Hmmmm....White House announces 20 City ACA Signup Challenge
In March 2014, as the first ACA open enrollment period deadline was approaching, President Obama made an appearance on Zach Galifianakis' "Between Two Ferns" to try and ramp up enrollments among the uninsured. In February 2015, as the second OE deadline approached, he teamed up with BuzzFeed to shoot a different type of promotional video, featuring the first Presidential Selfie Stick (and a nice milk-and-cookies "Thanks Obama" riff).
For the third time around, I'm guessing the President has something similar in store for the final lap in mid-January (remember, the deadline is 1/31/16 this year), but to kick things off, he's annouced an interesting new promotional effort:
White House launches Obamacare sign-up competition
As open enrollment season on HealthCare.gov begins, President Obama is introducing a contest meant to motivate Americans to sign up for health insurance coverage through federal and state exchanges.
"I want to see how many of your neighbors you can get signed up," the president said in a video released Saturday. "I'll come visit the city that enrolls the highest percentage of folks who aren't covered right now. That's a promise."
Twenty major cities will participate in the Healthy Communities Challenge, competing to see the largest decrease for those without health insurance. A high percentage of the population in these cities, with Democratic mayors, remain uninsured.
I looked up the official announcement at WhiteHouse.Gov; here's the list of the 20 cities they're targeting (along with custom graphics for each one and a video link which currently just goes to the White House's official Facebook page):
- Atlanta, GA
- Milwaukee, WI
- Charlotte, NC
- Nashville, TN
- Chicago, IL
- New Orleans, LA
- Dallas, TX
- Oakland, CA
- Denver, CO
- Philadelphia, PA
- Detroit, MI
- Phoenix, AZ
- Great Falls, MT
- Richmond, VA
- Kansas City, MO
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Las Vegas, NV
- Seattle, WA
- Long Beach, CA
- Tampa, FL
This seems like a fun promotion, and I obviously hope it'll be hugely successful, but I do have a few observations:
- First, I couldn't help but notice that the initial press release, at least, doesn't actually state how many people are currently estimated to be uninsured in each of the cities participating, which seems like a rather obvious omission given the specifics of the Challenge.
- Second, while most of the cities do have Democratic mayors, one of them (Great Falls, Montana) appears to have a Republican mayor (Michael Winters). There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course, but it's noteworthy that Great Falls has only about 60,000 residents; the next-lowest population city on the list is Salt Lake City, Utah...which has about 190,000 residents. The other 18 cities all have populations well over 200,000. (Note: Sly James, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, is officially listed as an Independent). Hmmmmm...
This is kind of interesting to me. I presume the idea was to load the list up with cities which are heavily Democratic-leaning (or at least with cities which don't dislike President Obama as a whole). After all, Oklahoma City, OK (population 620,000 and one of the most conservative cities in America) isn't on the list; I don't know what the uninsured rate is there, but even if it's high, I can't imagine the prospect of President Obama visiting would do much to inspire a lot of ACA signups. Then again, just because a city has a Democratic Mayor doesn't necessarily mean that the city as a whole is heavily Democratic, so it might not mean all that much.
Third, the HHS Dept. has already publicly stated that they're gonna be focusing enrollment outreach heavily in 5 geographic areas: Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Miami, "northern New Jersey" (and I've read mentions of Atlanta as well). The list above includes Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta, but neither Houston, Miamai nor anywhere in New Jersey are included; this may not mean much, however.
Anyway, it'll be interesting to see if this promotion has any noticable impact.