GOP criticizes $20M PR contract to promote healthcare reform law

Senate Republicans criticized the Obama administration Tuesday for paying a public-relations firm $20 million to highlight part of President Obama's healthcare law.

A Health and Human Services (HHS) official confirmed Monday that the department had signed a contract with the PR firm Porter Novelli to raise awareness about disease prevention, including preventive benefits in the Affordable Care Act.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the administration is putting its money in the wrong place.

"Let me suggest that the president spend a little more time trying to do something about the spending, debt, and gas prices, and a little less time trying to spin the unpopular things he’s already done," he said. "It might require a little more work, but it’s what we need. It’s time to lead.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Twitter that the ad campaign is an "outrageous waste of taxpayer $."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted that HHS is planning to "use taxpayers money to sell ObamaCare btween now and election to electirate [sic]."

The advertising campaign was mandated by the Affordable Care Act, which directs HHS to carry out a "national public–private partnership for a prevention and health promotion outreach and education campaign." It says the campaign should emphasize the importance of prevention and explain the preventive services made available elsewhere in the law.

The ACA makes some preventive services available without a co-pay or deductible and adds new preventive benefits in Medicare.

"Section 4004 of the Affordable Care Act required the Department to conduct this effort as one way to encourage utilization of preventive benefits and services," an HHS official said in response to Republicans' criticism. "This public education campaign is part of our ongoing education efforts that will inform the American people about the steps they can take to prevent disease and illness and stay healthy."