Department of Health and Human Services--Use of Appropriated Funds for Technical Assistance and Television Advertisements
B-320482: Oct 19, 2010
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not violate the statutory prohibition against using appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda when it awarded contracts for technical assistance and when it aired television advertisements. Prior to the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), HHS awarded two contracts to Dr. Jonathan Gruber to provide technical memoranda estimating various changes that would result from proposed health care legislation. Although Dr. Gruber made public statements about health care policy and testified before Congress, these actions did not violate the publicity or propaganda prohibition because HHS did not contract with Dr. Gruber for this purpose.
After enactment of PPACA, HHS contracted for the production and airing of three television advertisements featuring the actor Andy Griffith. The advertisements did not violate the prohibition because they were not a purely partisan activity. The advertisements, though brief, provided beneficiaries with some information regarding changes from PPACA, while directing beneficiaries to additional sources of information. However, two of the advertisements overstated one of PPACA's benefits when they stated that beneficiaries will "have [their] guaranteed benefits." Although beneficiaries who participate in Medicare Advantage are guaranteed original Medicare benefits, the other benefits offered by Medicare Advantage plans could change at a plan's discretion. In this legal opinion, we do not examine nor do we express a view on the overall economy, efficiency, or effectiveness of the advertisements.