Explanation for Medicare Blimp Advertisement Costs Sought
In a letter to CMS Administrator Tom Scully, Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) is requesting an "immediate and full explanation" for a CMS advertisement campaign in which a blimp flying over sporting and other events displays Medicare's new toll-free number, the Washington Times reports (McCaslin, Washington Times, 10/31). The blimp advertisements, which will cost $600,000 this year, are part of a $30 million advertising campaign that aims to increase awareness of Medicare among beneficiaries. The blimp, which has already flown over football games, state fairs and other events, features a likeness of the American flag and lettering advertising the 1-800-Medicare telephone number that the public can call to learn about benefits (California Healthline, 10/23). Foley questioned why the agency would advertise at such events when "most seniors aren't painting their faces, tailgating and screaming at college football games." He added, "While Goodyear and Budweiser can spend their endless amounts of money however they choose, our government needs to be held accountable" (Washington Times, 10/31). In an interview on NPR's "Day to Day," Scully said, "It was 100% my idea, so if people don't like it, you don't have to look far to blame," adding, "I knew that a 1-800-Medicare blimp would get a lot of attention -- some good, some bad -- but it would get a lot of free press. And that was what it was designed to do." Scully said he thinks the cost of leasing and flying the blimp for four months is the "single most cost-effective advertising we do" (Pesca, "Day to Day," NPR, 10/30). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer. NBC's "Nightly News" on Thursday covered the blimp. The segment includes comments from Foley and Scully and reaction from the public (Faw, "Nightly News," NBC, 10/30). The full segment is available online in Windows Media.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.