GOP: Health exchange grants fund 'propaganda'

Some lawmakers are claiming that reform law grants issued to states by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services are funding 'propaganda' and want the agency to improve its oversight of such grants.

At issue is the California health insurance exchange's $900,000 contract with marketing company Ogilvy Public Relations, which is partly responsible for pitching reform-related ideas to such TV shows as "Modern Family" and "Grey's Anatomy," The New York Times reported.

"I'd like to see 10 of the major TV shows, or telenovelas, have people talking about 'that health insurance thing,'" Peter Lee, executive director of California exchange, told the Times. "There are good story lines here."

But in a letter sent Friday to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) called California's PR plan an attempt to "subsidize Hollywood and insert propaganda into the popular culture," reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

Due to HHS' "inadequate or non-existent oversight" of the grants to help states create exchanges, Grassley and Upton want the agency to better guide states on how the funds should be used. "Ensuring proper use of American taxpayer dollars is of the upmost importance, and we trust that you share our concerns," they wrote in the letter.

To learn more:
- here's the letter to HHS
- read The Hill's Healthwatch article
- see the New York Times article