Insurance exchange PR goes on despite gov't shutdown

Despite the federal government shutdown, federal agencies and PR firms are continuing to promote the just-opened insurance exchanges that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act.

WASHINGTON: Despite the federal government shutdown, federal agencies and PR firms are continuing to promote the just-opened insurance exchanges that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act.

“Getting people to enroll in the new healthcare exchanges will continue at full speed and full payment throughout the shutdown,” said Rob Rehg, president of Edelman's Washington DC office.

Edelman is subcontracting for Hispanic specialist firm Sensis Agency, which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hired to reach Hispanic audiences about provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

Pam Jenkins, president of Weber Shandwick's Washington office, confirmed that her firm is also going on with work to raise awareness for federally run insurance exchanges, which began enrolling consumers on October 1.

Over the past year, CMS has allocated at least $44 million to Weber for the work it is performing. The federal agency, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is running insurance marketplaces in 33 states that either decided not to create their own marketplaces or to collaborate with the federal government to develop hybrid ones. Nearly 65% of the US population resides in these states.

Gary Cohen, director of CMS' Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said in a statement that “many of the core parts of the healthcare law are funded through mandatory appropriations and wouldn't be affected.”

While work on these contracts is continuing, many PR accounts have been put on hold, according to Rehg and Jenkins.

In these instances, “we'll just experience a delay in work and compensation for the duration of the shutdown.”

He added that the work and fees that are put off “will pick up in full once we return to normal, so over the course of the year, we won't be losing any fee.”

Despite reports that the shutdown is resulting in layoffs and production halts at defense contractors and some manufacturing companies, all of the firms contacted by PRWeek said they are planning no similar actions. Employees working on frozen federal contracts are being assigned duties on other accounts, they added.

Meanwhile, hundreds of in-house public affairs officials at federal agencies have been furloughed without pay until Congress can agree on a budget.

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