million deficit.
Republican state Sen. Ted Gaines, horrified by Obamacare ditties chanted by a sequin-clad Simmons, now wants to know what else Covered California is spending taxpayer money on.
“When I saw the Richard Simmons video I was outraged that $1.37 million dollars of taxpayer money was spent on something that I think did nothing in terms of driving people to Covered California’s website to get insurance,” Gaines told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Millions are being spent on marketing initiatives, Gaines said, and “we want to know what the rate of return is.” Covered California has fallen far behind in getting coverage to the state’s large Latino population, Gaines said, and the under-34 age group is also underrepresented.
An audit would let Californians know exactly how their tax dollars are being spent and whether Obamacare is helping the people who actually need health coverage.
The widely-panned infomercial, Gaines fears, could be “evidence that the Exchange shows little regard for the precarious fiscal condition it faces,” he wrote to the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee in a formal request for an audit.
“This $1.3 million is probably only a fraction of the total marketing and public relations budget for Covered California,” Gaines wrote. “I would be interested in understanding the total budget in these areas and what, exactly, the exchanges hopes to achieve through these efforts.”
Before a full audit can be administered, the Bureau of State Audits will have to calculate the cost and Covered California director Peter Lee will be allotted time to issue a response. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 11, Watchdog.org reports.
“No one’s ever explained to me, or the constituents in California, really how this is going to work fiscally,” Gaines told TheDCNF. “Are we really going to save money? Or are we just going down the road of big government making your health decisions for you?”
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