White House going all-in with March Madness for ObamaCare

The White House is hitching its final ObamaCare enrollment push to the wildly popular NCAA basketball tournament, pouring loads of resources into March Madness-related media appearances.

The tournament, which kicks off Tuesday and ends in early April, is perfectly timed for the administration’s enrollment push ahead of the March 31 deadline. It also aligns with President Obama’s interests – he’s a big time basketball fan.

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Early Tuesday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blogged about a new study that examines the “economic costs of common sports injuries like sprains and fractures.” An administration official said Sebelius and Miami Heat star Shane Battier will hold a conference call on the report later in the day to discuss the findings, and to urge “tournament fans young and old” to sign up for healthcare.

“For those without health insurance, these injuries — which can happen to anyone, regardless of overall health status — can be very expensive,” Sebelius wrote. “A sprained ankle, for example, can cost you $2,290, and charges for a broken arm, for example, average nearly $7,700. This can be a huge financial blow to young people and families alike.”

Battier joins his teammate LeBron James as an ObamaCare pitch-man. James filmed a 30-second ad for the healthcare law that was released Monday and will run nationally through the end of the month. 

Sebelius was in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, on Monday for ObamaCare-related events, and an administration official pointed out that the Xavier Bulldogs and Dayton Flyers are headed to the Big Dance. An official said the secretary will be tweeting about ObamaCare and her home-state Kansas Jayhawks, a No. 2 seed, throughout the tournament.

Also on Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough will call into a Richmond, Va., sports radio show to talk about ObamaCare, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be running ads on NBA.com about the different ways people can get covered.

This follows the White House’s Monday release of its “16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered” bracket listing the top reasons to get health insurance. The brackets were introduced in video clips filmed by University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams, and the head coach of the University of Connecticut’s women’s team, Geno Auriemma.

Obama also gave an interview to a Univision Radio sports show on Monday. The president is expected to release his NCAA bracket on Wednesday, which an administration official said was the White House’s most popular blog of 2013.

HHS said Monday that 5 million people have enrolled in the new exchanges through the middle of March. The announcement came with less than two weeks remaining for open enrollment.

It seems increasingly unlikely that the administration will hit the original Congressional Budget Office projections of enrolling 7 million people between October and March.



That projection was reduced to 6 million following the early troubles with HealthCare.gov, and officials have sought to temper expectations since the botched rollout essentially shaved two months off the six-month open enrollment period.


But the administration has long said it expects enrollment to spike near the March 31 deadline, and with Monday’s data, the goal of 6 million sign-ups appears to be within reach.

Not all of the administration’s outreach efforts will revolve around basketball.

Vice President Biden visited a diner in Moosic, Pa., on Monday to meet with people about signing up for healthcare.

And this week the White House kicked off a campaign aimed at enrolling Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The administration has launched similar efforts targeting women, blacks, Hispanics and young people.