Oregon Spent Millions on Trippy Commercials for a Health Care Website That Never Worked

It was the most earnest Obamacare ad campaign. It's now the least functioning Obamacare website.

National Journal

In preparation for the launch of CoverOregon.com, Oregon's health care exchange website, the state raised awareness in the most Oregon way imaginable.

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The $10 million ad campaign featured folksy singers, hand-painted props, technicolor and animations, and a good deal of flannel, all set around the optimistic theme of "Long Live Oregonians!" and "We're Free to Be Healthy!"

Here's a sampling of a lyric, oozing with an Arlo Guthrie sense of we're-in-this-togetherness: "Each logger and lawyer and stay-at-home dad / every baker and banker and indie rock band / each student and teacher and neighbor and friend / Will live long in Oregon."

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Well, it appears from some reporting by Reuters, not so much.

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"Oregon's online exchange has remained inaccessible to the public, requiring the state to sign up applicants the old-fashioned way, using paper forms," the wire service reports. "This has made comparison-shopping more difficult for consumers and severely slowed the enrollment process."

These ads, and equally "creative" ones from other states, were meant in part to get young people aware of the exchanges, because their enrollment is crucial to the success of the marketplace. And they've worked in the sense that they've achieved some virality off the air and on the Web — where these young people tend to gather their information. In Oregon, 25,000 people have applied via paper applications because of the nonfunctioning website.