WASHINGTON, July 22 Senior White House officials met with a group of Hollywood stars and entertainers on Monday to talk about how to use pop culture to persuade young Americans to sign up for new medical insurance coverage this fall.
For President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare reform law to succeed, the White House needs to attract 2.7 million younger consumers between the ages of 18 to 35, mostly male and non-white, to participate in new online health insurance exchanges.
Obama dropped by the meeting, which included comedian Amy Poehler, actor Jennifer Hudson, representatives for Oprah Winfrey and Alicia Keys and websites Funny or Die and YouTube.
"The reach of these national stars spreads beyond the Beltway to fans of their television shows, movies, and music - and the power of these artists to speak through social media is especially critical," a White House official said.
Obamacare needs young, healthy people to register for the new health insurance plans to counterbalance older, sicker enrollees and hold down costs.
But first the government needs to overcome skepticism that the new plans are worthwhile.
The artists are interested in helping explain the health care law and the sign-up period, which begins Oct. 1, the White House said, and met with Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and other officials involved in rolling out the program.
Several stars have already begun to publicize the program. Funny or Die, a comedy video website with more than 19 million unique users per month and 6.4 million Twitter followers, is already working on several videos featuring celebrities, the White House said.
Earlier this year, the administration sought help from major U.S. sports organizations including the National Football League on advertising campaigns. But Republicans publicly warned the leagues to steer clear of the efforts, and the NFL backed off.
Republicans argue the law is too expensive and confusing, and the Republican-led House of Representatives has voted dozens of times to try to repeal it. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)