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Camp, Herger Question Political Nature of HHS Advertisement Campaigns to Seniors

October 18, 2010

Washington, DC – Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Wally Herger (R-CA) today questioned if politics is driving a new round of Medicare television advertisements featuring Andy Griffith by the Obama Administration and sought details of the ad campaign from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Camp and Herger noted that the advertisements conveniently omit any reference to the one-half trillion dollars in Medicare cuts included in the Democrat health care overhaul which result in fewer benefits and higher costs for millions of seniors. That led to deride the commercial’s claim as “fictional as the town of Mayberry was when Griffith played the local sheriff.”

More troubling to Camp and Herger were recent press reports that HHS is spending $3 million in taxpayer dollars on television buys in the month of October alone and that these ads will only be run in select areas of the country.  In their letter to Secretary Sebelius, the Republicans wrote, “As you know it would be highly inappropriate and perhaps illegal if HHS used taxpayer funds to purchase advertisements in areas of the country with the intent of impacting competitive Congressional races leading up to the election.  Accordingly, we are also requesting that the Government Accountability Office fully investigate the appropriateness of the advertisements and the way in which they were placed.”

Specifically, Camp and Herger requested that HHS provide the following information regarding the advertisements:

  1. How much HHS spent on television advertisements targeted towards Medicare beneficiaries in the months of August, September, October, and November for each of the following years: 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.  In the case of October and November, 2010, please include the expected expenditures; 
  2. For each television advertisement (including, but not limited to, the Andy Griffith, open enrollment, and Medicare and You advertisements), please provide a market by market analysis that specifies the cost, point totals, and spots per station that HHS has purchased in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010; and  
  3. If this message is important for all seniors to hear, please provide us with an explanation for why it was decided, and by whom, to only run these advertisements in certain areas of the country.  As part of that, please provide all documents, including emails and other communications with the White House, the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that pertain to the basis for decisions about where to run these advertisements.

The full letter can be read here

Note: September 28, 2010, Camp and Herger sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius inquiring about the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) decision to eliminate certain Medicare Part D prescription drug plans that could force 3 million seniors out of their current plan, while automatically enrolling more than 1.5 million seniors in a plan with premiums 15 percent higher than they are currently paying.  To date, a response has yet to be received.