AccessHealthCT Commissions Expensive Artwork

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First there were problems with the website, and now there are questions about spending at Access Health CT.

Nearly $80,000 was spent on three murals and has some critics raising questions about the agency’s budget decisions. The big-time taxpayer dollars were spent on three murals across Connecticut.

The three works of art were placed in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport and were commissioned by Access Health CT, the quasi-governmental state healthcare exchange agency that’s rolling out the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut.

But some say the price-tag doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the agency’s spending.

“I was surprised to see that 75-thousand plus dollars were used for murals instead of perhaps more direct outreach to people to help them understand what was available on the website”, says State Rep. Penny Bacchiochi.

The Republican lawmaker learned of the costly art contracts through the Yankee Institute for Public Policy’s website http://www.raisinghale.com, where it was posted by writer, Zachary Janowski.

But you don’t have to look that far for the information, because the contracts are posted right on the Access Health CT website at http://www.ct.gov/hix/cwp/view.asp?a=4296&q=506834 listed under “Vendor Contracts”.

Bacchiochi quickly received a lot of comments when she posted the high-priced purchase information on her Facebook page.

“I had five, ten, fifteen, twenty, I could see that people were really bothered by this excess use of tax dollars”, she says.

People were bothered by it, she says, especially considering the troubles Access Health CT has had with their website since October, highlighted by a series of investigative reports by Fox CT News, including policy mix-ups and misinformation.

Access Health CT didn’t provide an on-camera interview but did email this statement:

“Since October 1st, Access Health CT has enrolled over 40,000 individuals in quality health care coverage here in our state.    Raising awareness and understanding of the Affordable Care Act,  Access Health CT, and the new insurance options now available to residents has been an important part  of driving these results.  Access Health CT has deployed several marketing and communication efforts to reach individuals in our state broadly, as well as in particular towns and cities with high numbers of uninsured residents.  We have utilized traditional media such as TV, billboards, and radio to build awareness, while also deploying local level approaches such as town hall meetings, in-person enrolment events, murals, and advertising in community newspapers”.

Bacchiochi, who is exploring a run for Lieutenant Governor, also received a response from Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s spokesman, Steven Jensen, who said quote:

“The murals are one small part of our effort to draw people to our community enrollment centers. Instead of wasting time with her frivolous criticism we invite Rep. Bacchiochi to do some real work for the citizens of Connecticut by coming to one of our centers or enrollment fairs and help sign people up for health coverage they need to better their lives.”

However, Bacchiochi suggests other strategies for saving money.

“I think there are a lot of great Connecticut artists who would have donated some type of artwork for a great cause – helping incentivize people to look at healthcare… I also think for 79-thousand dollars there’s a lot better ways to spend that money.”

The State Rep. says she’s not pushing for the murals to be taken down, but that she just encourages Connecticut residents to be aware and be vocal about how tax dollars are spent.

She says the money spent by Access Health CT is a combination of state and federal money.

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