An ACA Pitch From Woody Guthrie's Ghost

Long live our Oregon spirit. Long live the Oregon way. To care for each one, each daughter and son, live long in Oregon.
-- Laura Gibson

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- If you're going to try to convince the people of Oregon to back your large, federally involved project that they didn't necessarily ask for, just shoving it into their face and saying "take it" isn't going to work.

There's a certain subtlety that's necessary for pitching a large-scale public project here and, yes, sometimes that approach involves a song or two.

When it became apparent that the Affordable Care Act was going to be the law of the land, there were more than a few questions about how it would affect folks here. Those uninsured by their employers because of pre-existing conditions were covered here by the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool, which used a portion of premiums paid throughout the state to subsidize an available, but high-premium insurance plan. Is that going away?

If you're a part-time worker who isn't covered by an employer, will you qualify for federal subsidies that weren't always available on the state level? Most importantly, what will it cost?

The state's "Obamacare" exchange, Cover Oregon, had all of those answers, but not a whole lot of public recognition. While state agencies could point or link to it all they'd like, a federally funded health care exchange shouldn't be a well-kept secret.

In July, the state launched a $2.9 million commercial campaign including songs from singer-songwriter Matt Sheehy and hip-hop group The Lifesavas.

Perhaps the most effective, and affecting, is Portland artist Laura Gibson's "Live Long In Oregon" performed with the Portland Cello Project. Lauding Oregon as a place where she is "free to be healthy and happy and strong" and where "each student and teacher and neighbor and friend will live long" not only provided the arts-and-crafts-style information about how to contact Cover Oregon, but cast a wide net over the plan's beneficiaries without actually touting the plan itself. With the Oct. 1 deadline approaching, the ads have saturated radio, local television and even the locally targeted ads on streaming service Hulu -- giving Oregonians a bigger clue about how to navigate their health care exchange than some of their contemporaries in other states.

Obamacare opponents absolutely hated it, with The Daily Caller mocking the ads' "hipsters," conservative Web site HotAir.com calling the ads an "acid trip" and the National Journal turning the state's own name into a slur by derisively calling them "very Oregon." Even The Washington Post called them "twee" and "straight out of Portlandia," but The Portland Mercury didn't see that as such a bad thing.