By Manuel McDonnell Smith
Can a daily dose of celebrity encourage young adults to take action on their health Apparently President Obama thinks so, and he’s trying to enlist some major Hollywood help to get their attention.
Celebrities from all walks of Hollywood, including actress/singer Jennifer Hudson and Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler, were reportedly at the White House last week to participate in a closed-door meeting where they were asked to help educate young adults on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Representatives of Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi and Oprah Winfrey were reportedly also in attendance at the meeting, hosted by Obama Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and other top White House officials. A source told the Washington Post that the President stopped by the meeting to “engage artists who expressed an interest in helping to educate the public.”
A Tough Sell
Reaching young Americans is widely expected to be a tough sell for the White House, because those in their 20s are likely to be hesitant to commit to spending thousands of dollars for health coverage that they may rarely end up using. However, encouraging them to sign up is critical to the overall success of ACA legislation, because large numbers of young, healthy adults registering for coverage would help to lower insurance rates for all populations. Registration for ACA plans opens Oct. 1 for insurance coverage that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, adding immediate pressure on federal officials to ensure that everyone is informed with just days to go before these deadlines go into effect.
Seeking the help of Hollywood is the latest tactic used by the White House in order to reach this important demographic. Earlier this year, the administration reportedly reached out to stars of the National Basketball Association for an “assist” in reaching their fans. No official statement was issued by the White House on the outcome of those efforts. However, Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn sent letters to each of the four major sports leagues urging them not to engage in partnerships with the administration to help promote the Affordable Care Act.
Leading Despite Obstacles
With the White House reportedly not planning to provide any financing for outside promotional efforts for the ACA, the barrier to reaching young adults could be substantial. Some groups, however, say they are up to the challenge. Comedy website Funny or Die has already publicly committed to helping the White House promote the legislation in its videos.
“They’re trying to raise awareness among young people, and our demographic fits right into that,” said Mike Farah, Funny or Die’s President of Production, who attended the White House meeting. After its conclusion, he told the Washington Post,”We already make 25 to 30 videos per month, and half have some sort of celebrity component. In terms of the Affordable Care Act, there are lots of people who are wanting to commit their time and talent.”
The White House can also count on its own celebrity insider to promote healthcare reform: Actor Kal Penn, best known for his role in the Harold and Kumar movies, has famously gone back and forth between Hollywood and a position in the White House’s Office of Public Engagement.
How Professionals Can Prepare
With a deluge of up to 32 million previously uninsured Americans expected to flood the rolls of health insurers nationwide, medical professionals and institutions can expect to see many new faces, especially those of young patients and those from underrepresented groups. While this is likely to be good news in the effort to help close racial disparities in preventative care, screenings and treatments, medical professionals should begin preparations now for the influx of new patients predicted to come as a result of the new legislation. Many of the new patients are likely to come from African-American and Latino populations, which make up more than 50 percent of the un- and underinsuredwhose access to health care has been historically marred by discrimination.
DiversityInc is planning to assist providers in the transition, with ongoing coverage in our publications of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. The company has also assembled a renowned group of industry leaders to share insider tips and real-time advice at our upcoming summit Culturally Competent Healthcare: How Diversity Creates Better Patient Outcomes, on Sept. 24, 2013, in Newark, N.J.