In the summer of 2013, when the White House was gearing up to sell the Affordable Care Act, senior aide Valerie Jarrett convened a meeting of some of the nation’s biggest celebrities to secure their advice and help sell the law to the American public.
The meeting brought together singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, actor and on-off White House staffer Kal Penn and comedienne Amy Poehler, as well as Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and YouTube Comedy’s Daniel Kellison, and representatives for Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, and Bon Jovi. Nine months and hundreds of videos, tweets and media appearances later, the White House believes the meeting paid dividends, with the celebrities helping the administration enroll more than 7.04 million people in Obamacare through Monday night, the end of the open enrollment period in the healthcare exchanges.
The celebrity effort was just one component of a broader campaign modeled after Obama’s efforts to win the White House, including rally-style speeches from the president, field efforts on the ground, and targeted messaging to specific communities with high rates of the uninsured. All told, more than 5,000 events were held in support of the enrollment push in the past six weeks, according to the White House, include 45 featuring administration officials. The strategy was coordinated by Senior Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness, with the field campaign bolstered by the addition in October of veteran Obama campaign staffer Marlon Marshall.
Funny Or Die produced more than a half-dozen videos raising awareness about the law, including Obama’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis, while LeBron James appeared in a YouTube PSA.
Administration officials point to both appearances as sparking major jumps in traffic to the Healthcare.gov websites. James’ appearance in particular, made it easier to line up other celebrities for the healthcare campaign, further helping line up surrogates.
First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Joe Biden plugged the law on on the inaugural episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers. Former NBA stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning appeared in ads produced by the Department of Health and Human Services that aired during March Madness, while
Celebrities, from Ellen DeGeneres to Scrubs star Zach Braff flooded Twitter over the past several days with pleas to #GetCovered, which the White House claims reached about 350 million Twitter followers, and retweeted more than 40,400 times. (Those numbers do not count unique people, since many on Twitter follow multiple celebrities.)
The celebrities appearing in videos in support of the law include YouTube stars Hannah Hart, Tyler Oakley, the Fine Brothers, Nice Peter, ERB, Barely Political, VSauce. The mothers of Jonah Hill, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez, appeared jointly in a video, while others included Nina Dobrev, Nikki Reed, Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Eva Longoria, Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Scott, Elizabeth Banks and Eddie George.
The administration’s final push in support of the law also heavily invested in radio, with the White House saying more than 300 interviews have been given by the President, top administration officials, and surrogates. Since February, the list engaging on radio has included Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill, Kerry Washington, Jonelle Monae, Nia Long, Jurnee Smollett, Star Jones, Tatyana Ali, Nikki Reed, Aisha Tyler, and Dan Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was a massive effort. To get a sense of the scale, consider this list of celebrity tweets that went out Monday, March 31, the last day of open enrollment, when about 70 celebrities reached out with Twitter accounts connected to more than 90 million other accounts:
Ellen DeGeneres, 28.2 million followers
Nina Dobrev, 4.54 million Twitter followers / 3.6 million Facebook Likes
Zooey Deschanel, 5.43 million followers
John Legend, 5.24 million followers
Sarah Silverman, 5.16 million followers
Rainn Wilson, 3.82 million followers
Pharrell Williams, 3.17 million followers
Russell Simmons, 3.1 million followers
Questlove, 2.95 million followers
Alyssa Milano, 2.67 million followers
Wil Wheaton, 2.55 million followers
Conan O’Brien, 2.4 million Facebook Likes
Tyler Oakley, 2.14 million followers
Jared Leto, 1.7 million followers
Elizabeth Banks, 1.45 million followers
Shaun White (Facebook Post), 2.6 million Facebook Followers
Zach Braff, 1.39 million followers
If you randomly get hurt or sick, you shouldn’t lose every dollar you and your family has.
#GetCovered! Go to
TODAY is the Last Day to
#GetCovered! Go to
Olivia Wilde, 1.33 million followers
Sophia Bush, 924K followers
Last day to
#GetCovered! Don’t be a Fool tomorrow. Go to
Nikki Reed, 719K followers
Rashida Jones, 669K followers
Olivia Munn, 592K followers
Shonda Rhimes, 589K followers
David Boreanaz, 565K followers
Janelle Monae, 517K followers
Kate Walsh, 500K followers
Team Coco, 465K Twitter Followers
Nia Long, 423K followers
Mia Farrow, 421K followers
Melissa Joan Hart, 405K followers
Retweeted by Melissa Joan Hart
Emily VanCamp, 378K followers
Lance Bass, 370K followers
Hannah Hart, 353K followers
Torrey DeVitto, 328K followers
Mayim Bialik, 327K followers
CAA Foundation, 325K followers
Aisha Tyler, 313K followers
Tatyana Ali, 281K followers
Dule Hill, 239K followers
Goku, 215K followers
Brian Baumgartner, 210K followers
A guy I know once said: if u don’t have Health Insurance… You know… You probably kinda should. Today is the last day to #GetCovered.
Kal Penn, 208K followers
Star Jones, 184K followers
Arielle Kebbel, 166K followers
Billy Eichner, 159K followers
Scott Foley, 134K followers
Darby Stanchfield, 123K followers
John Cho, 113K followers
Jerome Bettis, 102K followers
Today is the last day to help yourself with health care!! Go to http://Healthcare.gov to sign -up
Jurnee Smollett, 98K followers
Amaury Nolasco, 96K followers
Michael Rosenbaum, 91K followers
Angela Bassett, 73K followers
Craig Newmark (Founder of Craigslist), 70K followers
Eric Balfour, 58K followers
Brandon Routh, 50.4K followers
Josh Hopkins, 40K followers
Nothing is more important than our health. Make it your family’s top priority and #GetCovered today.
John Lyman, 32K followers
Are you all signed up or in line for Santoscare? #ACA
Leo McGarry, 21K followers
Donna Moss, 18.2K followers
Sam Seaborn, 16.8K followers
Jayson Blair, 13K followers