The California Obamacare exchange spent $1.37 million in taxpayer money to produce a bizarre six-hour Internet live stream featuring aging exercise personality Richard Simmons cuddling a contortionist, CalWatchDog.com has revealed.
The taxpayer-funded expenditure is particularly alarming given that California’s Obamacare exchange, known officially as Covered California, is expected to hit a $78 million shortfall next fiscal year.
California Republican State Sen. Ted Gaines sent Peter Lee, California’s Obamacare exchange director, a blistering letter demanding answers about the Jan. 16th web stream.
“On first review, this long advertisement seems a wasteful, unserious and insulting effort, especially when viewed against the backdrop of at least a million Californians having their health coverage … (canceled),” wrote Gaines. “I question whether this is the time to pour tax dollars into what appears to be an ineffective and embarrassing quarter-day long marketing effort.”
Last year, California’s Obamacare exchange spent $74.2 million in taxpayer money on public relations in hopes of herding more Californians into the government health exchanges. Covered California says that neither Simmons nor other celebrities featured during the six-hour program received compensation. Still, Gaines says Obamacare’s public relations efforts have been abysmal.
“About 900,000 people in California had coverage canceled and were forced to go into the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “They are paying an extra 200, 300, 400 bucks a month. More people are cancelled than actually have insurance through Covered California. Then we see these stupid commercials using taxpayer money and not even focused on the right demographic.”
The state of California is currently $24.9 billion in debt and has a staggering $330 billion in unfunded liabilities.