Obamacare Offers Up Some March Madness

The White House is using the popular college basketball tournament to encourage consumers to sign up for health care coverage.

Posted: 03/17/2014 11:04 AM EDT

It's March Madness at the White House as President Obama and key members of his administration begin what they hope will be a slam dunk effort to get young and healthy consumers to sign up for health care insurance before the enrollment period's deadline. So far, just 25 percent of enrollees are in the 18 to 35 age bracket and these "young invincibles" are critical to the success of the marketplace exchanges.

Ads featuring NBA greats LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning will air during March Madness games on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBAtv. "You never know when you might take a hit," James says in his spot promoting reasons to "get covered."

In addition, administration officials, including White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was the captain of his Harvard basketball team, will be calling into sports radio stations to push enrollment. Health and Human Services and Healthcare.gov officials plan to join online discussions about the tournament and Kansas Jayhawks fan HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be tweeting throughout the tournament.

On Monday the administration will release its "16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered" bracket, which will be updated daily based on votes from online users. Last year, Obama's March Madness bracket was the most popular blog on the White House website. He's releasing his picks on Wednesday and hopes its popularity will lead people to sign up for coverage.

Last week the White House announced that as of March 1, 4.2 million people have signed up for health plans. That's far short of the original goal, but according to Obama, enough to ensure the Affordable Care Act's viability.

"Well, at this point, enough people are signing up that the Affordable Care Act is going to work. The insurance companies will continue to offer plans," the president said in an interview with WebMD. "It will be a larger number than that by the end of March 31, the deadline to get insurance this year."

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Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick

(Photo: Courtesy of HealthCare.gov)

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