Round 2: Obamacare and Hollywood open new social media campaign

With the new health insurance exchanges now operating more smoothly in many states, officials are looking to amp up Obamacare’s flash factor by enlisting celebrities for a new social media campaign that will launch today in Los Angeles.

Since this spring, the White House has collaborated with celebrities like Jennifer Hudson and Amy Poehler, as well as the entertainment firm Funny or Die, on projects to engage the elusive 18-to-34-year-olds who must sign up for the program to succeed. Many of Obama’s celebrity allies, including Lady Gaga and actress Connie Britton, posed for pro-Obamacare Twitter and Instagram snapshots during the program's fall launch. In October, the @BarackObama Instagram account, which is operated by Organizing for America, posted a picture of Britton in a director’s chair with the #GetCovered logo: “Listen to Connie Britton. #GetCovered,” the message said. 

Thursday’s launch of the “Tell a friend — Get covered” campaign marks a new phase of the effort that is being led by Covered California, the state’s thriving Obamacare exchange which enrolled more than 100,000 people through November (accounting for nearly a third of signups nationwide).

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The new campaign, with its daily missives from celebrities, aims to reach 100 million people by encouraging friends to speak to friends about the benefits of health insurance. The message bearers will include actors Tatyana Ali of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Wilmer Valderrama of “That '70s Show” and Fran Drescher of “The Nanny.” On Thursday, the campaign released a video featuring Obama impersonator Iman Crosson (who performs as "Alphacat") rapping about the new law.

“Don’t try to talk about my plan like the people haven’t wanted this; they’ve waited long for this,” Crosson raps in the spoof video “Drop it like it’s hot.”

“You should take it easy, and rock to this jam from B-Rock O’Beezy,” he continues. “If you need that new healthcare, sign up cause it’s hot… Don’t stand and diddle, my healthcare’s the ‘shizzle,’ It’s chock full of top-notch healthcare ‘provizzles.’ We’ll cover all your ‘vizzles,’ your ‘dizzles’ and your ‘tizzles.’ ”

“One of the key reasons we’re doing this campaign is that those under 30 live and breathe social media — they live Twitter, they live Facebook,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. Research has shown strong demand for health insurance within that age group, he noted: “Young people are not young and invincible, rather they’re the young convincibles. Again and again, if you look at the surveys, if you put before young people what insurance costs them, what they get — they want to buy.”

Lee dismissed the findings in a recent poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics showing that the millennial generation — once strong supporters of the healthcare law — has become increasingly skeptical of its benefits. Surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation, among others, have consistently shown that there is a strong desire for health insurance among young adults, but Kaiser found that many in California erroneously believe they won’t qualify for subsidies. 

The new campaign, Lee said, offers an opportunity to tackle those misconceptions and raise awareness about the upcoming Dec. 23 deadline for coverage effective on Jan. 1. Participants will not be engaged in the political debate about the merits of the law, he said. Instead they will focus on delivering information that is relevant to consumers through their friends and celebrity peers.

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“Polling about the law is really not that relevant,” Lee said. Young people aren’t “voting about the law. What they’re doing is walking down the street scared because they don't have insurance, and they know that they’re an accident away from being in debt.”

Lee will be joined at the launch by partners in the initiative from other states, including Connecticut and Kentucky, as well as allied groups like Enroll America. 

maeve.reston@latimes.com

Twitter: @MaeveReston