News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How did a Texas Medicaid ad wind up on a Philadelphia bus?

An ad on the back of a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority bus reads "Stay covered with Texas Medicaid / Update your contact info / 1-800-335-8957"
A Twitter user posted this photo of a Texas Medicaid ad on the back of a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority bus on May 1.

Photos of an advertisement for Texas Medicaid that appeared on some Philadelphia buses had social media users scratching their heads — and sent a Texas lawmaker looking for answers.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's Director of Media Relations Andrew Busch wrote in an email to KERA News Thursday there was a mistake in the printing and installation process.

That led to the ad appearing on four out of 60 SEPTA buses that were part of the Medicaid campaign.

"The ads are very similar in terms of design, content, and overall look," Busch said in an email. "After learning of the mistake yesterday, Intersection, which is SEPTA’s advertising agency, moved quickly to remove the Texas ads."

A picture of the mismatched ad on one bus was first posted by Twitter user @notliamanders0n on May 1. A similar photo on a different bus was posted on Reddit by user FenrirIII Wednesday.

The official explanation tracks closely with one from state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, who said he first saw the ad on Reddit.

by from discussion
in texas

Wu said he did his own research and left a comment on the Reddit thread explaining what his team heard from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

"I think what happened — what was alluded to — was that somebody down the line did not get clear instructions or they misunderstood the directions and just took the Texas advertising, and instead of changing it for other states, just took it and gave it to the ad agency verbatim and said, 'here you go,'" Wu told KERA News Thursday.

A spokesperson with Texas HHSC said the department does not create or pay for these advertisements, and Busch confirmed that.

A photo of two ads reads: "Stay covered with Pennsylvania Medical Assistance / Update your contact info / / 1-800-692-7462." The top version of the ad features a mother, father and infant. The bottom version features a mother and infant.
Intersection via Andrew Busch, SEPTA
The correct version of a Pennsylvania Department of Human Services ad for Medicaid. Four Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority buses mistakenly featured the Texas version of this ad, according to a SEPTA spokesperson, but should now be removed by Intersection, SEPTA's advertising agency.

Wu said he's often active on Reddit to answer questions users have about state government, but he hopes people don't take the incident too seriously.

"I think it provides at least a moment of levity," Wu said. "I am grateful that this was more incompetence versus maliciousness."

Got a tip? Email Toluwani Osibamowo at You can follow Toluwani on Twitter @tosibamowo.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.