As Obamacare exchanges open, Hollywood campaigns to enroll younger people

Katie McHugh Associate Editor
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The Hollywood humor site “Funny or Die” is rolling out an extended campaign to encourage young people to enroll in Obamacare exchanges beginning on Monday, joining a slew of celebrities doing their best to convince the demographic upon which the program depends to ignore their economic interests and shoulder the cost of older Americans’ health care.

The studio’s first video, seemingly meant to remind the “young invincible” demographic of 18 to 35-year olds that freak accidents and grave injuries can befall them at anytime, depicts “a little girl tumbling head-first off her rocking horse, a skateboarder’s ill-fated trick, a boy attempting a jump on his bike and ending up limp on the asphalt,” according to The Chicago Tribune, which viewed a secret preview of the propaganda campaign on Sept. 20.

“Valerie Jarrett loved this video,” said “Funny or Die” production president Mike Farah, speaking of the the Secret Service protectee who is President Barack Obama’s closest senior adviser.

Farah, who is pictured smiling and wearing a casual, checkered shirt and jeans, worked with administration officials for months on a marketing plan to promote the transformative overhaul of the U.S. health care system, finally meeting with Obama and several other celebrities — including Amy Poehler, Michael Cera and Jennifer Hudson — in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in July.

Farah offered to use his firm’s resources, otherwise used to generate profits and please customers, to do the legwork for a health care law that will wipe out the existing plans of 58,000 residents of the studio’s home state of California.

“The simplest way to put it was, they had spent all this time and energy and money on the biggest movie of their lives and had no marketing budget in which to promote it,” Farah said. “I just thought that was the craziest thing I’d ever heard.”

It is unclear what health care policy expertise Farah or 25-year-old celebrity Michael Cera, actor and “occasional musician,” possess or how they will convince young Americans to ignore their economic self interest and enroll themselves in the costly exchanges. A study conducted by the National Center for Public Policy Research discovered that the millions of young, childless and single adults — on which the program depends to subsidize the immense cost of caring for aging, ailing Americans — could save a significant sum of $500 by paying a penalty and forgoing insurance. The Center also found that taxpayer subsidies meant to offset the prohibitive cost of enrollment vanish for any younger person making more than $34,470 annually, far below the promised $45,960.

These perverse incentives posed to this key demographic could spell trouble for Obamacare’s success.

“This demographic is critical. If you mostly have high-risk people, premiums go up. It becomes a death spiral,” Caroline Pearson, a vice president at Washington-based consulting firm Avalere Health LLC, told Bloomberg.

Unexciting research reports struggle to compete with the glamorous alliance between the Obama administration and Hollywood. Back in August, singer Katy Perry retweeted a message from Obama’s Twitter feed reminding young people to enroll in the exchanges on October 1. 

Obama’s Twitter feed enthusiastically retweeted Perry’s retweet to millions of followers, thus confirming their social media BFF status.

All of Hollywood’s and the White House’s efforts to launch Obamacare and keep it running smoothly may be in vain if the White House and its Hollywood allies fail to convince enough young people to enroll, however. To some, that may have been the plan all along. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in August that the U.S. must eventually “work [its] way past” an insurance-based system, and Obamacare is only the first step towards a national single-payer health care system.

Farah plans to produce 20 videos to promote Obamacare throughout 2013.

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Katie McHugh