First Lady Michelle Obama is suggesting a different kind of Christmas present for moms to give this year — a family discussion on health insurance.
The first lady joked it could be a new holiday tradition as the president enlisted his popular wife to help get young Americans to sign up for coverage. The couple spoke to moms in the Oval Office Wednesday, just five days before a Dec. 23 deadline for consumers to select a plan if they want coverage at the beginning of the new year.
Mrs. Obama rarely gets involved in her husband's policy battles. But public opinion polls show she's a more popular advocate than her husband, so she's helping push his unpopular law ahead of the critical deadline.
Mrs. Obama also was appearing on three African-American radio shows to encourage Americans to enroll. Minorities are less likely to have health insurance, so the administration has been targeting them in sign-up campaigns.
The Obama administration needs millions of Americans — especially younger, healthy people — to sign up through new exchanges to keep prices low. Insurance sign-ups through the exchanges have been hindered in the first months by widespread website problems.
Obama told seven moms and one aunt sitting on couches in his office that their experiences keep him fighting to make the law work. Several of the moms have children with pre-existing conditions that are required to be covered by the law or have sons and daughters who now are able to stay on family plans until age 26.
"There's something about moms," Obama said. He said they have credibility, often make family health care decisions and "can tell young people who think they're invincible that they're not and prod them to at least get information."
The first lady added that convincing young adults that they aren't invincible is "our job as mothers."
"Make it a Christmas treat around the table to talk about a little health care," she told the mothers in front of media invited in to cover the end of the meeting. "Ring in the New Year with new coverage."
As reporters were leaving the room, the women could be heard laughing after Obama added, "Although I will say you should probably get another Christmas present."
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(Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)