Forty million Twitter followers received a message yesterday from the pop star: “It’s time to #GetCovered at Healthcare.gov.”
Within three hours, more than 6,600 Lady Gaga fans had re-tweeted the message to their own followers, sending it rippling further through the Internet as the online health insurance exchanges created by the law operated on their second day.
Seasoned by two presidential campaigns that broke ground in mobilizing support through social media, the Obama White House is bringing the full scope of its digital skills to bear on the debut of the linchpin of the Affordable Care Act.
Instead of the 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, the object is now to get to 2.7 million -- the number of healthy 18- to 34-year-olds that White House officials say they need to sign up for health insurance during the six-month open-enrollment period. Buy-in from the young is critical to keeping premiums affordable in a system that bars charging extra for people with pre-existing conditions.
“We’re trying to break out of the political space to reach people where they are, and we know that young people are spending a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram,” said Tara McGuinness, a White House communications adviser.
The administration got plenty of help on the second day of the online exchanges’ launch from celebrities wielding social media accounts.
Rapper Pharrell Williams advised his 2.3 million Twitter followers: “No health insurance? #GetCovered at Healthcare.gov.”
“Hunger Games” actress Elizabeth Banks urged on her 1.3 million followers, as did Kerry Washington of ABC’s “Scandal” with her 1.1 million followers and comedian Sarah Silverman with her 4.3 million followers.
In most cases, celebrity supporters also posted messages on their Facebook accounts and photos on Instagram account, McGuinness said.
White House officials encouraged the social media messages through a series of briefings with celebrities, grass-roots organizers and local officials, McGuinness said. The digital campaign is in its opening stages and mostly targeted on raising awareness of the health insurance program and website.
A Pew Research Center survey conducted Sept. 4-8 found 50 percent of Americans without insurance didn’t know about the insurance exchanges the health-care law established.
The federal online insurance exchange had 6.1 million visitors by late afternoon yesterday, McGuinness said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Dorning in Washington D.C. at firstname.lastname@example.org.