VCU Forward Juvonte Reddic dunks the ball against the St. Joseph's Hawks on March 16, 2014 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. N.Y.
Mitchell Leff

Obamacare gets full court press as March Madness begins


With exactly two weeks until open enrollment for Obamacare ends, the White House is attempting to spread some March Madness enthusiasm to health insurance with a customized “bracket” highlighting reasons Americans could benefit from signing up. 

Fresh off the NCAA release of the annual March Madness basketball brackets, the White House released a list of the “16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered” to help encourage uninsured young Americans to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, 3/18/14, 1:15 AM ET

March Madness: Obamacare style

The president’s getting in the “March Madness” spirit, launching a full-court press to get more people covered under the Affordable Care Act. Will it work?
 Using GIFs designed to appeal to those younger Americans who have been slower to sign up, the White House pits the various reasons against each other and encourages Americans to vote via social media for their preferred reason. The list includes reasons that tout the laws’ popular provisions, like “Insurance companies can’t discriminate” and “birth control is free,” as well as sillier options like, “You only live once” and “Being uninsured is scary.” The GIFs associated with the various reasons include First Lady Michelle Obama dunking on NBA star Lebron James paired with “Women can’t be charged more than men,” and an Elmo doll catapulting itself off a toy store shelf paired with “Nobody’s invincible.” 

The White House’s take on the “Sweet 16” is the latest installment in an increasingly amplified campaign to encourage young Americans to enroll in the health insurance exchanges.

Officials announced Monday afternoon that enrollment had hit the 5 million mark two weeks into the month of March. During the first five months of the ACA enrollment period, only 25% of those enrolled were between the ages of 18 and 34, which is below the administration’s goal of 40%. But the proportion of younger Americans buying health insurance has also grown in recent months, compared to the first few months of the enrollment period, the White House has pointed out. Officials said last week they expected such a trend, noting that Massachusetts saw the same enrollment patterns after then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed a similar health reform bill into law in 2006, where young adults mostly signed up later.  

The Obama administration’s sports-focused final push is not surprising. The president has been open about his love of sports during his time in office, especially basketball and the annual NCAA “March Madness” tournament. Last year, he took to ESPN to make his own NCAA tournament predictions on air, and this week he will release his bracket predictions along with the winners of the “16 Sweetest” reasons.  

Miami Heat player LeBron James is also encouraging young people to get covered through ads set to air in the next couple weeks on ESPN, ABC, TNT, and NBA-TV. James and his fellow Heat teammates have lent their services to the White House’s health campaign in the past, appearing in a lighthearted video about the importance of drinking water and healthy eating in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative last month.

The resident “mom-in-chief” has enlisted the help of fellow mothers to help push the law, releasing a new ad late last week featuring celebrity moms talking about what their star-to-be-kids were like in their youth. Moms of musicians and actors like Alicia Keys, Jonah Hill, and Adam Levine talk about the importance of enrolling in health care to keep moms from stressing out too much. “We nag you because we love you,” the first lady said in thead

Affordable Care Act, Health Care and Sports

Obamacare gets full court press as March Madness begins