Celebrities Head to White House to Help Roll Out Obamacare

Jennifer Hudson Amy Poehler Split Obama Inset - H 2013
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Jennifer Hudson Amy Poehler Split Obama Inset - H 2013

Jennifer Hudson, Kal Penn and Amy Poehler are among the artists volunteering to help explain the new law to young people.

A group of Hollywood artists, actors, musicians, writers and producers met with President Barack Obama and top White House staff Monday to offer their help informing young people about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Jennifer Hudson, Kal Penn, Amy Poehler, Michael Cera, Funny or Die's Mike Farah, The Talk co-host Aisha TylerJASH and YouTube Comedy producer Daniel Kellison, Royal Pains creator Andrew Lenchewski, and singer Jason Derulo attended the meeting, according to administration officials. Also in attendance were representatives for Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi, NARAS, and The Latin Recording Academy.

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Entertainment Advisory Council co-chairs Eric Ortner and singer-songwriter-producer Bruce Roberts along with Penn helped organize the gathering with senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, communications deputy David Simas and others. 

Recent polling shows that the American people are largely in the dark about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, which is why — with just 71 days until the sweeping program’s official rollout — the president and his team are working with supporters in the entertainment industry to reach key demographics.

Though the talks with the artists and executives were conducted mainly by ranking White House staff members, Obama dropped in to the meeting for a part of the discussion. The president stressed his feeling that efforts by the artists gathered Monday will be particularly helpful because uninsured Americans between the ages of 18 and 35 are key enrollment targets for the new health insurance marketplaces created under the reforms. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in 2014 about 7 million new enrollees will sign up for the marketplaces. About 2.7 million — or close to 40 percent — will be young people.

“The president stopped by the meeting to engage artists who expressed an interest in helping to educate the public about the benefits of the health law,” said one White House official. “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."

Several of the artists and executives who attended Monday’s session already are actively promoting the reform’s benefits. Funny or Die and YouTube, for example, are teaming up on production for several web videos featuring well-known comedic celebrities and actors. Derulo, who fractured a vertebra in his neck while doing acrobatics during rehearsals for his 2011 world tour, told the group gathered in the Roosevelt Room that his life was saved because of his health coverage.

Ortner said the personal stories of Derulo and other celebrities will be a key component in the outreach campaign. "We're thrilled to work with the president and his staff to build a new marketing effort using the tools that Hollywood knows how to use best — reaching young people through social media, interesting content and authentic personal stories," he said.

Other industry people at the meeting were Ortner's father, Chuck Ortner, an entertainment lawyer; Obama administration veteran Nicole Avant; WME partner Charles King; and Red Light Management COO Bruce Eskowitz.

"Young Americans overwhelmingly have chosen to get their news from sources other than traditional cable and news networks, and they tend to overwhelmingly reject the divisive politics that dominate traditional coverage," said Penn. "For the first time in history, young people tweeting and reading about the law and passing the benefits along to their friends through word of mouth is something that is unique to this generation."