Obama Uses March Madness To Pitch Health Law Enrollment

The president ties his NCAA picks to a campaign aimed at enrolling young people in health insurance before the March 31 deadline.

The New York Times: Administration Plays to Young In Health Push
Russian troops were rolling through Crimea when Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff and a foreign policy expert, was deployed on a mission to do media outreach. But the focus of Mr. McDonough’s calls to local talk radio stations was not geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe, it was health care. Mr. McDonough chatted with Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps, hosts of a popular sports talk radio program on WKRK-FM (92.3) in Cleveland, about the coming N.F.L. draft, basketball at the White House and his days playing college football in Minnesota. Mr. McDonough then pitched a new website featuring games, videos and superstar athletes explaining the benefits of health insurance: a sports-themed portal to healthcare.gov (Shear and Vega, 3/19).

NPR: In ACA March Madness, Obama's Bracket Is Just A Role Player
In an annual ritual, President Obama filled out his NCAA tournament bracket. Beyond his picks, though, he's got an ulterior motive -- convincing young people to enroll in health care exchanges (Horsley, 3/19).

NBC News: First Thoughts: Obama Touts Sweet 16 In Last Health Care Push
With now 12 days to go until the deadline for all Americans to have health insurance, the Obama White House is making a health-care push that appears targeted specifically to young men. For starters, President Obama’s NCAA bracket today will be featured on the White House’s website, which will be counting down the “16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered.” The president tying his NCAA picks to the health-care push comes as the White House already has basketball coaches Roy Williams and Geno Auriemma promoting the importance of obtaining coverage. NBA superstar Kevin Durant is tweeting the same message. And the White House is advertising on NBA.com. Bottom line: This is all about signing up as many more Americans -- especially men under 35 -- under the federal and state health-care exchanges (Todd and Murray, 3/19).

Fox News: Sen. Wicker Blasts Obamacare Push During NCAA Tournament
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on Wednesday slammed the Obama administration’s decision to advertise Obamacare during the NCAA basketball tournament. “This is yet another desperate attempt by the administration to persuade young people to enroll in the president’s unaffordable, unworkable, and unpopular policy,” Wicker said in a statement. “Rather than spending an inordinate amount of time and taxpayer dollars to roll out celebrity endorsements and slick advertisements, the president should work with Republicans to find real market-driven solutions to America’s health care crisis” (3/19).

CQ HealthBeat: White House Wagers March Madness Tie-In Will Drive Interest in Health Law
The White House may attract more young people to healthcare.gov with an aggressive marketing campaign linked to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but it’s unclear how many more will sign up for insurance as a result of the March Madness tie-in, three researchers said. “There will be some who go on the site and explore some of the reasons to get coverage,” said Matthew J. Bernthal, an associate professor in the department of sport and entertainment management at the University of South Carolina, adding that challenges remain even beyond ideological arguments about the new health insurance programs (Young, 3/19).

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