Buzzfeed is reporting that the internet startup that was chosen by the Obama White House to sell Obamacare enrollment to young people may have offered free health care as a prize for the best idea to help them make the sale. One of the top officials at the startup called PolicyMic, told two Buzzfeed employees on September 20 that PolicyMic’s reward for the best idea submitted in a contest.
On Wednesday, the White House announced that PolicyMic would be responsible for selling Obamacare to the young. On the same day, PolicyMic Executive Social Editor Elizabeth Plank, who reportedly was the official who confessed the plan in September, confirmed that the plan had been considered, but it was later shelved because of the difficulties with HealthCare.gov.
Meanwhile, Chris Altchek, the cofounder of the startup, spoke on MSNBC and vigorously challenged Plank’s assertion, saying the idea of free health care as a prize had never been discussed, Plank never floated the idea in September, and Plank had not even been a part of the planning for the contest.
The White House immediately concurred with Altchek and stated it had never even heard of such a proposition, and the very idea that the White House would countenance such a suggestion was “dead wrong.” Altchek made sure the White House was covered, saying, “development of the contest was entirely internal to PolicyMic.”
Plank agreed that she had never mentioned the idea in September, but a text dialogue between her and a BuzzFeed reporter last week belied that notion; on Wednesday BuzzFeed’s Benny Johnson texted her, “Is the prize for the winner still healthcare [sic]?” Plank responded, “It’s different now, because of website problem. So now ppl [sic] with the most upvoted proposals get a response from the white house [sic].”
Johnson continued, “So the plan was to subsidize the winners [sic] ACA plan but now the winner gets a personalized message from the WH?” Plank replied, “Oui!”
Altchek begged to differ, saying, “Liz did not play any role in developing the ACA contest,” and added that free health care was never part of any reward. He said:
In September, PolicyMic started brainstorming how we might construct a contest that would engage as many millennials as possible in learning more about health care reform. One of the options we considered was providing a grant to the winning participants to implement their outreach plan that would subsidize their efforts. There has never been any discussion at PolicyMic internally or externally about any other option other than that format or the current one … The contest changed very little from the initial plan. Our initial vision ran into scheduling challenges when the government shutdown occurred and our contest had to be delayed. Given the winter holiday, we shortened the timeline and focused on promoting a meaningful dialogue with the opportunity to receive a direct response from the White House.
What is currently proposed by PolicyMic reads as follows: “Share an idea, project, or proposal for what our generation and the White House can do to make health care work for young people and get them educated about the ACA.” The top “three most mic’d submissions will receive responses from the White House.”