Republicans blast California's move to hype healthcare law on TV shows

Republican lawmakers want to know why California hired a PR firm to promote the Affordable Care Act law on popular television shows such as "Modern Family" and "The Biggest Loser."

The Golden State made headlines when its insurance exchange — created by the healthcare law — hired Ogilvy Public Relations to pitch TV shows on story lines involving President Obama's signature law.

On Friday, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySmall ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill MORE (R-Iowa) pushed the Obama administration on whether the $900,000 Ogilvy contract is the right use of taxpayer dollars. 


"Americans' hard-earned money should not be taken by government to subsidize Hollywood and insert propaganda into the popular culture," the lawmakers wrote. "It should be going toward ensuring the cost of healthcare is being lowered for all Americans."

Grassley and Upton, who lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called on the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to improve its oversight of grants to states related to healthcare reform. 

The Affordable Care Act "is virtually silent on how the funds are to be used and grants HHS unrestricted access to taxpayer dollars to fund these grants," Grassley and Upton wrote. "Furthermore, HHS has failed to provide substantive guidance to states on how the money is to be used."

The letter calls on HHS to track how states use their grants, and to release a list of all contracts exchanges have initiated.

California's Ogilvy contract is part of a marketing plan adopted by the state insurance exchange.

The plan says "individuals from California’s robust entertainment industry will be approached at the most senior levels" to promote the new marketplace and get people enrolled.

Among the shows listed as contenders to promote the health law are "Grey's Anatomy," "Modern Family," "The Biggest Loser" and "Dr. Oz." 

The plan also mentions the possibility of a reality show about the healthcare law.