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Obamacare looks for boost from entertainment industry

Ordinarily, I go out of my way to avoid celebrity news, but this item from Sarah Kliff has real policy significance.The White House is enlisting the help of
Amy Poehler, Kal Penn, Alicia Keys, and Michael Cera
Amy Poehler, Kal Penn, Alicia Keys, and Michael Cera

Ordinarily, I go out of my way to avoid celebrity news, but this item from Sarah Kliff has real policy significance.

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.

When Massachusetts approved its state-based law several years ago, state officials turned to local sports teams, most notably the Boston Red Sox, to help get the word out to the public about the new system, what benefits are available, how to apply, etc. It worked very well, so the Obama administration thought it would try the same strategy.

Congressional Republicans, eager to sabotage the federal health care system, had other ideas -- the Senate GOP leadership sent a menacing letter to the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, PGA, and NASCAR, urging them not to partner with Washington. The Republican efforts have already had some success, with the NFL announcing it will not help.

So, the Obama administration has to find others who can get the word out. If sports stars are staying on the sidelines, then why not turn to the entertainment industry?

It's not just about Hollywood star power; the policy goals have to do with bringing younger (read: typically healthier) Americans into the system. In other words, this is an ad campaign with a very specific demographic, roughly half the age of the typical Fox News viewer. Or in this case, maybe a little more than half.

And with that in mind, octogenarians may not be inclined to pay a whole lot of attention to Alicia Keys and Amy Poehler, but younger folks are more likely to hear about changes to the health care system if celebrities they know and like are talking up the campaign.

And it's not just individuals -- Funny or Die has already committed to producing online videos, at no cost to taxpayers, "meant to get the word out about the health-care law to its audience, which is generally a younger crowd."

"They're trying to raise awareness among young people, and our demographic fits right into that," Mike Farah, Funny or Die's president of production, who attended the White House meeting, told the Washington Post. "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."

That is, as you might imagine, exactly what the White House wanted to hear.

In case there are any doubts about how serious the administration is taking this, note that President Obama stopped by unannounced yesterday to personally visit with the entertainers and their representatives.