David Harlow, host of HealthBlawg

By David Harlow

First Posted at HealthBlawg on 3/12/2014

David Harlow, host of HealthBlawg
David Harlow, host of HealthBlawg

C480x270_48President Barack Obama is pushing his signature domestic program, enrollment in a health insurance plan via healthcare.gov by March 31, by shilling for it on the “Funny or Die” Zach Galfianakis mini talk show satire, “Between Two Ferns.” I think it’s hilarious, though not everyone thinks the humor involved befits a sitting president. Whether or not you appreciate the humor, I think you have to doff your cap to the Commander in Chief, because he is living by the maxim that you’ve got to fish where the fish are — and choosing this website over network television, over White House-hosted online media, using video, using authority-subverting humor, has gotten the message out (including a clickable link) to the Young Invincibles in a way that other media just could not have done. The video was posted yesterday; it has already been viewed over 13 million times, and was associated with tens of thousands of click-throughs to the exchange website by the close of business yesterday.

The question of the moment is whether this tactic and others will be enough to jolt back to life the health insurance enrollment process in its final fortnight for year one, after it began life in critical condition last fall with the abysmal rollout of the federal exchange website. (The story of bringing back the exchange website from its near-death experience is worth a read: Obama’s Trauma Team – behind the Timepaywall.)The federales have scaled back the enrollment goal for this season (from 7 million to 6 million by March 31; as of March 1, exchanges had processed 4.2 million enrollees, including almost 1 million in February).That still seems like an ambitious target.

It is also unclear what proportion are newly insured (vs. transfers from another insurer). The federal data released thus far don’t tell us.

Whatever the final tally is at the end of March, the Administration made a winning play by leveraging the power of online video and social media to reach a key demographic.Us gee-whizzing old folks watching the video can’t account for too many of the 13 million plus views.

Check it out. And if you’re a Young Invincible who hasn’t bought health insurance yet — do us all a favor and sign up. Since we don’t have a government-controlled single-payor system here in the US of A, and aren’t likely to in the foreseeable future, making that purchase is part of the social contract. We’ll take care of you when you’re old.

David Harlow
David Harlow LD is a health care lawyer, consultant, blogger, and thought leader. He is Host of Healthblawg, an award-winning blog highly regarded in both the legal and health policy blogging worlds. He is also Principal of The Harlow Group LLC, a health care law and consulting firm based in Boston, MA. His 25 years of experience in the public and private sectors affords him a unique perspective on legal, policy and business issues facing the health care community. David is also associated with the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, the Society for Participatory Medicine, HealthWorks Collective, and FierceHealthIT.



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