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White House begins full-court press for ACA during March Madness

A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Hampshire in this October 27, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi//Files A tea party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare" at a Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally in Littleton, N.H., in October 201. Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

As March Madness takes hold, is it any surprise that the White House is targeting fans of the NCAA National Championship tournament this week to boost health-care enrollment?

Of course not.

The effort will include online videos from athletes and coaches such as LeBron James, a White House official said, and targeted interviews with senior administration officials throughout the week on sports radio, including Spanish language outlets.

On Monday, the White House will release a “16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered” bracket listing the top reasons to obtain health insurance, along with a video featuring two well-known college coaches urging Americans to sign up before open enrollment ends March 31.

Online users will be able to vote on the bracket, the official said, and on Wednesday the administration will place President Obama's NCAA bracket and the ranked reasons to get insurance on the same page. Obama's basketball picks are sure to drive traffic to the site; last year his bracket got more than 280,000 views and was's most popular blog of the year.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ad featuring James will air during March Madness games, along with ads featuring Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning.

The administration hopes to encourage as many young people as possible sign up for health insurance under federal and state exchanges to broaden the risk pool. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a devoted University of Kansas Jayhawks fan, will be tweeting about the tournament throughout.

Latinos rank as another key group for the White House because they are disproportionately uninsured. To reach them, Obama has granted an interview that will air Monday on Univision Radio’s Locura Deportiva. The ESPN Deportes network will air an interview with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on its syndicated network of stations in cities including Miami, Houston, Dallas and Phoenix. ESPN Deportes will air a public-service announcement featuring Labor Secretary Thomas Perez 25 times each week between now and the March 31 enrollment deadline.

Dan Rooney, who chairs the Pittsburgh Steelers and served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland during Obama's first term, will urge Pittsburgh radio listeners to sign up for insurance in an interview with one of the city's radio stations.

McDonough and White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer have been doing interviews with sports talk radio stations since Feb. 27, including those in Atlanta, Austin, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Tampa. This week, McDonough will continue talking to sports radio hosts, along with White House senior adviser Phil Schiliro and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Not only are all three of them well-versed in health-care policy, but Duncan played professional basketball in Australia for four years.


Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.



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