Obamacare isn’t the first thing one normally associates with March Madness. But this year, President Obama is seizing on the basketball hoopla in a last minute push to meet his goal of six million enrollees by the March 31 deadline.

By using a clever mix of big names, basketball lingo and a timely report that highlights the economic costs of sports-related injuries, the campaign seeks to address two of Obamacare’s largest problems to date: the botched rollout of the Healthcare.gov website and a general lack of interest among young uninsured people.

Depending on your opinion of the president and Obamacare, this campaign is either a clever way to market and implement a controversial new program plagued by innumerable headaches, or the intrusion of a liberal political agenda into the benign realm of college basketball.

Regardless, it is part of a broader full-court press aimed at bringing stability to the beleaguered health care law.

The effort is highlighted by a web video, featuring legendary college coaches Roy Williams and Geno Auriemma, urging people to sign up for an insurance plan on Healthcare.gov.

Mr. Obama also recruited former Duke star Shane Battier to warn how expensive sports injuries can be if you are uninsured, and released a “Sweet Sixteen” set of reasons why people should sign up for Obamacare — including free birth control and an assurance that your health care is a “right” and not a “privilege.”

Many Americans may be wondering what exactly makes Messrs Williams, Auriemma and Battier qualified to tout the benefits of Obamacare, especially considering the unlikelihood that any of them have ever been uninsured or even in a financial position where health care costs were a serious problem.

We may never know the answer to that question, but we do know that this stage in the Obamacare implementation is crucial.

One million more people must be recruited to sign up for a plan to meet the target figure of six million before March 31.

This goal was originally seven million, but was revised down after the disastrous rollout of Healthcare.gov last fall and must be reached in order to avoid yet another setback.

Equally crucial, the effort seeks to appeal to young March Madness viewers more likely to not have health insurance than the population at-large — the so-called “young invincibles” who don’t see the need to be covered because they are relatively healthy or have done the calculus in their head and decided to eat the $95 penalty for remaining uninsured.

Having a large contingent of healthy participants in the overall risk pool is critical to ensuring that the costs incurred by high-risk patients are spread out among the broader population.

Many of the existing premium and deductible schedules were formulated around this assumption of risk being sufficiently dispersed, so if this proves not to be the case, the result will surely be higher premiums for existing customers.

This brings us back to Obama’s foray into March Madness marketing.

If he does not find a way to recruit enough young blood into these new plans, premium increases will be the next Obamacare time bomb to go off, likely right before the November elections.

So be sure to shed a tear for Obamacare while you’re enjoying this year’s tournament.

And go NDSU.

 

Aaron Stanley is a sports enthusiast living in Washinging, D.C.

 

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