White House pushes for black enrollees

The Obama administration is engaged in a “final coordinated push” to enroll blacks in ObamaCare, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said Friday.

Jarrett said blacks have a “disproportionately low rate of coverage,” and called enrolling them the administration’s “top priority.”

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“We still have a long way to go and we want to make sure we take advantage of every opportunity for outreach,” she said in a Friday conference call with reporters and three mayors that preside over large black communities: Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif., Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and A.C. Wharton of Memphis, Tenn.

An estimated 6.8 million African-Americans lack healthcare coverage. The 2014 enrollment deadline closes on March 31.

The Obama administration said youth organizers and stakeholders would be launching enrollment events targeting black youths in the coming weeks. Jarrett also highlighted some of the black celebrities and athletes that the administration has brought on board for the push. They include Magic Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Aisha Tyler, Pharrell Williams and Kerry Washington.

The administration will also be looking “to strengthen our partnerships across the country with mayors and state officials.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has not said how many blacks have enrolled in ObamaCare, but enrollment trends in California, where Hispanic enrollment appears to be lagging, have stoked fears that minority groups are not getting the administration’s message.

Wharton said one of the barriers to enrollment in his poverty-stricken city is that the poor have become so reliant on free emergency room services that any cash outlay for insurance, no matter how cheap, would be a sticker shock for some of his citizens.

Nutter blamed the hyper-politicization of ObamaCare for keeping some blacks from enrolling.

“You can’t deny the impact of the intensity of the vitriol in the debate around moving towards the ACA, all of the politics and strategies utilized ... the inane debates in Congress, the 40 plus attempts to repeal ... the confusing array of information that’s out there,” he said. “The general public has real lives and real problems and they don’t have time to sit around having esoteric debates about this.”

Friday’s conference call is part of a series of high-profile events that White House officials and surrogates will be making in the coming weeks before the enrollment deadline.

First lady Michelle Obama took the ObamaCare message on youth enrollment to "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" on Thursday, and Vice President Biden will make appearances on "The Late Show" and "The View" next week.