Richard Simmons Wants YOU to Tell Your Friends About Obamacare

The administration’s latest bid to boost enrollment is aimed at getting it to go viral.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Actor Richard Simmons attends 'Swim for Relief' Benefiting Hurricane Sandy Recovery - Day 2 at Herald Square on October 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
Add to Briefcase
Sophie Novack
Jan. 30, 2014, midnight

Clad in red span­dex and a rhinestone-stud­ded, fringed black tank­top with a pic­ture of the fig-leafed Adam and Eve, Richard Sim­mons im­plored young people to sign up for health cov­er­age un­der Obama­care.

“People have to un­der­stand, you’ve only got one body,” said the fit­ness per­son­al­ity, al­most tear­ing up. “If you don’t go to the doc­tor you could get dia­betes. Or have a heart at­tack or stroke.”

Sim­mons was part of a re­cent six-hour Obama­care vari­ety spe­cial or­gan­ized by the “Tell a Friend — Get Covered” cam­paign. The cam­paign is a col­lab­or­a­tion of 17 state ex­changes led by Covered Cali­for­nia, in part­ner­ship with En­roll Amer­ica and oth­er or­gan­iz­a­tions. The idea is not just to en­cour­age in­di­vidu­als to en­roll in cov­er­age, but to en­cour­age them to pass along the mes­sage.

En­roll­ment in the Af­ford­able Care Act has al­ways been a grass­roots ef­fort, with “nav­ig­at­ors” and vo­lun­teers work­ing on the ground across the coun­try to help people un­der­stand their op­tions and sign up for new cov­er­age. But as the open en­roll­ment peri­od enters its fi­nal two months, pres­sure is in­creas­ing to get the word out to as many people as pos­sible. As or­gan­izers ramp up their ef­forts, they are in­creas­ingly call­ing upon those en­rolling to spread the word, with the mes­sage shift­ing from “get covered” to “tell your friends to get covered.”

“We’re ex­pand­ing our grass­roots ef­forts,” said Justin Nisly, na­tion­al press sec­ret­ary for En­roll Amer­ica. He says the or­gan­iz­a­tion re­cently ad­ded 66 new or­gan­izers in states across the coun­try — a 34 per­cent in­crease in staff­ing. En­roll Amer­ica also ex­pan­ded its di­git­al ad cam­paign at the be­gin­ning of the year, from $5 mil­lion to $7 mil­lion — a de­cision based on data-driv­en eval­u­ation of the most ef­fect­ive means of out­reach.

“We’re reach­ing out to every­one — not just to the young, but a sig­ni­fic­ant amount to them,” Nisly said.

Yet the or­gan­izers can only reach so many people. To boost en­roll­ment, the ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­ly­ing on an­oth­er tier of grass­roots mes­sen­gers as well: con­sumers them­selves.

“To­night, I ask every Amer­ic­an who knows someone without health in­sur­ance to help them get covered by March 31,” Pres­id­ent Obama said in his State of the Uni­on speech Tues­day night. “Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the ap­plic­a­tion.”

At the most re­cent es­tim­ate, about 3 mil­lion people had signed up for private cov­er­age through the ACA ex­changes. This is slightly be­hind pace to reach the White House’s ori­gin­al goal of 7 mil­lion en­rolled by March 31, but not by much, es­pe­cially giv­en the sig­ni­fic­ant set­backs due to web­site prob­lems in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber.

The main fo­cus now is con­tinu­ing to in­crease en­roll­ment ahead of the dead­line, par­tic­u­larly among young adults, who tend to be health­i­er and are thus ne­ces­sary to keep premi­ums low. As of the end of Decem­ber, 24 per­cent of en­rollees were between the ages of 18 to 34. This is be­low the ul­ti­mate tar­get of around 40 per­cent, but large num­bers of young adults are ex­pec­ted to en­roll last-minute.

At first glance, a six-hour day­time livestream about health in­sur­ance may seem a ques­tion­able way to cap­ture the at­ten­tion of mil­len­ni­als. Richard Sim­mons is prob­ably not the most re­lat­able ad­voc­ate to twenty-somethings.

However, Covered Cali­for­nia Ex­ec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or Peter Lee ex­plains, the event was really in­ten­ded to cre­ate share­able con­tent mov­ing for­ward, which can be catered to dif­fer­ent demo­graph­ics — the main tar­gets be­ing young people, moms, and Lati­nos.

“There might be three people who watch the full six hours,” Lee said. “[But] from this, we’ll be tak­ing 20 second slices for Vine and im­ages for In­s­tagram — it’s much more about cre­at­ing more con­tent and ma­ter­i­al that’s a hook for dis­cus­sion.”

The idea is to get people talk­ing about en­rolling in the ACA, with the help of celebrit­ies from Lady Gaga to Mar­lon Way­ans to glitz up the top­ic.

“Mu­si­cians, act­ors, ath­letes — they’re send­ing out the mes­sage to friends and fol­low­ers say­ing this is im­port­ant to me,” Lee said.

He says the on­go­ing ef­fort aims to con­vey three main ideas about en­rolling in cov­er­age: It’s af­ford­able, it’s easy, and there are dead­lines. Once in­di­vidu­als un­der­stand that, the hope is that they’ll share the mes­sage with friends and fam­ily.

“It’s about a con­stant drum­beat of in­form­a­tion,” Lee con­tin­ued. “It really is about a call to ac­tion.”

What We're Following See More »
AT ISSUE: COMEY FIRING, SESSIONS’S RECUSAL
Mueller Seeks Documents from DOJ
18 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Special counsel Robert Mueller "is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation." A source tells ABC News that "Mueller's investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter."

Source:
MULVANEY SAYS PROVISION ISN’T A DEALBREAKER
Trump May Be OK with Dropping Mandate Repeal
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump would not insist on including repeal of an Obama-era health insurance mandate in a bill intended to enact the biggest overhaul of the tax code since the 1980s, a senior White House aide said on Sunday. The version of tax legislation put forward by Senate Republican leaders would remove a requirement in former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that taxes Americans who decline to buy health insurance."

Source:
FRANKEN JUST THE BEGINNING?
Media Devoting More Resources to Lawmakers’ Sexual Misconduct
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Members of Congress with histories of mistreating women should be extremely nervous. Major outlets, including CNN, are dedicating substantial newsroom resources to investigating sexual harassment allegations against numerous lawmakers. A Republican source told me he's gotten calls from well-known D.C. reporters who are gathering stories about sleazy members."

Source:
STARTS LEGAL FUND FOR WH STAFF
Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
2 days ago
THE DETAILS
DISCUSSED THE MATTER FOR A NEW BOOK
Steele Says Follow the Money
2 days ago
STAFF PICKS

"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login