Health-care enrollment effort gets some star power

July 22, 2013

The White House is enlisting the help of celebrity and entertainment officials to promote the health-care overhaul, focusing on stars who they hope can persuade young adults to purchase insurance coverage.

Comedian Amy Poehler, actor Kal Penn and singer Jennifer Hudson attended a closed-door White House meeting Monday, hosted by senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and other top White House officials, according to a White House official.

Representatives for Oprah Winfrey, Bon Jovi, Alicia Keys, the Grammys and Latin Grammys were also present, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss a private meeting.

President Obama stopped by the meeting to “engage artists who expressed an interest in helping to educate the public.”

The White House has grown increasingly focused on signing up millions of young adults for coverage under the health law’s new programs, which open for enrollment on Oct. 1. Typically a healthier demographic, young enrollees would be expected to lower the cost of health insurance if they show up in high numbers.


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Many observers expect this group to be a tough sell, reluctant to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, on an insurance policy they may rarely use.

White House officials say they need to enroll 2.7 million young adults between 18 and 35 years old out of the 7 million Americans the Congressional Budget Office expects will enroll in private insurance coverage next year.

At the Monday meeting, “President Obama underscored that the efforts of these artists will be especially helpful since young uninsured Americans are key enrollment targets for the new marketplaces,” the White House official said.

The White House’s outreach work has faced aggressive backlash from Republican lawmakers, who have pushed back against efforts to create high-profile partnerships. The National Football League backed away from talks with the administration on the Affordable Care Act after receiving a stern warning from Republican leaders to not associate with a law marked by “divisiveness and persistent unpopularity.”

But other well-known organizations are trying to ally with the White House.

Video site Funny or Die has already committed to producing Web videos meant to get the word out about the health-care law to its audience, which is generally a younger crowd. The White House will not provide any financing for the Web spots.

“They’re trying to raise awareness among young people, and our demographic fits right into that,” said Mike Farah, Funny or Die’s president of production, who attended the White House meeting. “We already make 25 to 30 videos per month, and half have some sort of celebrity component. In terms of the Affordable Care Act, there are lots of people who are wanting to commit their time and talent.”

Farah became interested in promoting the health-care law earlier this spring, when he was in town for the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner and attended a Health and Human Services Department presentation on the law.

“They really need the help,” he said. “They’re obviously competing against an aggressive campaign against the law.”

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