By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — In Illinois, painted skulls and merry skeletons will be the new imagery of the zombie-like Obamacare website.
Illinois is promoting Obamacare with a massive, statewide outreach program that will include tying the president’s signature policy piece to the Day of the Dead.
“When you talk about honoring the dead, it is also a celebration of life,” Tomas Ramirez, an outreach counselor at the Pilsen Wellness Center, told Illinois Watchdog. “How does (the Day of the Dead) connect to the Affordable Care Act? By having an opportunity for health care, you have an opportunity to live.”
Pilsen Wellness Center will market the ACA, or Obamacare, at this weekend’s Day of the Dead celebrations in Chicago’s mainly Hispanic neighborhoods.
“It’s not Halloween. It’s not dressing up. It’s not monsters. It’s not witches. It’s not ghosts. (The Day of the Dead) is acknowledging ancestors, acknowledging life and acknowledging community,” Ramirez said.
The Day of the Dead outreach is the most colorful of the 160 events planned by Illinois’ outreach and enrollment counselors.
The groups were handed $27 million to help educate people about the new national health care push.
But the weekend push is also being trumpeted by the marketing team that Illinois is paying $35 million in federal money to highlight Obamacare.
“Network of partners will host an array of ‘Cover Your Community’ events — from door-to-door canvassing to community fairs and a parade — to educate residents,” a news release from the PR Firm Fleischman Hillard crowed.
Rosaura Arellano, a counselor for another Obamacare outreach partner, El Hogar Del Nino, said her group will also be in Chicago’s Hispanic neighborhoods this weekend. But Arellano said her volunteers will not be tying anything to the Day of the Dead.
“Personally, I don’t get it,” Arellano said of the plans to use weekend festivals to stump for Obamacare.
There is enough work to do, Arellano said, just getting people signed up for health insurance or Medicaid.
“We’ve reached out to about 300 people, and sat down with another 125,” Arellano said Tuesday. But Arellano has had trouble signing-up anyone, she said, because the Obamacare web site has been “so, so slow.”
Illinois’ Gov. Pat Quinn declared the state’s Obamacare effort a success earlier this month, announcing that 100,000 people have come through the ACA so far.
But every single one of those 100,000 was added to an early rollout of Medicaid. The state also said 14,000 more people have been enrolled in Medicaid through Illinois’ marketplace “Get Covered Illinois.” The state didn’t know how many people have signed up for private health insurance.
Contact Benjamin Yount at BYount@Watchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.
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