Obama Administration Turning to NBA for a Slam Dunk on Healthcare?

Report says officials are seeking NBA stars to assist in marketing President Obama's signature healthcare law.

By Chris Hoenig

LeBron James may have just won his second NBA title (and second NBA Finals MVP award), but he and other league stars could find themselves registering a different kind of assist this offseason.

A new POLITICO report indicates that officials within the Obama Administration have begun reaching out to the NBA regarding a partnership to promote the Affordable Care Act. Just like traditional player trades, neither side is commenting on a potential deal or any details that would be involved. However, the goal for the Obama Administration in the transaction would be clear: to educate the public about its options as the law continues to take effect.

If a deal is finalized, the NBA would make perfect sense as a partner in marketing the ACA. The league's regular season is scheduled to start in October 2013, which coincides with the beginning of the six-month time period for people to sign up for subsidized health insurance under the new law. Additionally, the NBA's fastest-growing fan base, young men, is a group that supporters of the law, the administration and insurers want to sign up. The 18-to-34 age demographic has seen double-digit increases in viewership for the NBA, and those young men are considered 69% more likely to be "avid" NBA fans, according to Scarborough Sports Marketing.

The same research shows that these high-interest fans are also more engaged on social networks: 49 percent are on Facebook, and they are 66 percent more likely to use Twitter. That makes them easy targets for NBA stars such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant, potential faces of an NBA-White House partnership, who have more than 8.5 million and 4 million Twitter followers, respectively.

This would not mark the first time athletes have been called on to aid in the implementation of a large-scale healthcare overhaul. When Massachusetts' healthcare law took effect in 2006, the Boston Red Sox signed on to spread the message. One of the PR firms involved in that plan, Weber Shandwick, is now assisting the White House with the ACA.

"You just can't be a smoker and be obese or heavy ... and be a basketball player," said Jon Kingsdale, who oversaw the Massachusetts law under then-Governor Mitt Romney. "These [NBA] folks are kind of the picture of youth and health, and in some ways, that's the target audience."

How Companies Will Be Affected

The Affordable Care Act is expected to add 32 million previously-uninsured Americans to the rolls of health-insurance companies nationwide, including large numbers of low-income Blacks and Latinos. The additional coverage is intended to provide easier access to preventative care and screening, like mammograms and colonoscopies, and will likely help close disparities in death rates from cancer between Blacks and whites.

Members of the healthcare industry should begin preparing now for the influx of patients that are predicted to come as a result of the new legislation. A key to successful implementation for hospitals and healthcare providers will be the ability to provide culturally competent care and connect with the communities they serve in a cost-effective manner.

DiversityInc has assembled a renowned group of industry leaders to share insider tips and real-time advice exclusively at our upcoming summit Culturally Competent Healthcare: How Diversity Creates Better Patient Outcomes, on Sept. 24, 2013, in Newark, N.J.

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