White House Seeks NBA Assist on Obamacare

Kyle Cheney, Politico, June 19, 2013

Could LeBron James be the next spokesman for Obamacare?

The Obama administration has reached out to the NBA about a potential marketing partnership to promote the health law, POLITICO has learned.

The news, revealed recently by Massachusetts officials who have been in contact with the administration, offers a glimpse at how President Barack Obama’s team plans to push the new coverage options to a public that largely has been clueless about the new health insurance options.


It’s unclear whether a potential partnership would put big-name ballplayers—like James, the Miami Heat superstar—at the center of ad campaigns or whether it would be as modest as permitting the administration to affix the NBA logo onto marketing materials. An agreement itself isn’t even a slam dunk; Obamacare is partisan and controversial, and the NBA could decide it doesn’t want to go near it.

But for the administration, the allure is obvious. The NBA season’s calendar tracks closely with the six-month period during which Americans have a chance to sign up for subsidized insurance around the country—beginning on Oct. 1. And NBA fans fit key demographics targeted by supporters of the health law.

“You just can’t be a smoker and be obese or heavy … and be a basketball player. These folks are kind of the picture of youth and health, and in some ways, that’s the target audience,” said Jon Kingsdale, appointed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006 to oversee the implementation of the Massachusetts health law—which got a big messaging boost from the Boston Red Sox.

Officials with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services declined to comment on talks with the NBA. “We are speaking with a wide range of potential partners and organizations about our efforts to inform Americans of the opportunity to enroll in quality, affordable coverage in the health insurance marketplaces,” an agency spokesman said.

In its first big public call about Obamacare outreach plans Tuesday, Enroll America said it will reach out to professional sports leagues to help encourage people to sign up for insurance. {snip}


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