Obama takes health plan pitch to edgy comedy show

WASHINGTON, March 11 Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:30am EDT

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WASHINGTON, March 11 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama took his quest to sign young people up for health insurance to a comedy website on Tuesday, where he traded insults with host Zach Galifianakis while plugging his signature Obamacare health program.

Obama sat for an interview on "Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis," on the Funny or Die comedy website. The actor, who starred in "The Hangover" films, is known for his cringe-inducing banter on the program.

Obama got the chance to plug his signature health care program, but not until he'd been subjected to questions like "What is it like to be the last black president?" and "What should be done about North Ikea?"

The administration is stepping up efforts to increase youth participation in Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

Youth participation is crucial to the success of the program, but U.S. government data released in February showed the segment of adults aged 18-34 rose only slightly by the end of January to 25 percent of total enrollment in private Obamacare plans.

That is well below the 38 percent that administration officials have talked about achieving to give insurers a strong mix of healthier members, whose premium payments help offset the cost of older, sicker policy holders.

Obama's crusade to draw in young people has had help from singers Lady Gaga and John Legend, as well as sports celebrities including former basketball star Magic Johnson.

On "Between Two Ferns," host Galifianakis did not spare Obama from his trademark awkwardness, calling him a nerd and asking him if he's going to put his presidential library in his "home country" of Kenya.

The president appeared to play along gamely and tried to match Galifianakis insult for insult. "When I heard that people actually watch this show, I was pretty surprised," Obama said.

When Obama was finally allowed to make his pitch about the benefits of signing up for health insurance, Galifianakis sighed, looked at his watch and said, "Is this what they mean by drones?" (Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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