Second former NBA player to star in ObamaCare ads

Add another former basketball star to the roster of celebrities helping to promote ObamaCare.

The Obama administration announced Thursday that former Miami Heat player Alonzo Mourning has joined Magic Johnson in cutting national ads urging enrollment at HealthCare.gov.

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Each player starred in a 30-second ad released Thursday that will start airing this week on ESPN, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

Both clips urge uninsured viewers to sign up for coverage at HealthCare.gov and discuss the benefits of health insurance.

They are designed to boost enrollment ahead of the March 31 deadline, particularly among younger people who live in disproportionately uninsured communities.

"We know the young and healthy audience responds well to sports figures, and these 30-second ads feature two NBA legends that each have a compelling health story," said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokeswoman Julie Bataille in a statement.

Casting Johnson and Mourning is the clearest example yet of the Obama administration calling on its celebrity allies to promote the healthcare law.

A long list of actors and musicians have touted ObamaCare on Twitter, and a handful have starred in short Web videos about the healthcare law produced by outside groups.

But these efforts are limited in scope compared with national TV ads, which are likely to have a greater impact. The commercials are set to air on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV during games, the administration said. Pro-ObamaCare ads are also set to run on NBC during the Winter Olympics.

The announcement comes as HHS, health insurers and pro-ObamaCare groups ramp up their efforts to sell the law.

Many campaigns were put on hold in the fall, while the administration worked to fix HealthCare.gov and weather the wider political firestorm surrounding the website's problems and a wave of canceled health plans.

The efforts carry added urgency for the White House with less than three months before enrollment closes.

The latest sign-up data shows that younger people represented only about one-quarter of the current pool as of Dec. 31, a proportion federal health officials will try to boost starting this month.

The new marketplaces need as many healthy enrollees as possible in order for prices to remain stable.

Johnson, whose participation was announced Wednesday by the White House, is noted for his time with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is also a prominent advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention after revealing his infection in 1991.