TIME White House

All The President’s Celebrities: How The White House Used Stars To Sell Obamacare

The Obama administration turned to a powerful source to help persuade 7 million uninsured Americans to enroll in health care plans under the Affordable Care Act — a veritable army of celebrities

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

Ellen DeGeneres@TheEllenShow 29s

Today’s the last day to #GetCovered. Everyone in my house is covered. We even have a covered garage. https://www.healthcare.gov/

Nina Dobrev, 4.54 million Twitter followers / 3.6 million Facebook Likes

Nina Dobrev@ninadobrev 4m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered Don’t be an April Fool tomorrow and go to http://healthcare.gov NOW! http://youtu.be/pARcZeRoH8w

Zooey Deschanel, 5.43 million followers

zooey deschanel@ZooeyDeschanel 1m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

John Legend, 5.24 million followers

John Legend@johnlegend 28s

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Sarah Silverman, 5.16 million followers

Sarah Silverman@SarahKSilverman 1m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered y’all. Go to http://Healthcare.gov now

Rainn Wilson, 3.82 million followers

RainnWilson@rainnwilson 1m

HEY UNINSURED PEOPLE: Today’s your last chance to get health insurance in 2014. http://ofa.bo/cQe #GetCoveredNow http://healthcare.gov

Pharrell Williams, 3.17 million followers

Pharrell Williams@Pharrell 14m

Stay healthy, guys. Today is the last day to #getcovered at http://www.healthcare.gov

Russell Simmons, 3.1 million followers

Russell Simmons@UncleRUSH 42m

Today is the last day to #GetCovered at http://Healthcare.gov!! If you do not healthcare, go to the site NOWWWWWW!!!!!!!

Questlove, 2.95 million followers

Questlove Jenkins@questlove 19m

procrastinators: you’ve put it off forever. can you really afford to NOT #GetCoveredNow? today is last day for 2014 http://bit.ly/1ggsJVP

Alyssa Milano, 2.67 million followers

Alyssa Milano@Alyssa_Milano 1m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered . Go to http://Healthcare.gov NOW!

Wil Wheaton, 2.55 million followers

Wil Wheaton@wilw 17m

#GeeksGetCovered! RT @Alyssa_Milano: TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered . Go to http://Healthcare.gov NOW!

Conan O’Brien, 2.4 million Facebook Likes

Tyler Oakley, 2.14 million followers

Tyler Oakley@tyleroakley 57s

My BFF @BarackObama keeps nagging me to tell y’all that today is the last day to #GetCoveredhttp://Healthcare.gov – go now, sign up.

Jared Leto, 1.7 million followers

JARED LETO@JaredLeto 4m

TODAY is the LAST DAY to #GetCovered. Visit http://healthcare.gov + apply now.

kerry washington@kerrywashington 43s

Today is the last day to #GETCOVERED! RT + Sign up now. http://1.usa.gov/HaCX0w

Elizabeth Banks, 1.45 million followers

Elizabeth Banks@ElizabethBanks 55s

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Shaun White (Facebook Post), 2.6 million Facebook Followers

Chatting w our President and heard it was the last day to #GetCoveredhttp://bitly.com/SWGetCovered

Zach Braff, 1.39 million followers

Zach Braff@zachbraff 15m

There is nothing sexier than someone with health insurance. #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Zach Braff@zachbraff 2h

If you randomly get hurt or sick, you shouldn’t lose every dollar you and your family has.

#GetCovered! Go to

http://Healthcare.gov

now.

Zach Braff@zachbraff 5h

TODAY is the Last Day to

#GetCovered! Go to

http://Healthcare.gov

now.

Olivia Wilde, 1.33 million followers

olivia wilde@oliviawilde 1m

Don’t stall. This is the LAST day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov and protect your future-self. (Or pay fines later = not fun.)

Sophia Bush, 924K followers

Sophia Bush@SophiaBush 1m

Last day to

#GetCovered! Don’t be a Fool tomorrow. Go to

http://Healthcare.gov

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pARcZeRoH8w&feature=youtu.be

Nikki Reed, 719K followers

Nikki Reed@NikkiReed_I_Am 21s

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://www.whosay.com/l/rDU867d now!!!!!!

Rashida Jones, 669K followers

Rashida Jones@iamrashidajones 59s

Come on everybody! Today is the Last Day to #GetCovered. Go http://toHealthcare.gov now and make this happen.

Olivia Munn, 592K followers

oliviamunn@oliviamunn 3m

Today is the Last Day to #GetCovered. Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Shonda Rhimes, 589K followers

shonda rhimes@shondarhimes 30m

People! Get some health care. It’s the last day! https://www.healthcare.gov #Obamacare #freebirthcontrol

David Boreanaz, 565K followers

David Boreanaz@David_Boreanaz 4m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered Go to http://Heathcare.gov NOW. #DoIt

Janelle Monae, 517K followers

Janelle Monae@JanelleMonae 15m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Kate Walsh, 500K followers

Kate Walsh@katewalsh 1h

Remember that today is the LAST day to #GetCovered! Visit http://Healthcare.gov now. http://1.usa.gov/1i8ttPy

Team Coco, 465K Twitter Followers

Team Coco@TeamCoco

Last day to #GetCoveredNow. Don’t wait for a zombie apocalypse to take your health seriously: http://healthcare.gov pic.twitter.com/emjvX2A9gq

Nia Long, 423K followers

Nia Long@NiaLong 2h

http://Healthcare.gov is the place to go!!!! #GetCovered @BarackObama makes it easy for everyone to have healthcare.

Mia Farrow, 421K followers

mia farrow@MiaFarrow 58s

Bo-1st-Dog says #GetCovered MT @WhiteHouse: I signed the #ACA so millions could know the peace of mind that comes with health insurance. -bo

Melissa Joan Hart, 405K followers

Retweeted by Melissa Joan Hart

HealthCare.gov@HealthCareGov 3h

http://HealthCare.gov serving consumers. 1.7M+ visits and 364k calls Sunday. Deadline is today for coverage this year. #GetCoveredNow

Melissa Joan Hart@MelissaJoanHart 51m

Yes but don’t want people penalized. RT @swin24: . just RT’d @HealthCareGov. Isn’t she a Republican?

Emily VanCamp, 378K followers

Emily VanCamp@EmilyVanCamp 2m

Today is the last day to #GetCovered ! http://healthcare.gov

Lance Bass, 370K followers

Lance Bass@LanceBass 8m

The deadline is finally here! TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now

Hannah Hart, 353K followers

Hannah Hart@harto 31s

Hey! Independent cool kid who thinks they will live forever! Today is the last day to #GetCovered just in case. http://healthcare.gov

Torrey DeVitto, 328K followers

Torrey DeVitto@TorreyJDeVitto 6m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW! 🙌💗

Mayim Bialik, 327K followers

Mayim Bialik@missmayim 1m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now. you deserve it! don’t be left out!

CAA Foundation, 325K followers

CAA Foundation@caafoundation 1m

Time is almost up – #GetCovered today! Visit http://healthcare.gov + apply now! (via @JaredLeto @zachbraff @Alyssa_Milano)

Aisha Tyler, 313K followers

Aisha Tyler@aishatyler 2m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered! If you don’t have health coverage visit http://Healthcare.gov now. You don’t need it, until you do.

Tatyana Ali, 281K followers

Tatyana Ali@TatyanaAli 2m

It’s March 31st!!! Happy Monday! TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Dule Hill, 239K followers

Dulé Hill@DuleHill 2m

Twittersphere! The deadline to #GetCovered is today! Go to http://Healthcare.gov https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pARcZeRoH8w&feature=youtu.be … @NikkiReed_I_Am @ninadobrev @glove

Goku, 215K followers

Goku@Goku

Today is the Last Day to #GetCovered. Go to http://Healthcare.gov . Then have yourself a Dragon Ball Z marathon.

Brian Baumgartner, 210K followers

Brian Baumgartner@BBBaumgartner 2h

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

Kal Penn@kalpenn 33s

If you like your gonorrhea, you can keep your gonorrhea! Or get health insurance. Or live with gonorrhea. #GetCovered http://healthcare.gov

Star Jones, 184K followers

Star Jones@StarJonesEsq 5m

Don’t want to be an #AprilFool tomorrow? Remember, TODAY is Last Day to #GetCovered. Go to http://Healthcare.gov now. #heartHealth matters

Arielle Kebbel, 166K followers

Arielle Kebbel@ArielleKebbel 1h

Did you know: TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW! Ps- PLS!!!!!! ;)

Billy Eichner, 159K followers

billy eichner@billyeichner 1m

As a respected diplomat, I want to remind u that today is the last day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov. pic.twitter.com/qw0tsMRn9L

Scott Foley, 134K followers

scott foley@scottkfoley 11m

Tweeps! TODAY is the LAST DAY to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

Darby Stanchfield, 123K followers

Darby Stanchfield@darbysofficial 1m

Tweeps! Today is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov to sign up. #FreeBirthControl

John Cho, 113K followers

John Cho@JohnTheCho 1m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered. Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Jerome Bettis, 102K followers

Jerome Bettis@JeromeBettis36 10m

Today is the last day to help yourself with health care!! Go to http://Healthcare.gov to sign -up

Jurnee Smollett, 98K followers

jurnee smollett@jurneesmollett 1m

Listen tweeps, over 6mil people have signed up for healthcare. TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Amaury Nolasco, 96K followers

Amaury Nolasco@amaury_nolasco 20m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered Don’t be an April Fool tomorrow and go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

Michael Rosenbaum, 91K followers

Michael Rosenbaum@mrosenbaum711 15m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

Angela Bassett, 73K followers

Angela Bassett@ImAngelaBassett 1m

I did it. @CourtneyBVance did it. Did you? Click here. NOW. https://www.healthcare.gov/ #GetCovered

Craig Newmark (Founder of Craigslist), 70K followers

craignewmark@craignewmark 55s

Spread the word! Today’s the last day to sign up for health coverage. #GetCoveredNow http://hc.gov/RUXFYn , pic.twitter.com/CoecJAeRVf

Eric Balfour, 58K followers

ERIC BALFOUR@ERICBALFOUR 57m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

Brandon Routh, 50.4K followers

Brandon Routh@BrandonJRouth 2m

Last day to #GetCovered! Don’t be a Fool tomorrow. Go to http://Healthcare.gov https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pARcZeRoH8w&feature=youtu.be @NikkiReed_I_Am @ninadobrev @glove

Josh Hopkins, 40K followers

Josh Hopkins@MrJoshHopkins Jan 11

Nothing is more important than our health. Make it your family’s top priority and #GetCovered today.

John Lyman, 32K followers

Joshua Lyman@joshualyman 2h

Are you all signed up or in line for Santoscare? #ACA

Adrianne Palicki@AdriannePalicki 5m

#GetCovered Don’t be a fool tomorrow! Go to http://healthcare.gov now!!!

Leo McGarry, 21K followers

Leo Thomas McGarry@LeoMcGarry 2m

Life is random. Your health care doesn’t have to be. #GetCovered. #YesYou

Donna Moss, 18.2K followers

Donna Moss@donnatella_moss 4h

Last day of open enrolment for Santoscare today. Young invincibles, don’t make me call your mothers. #GetCovered #ACA

Sam Seaborn, 16.8K followers

Sam Seaborn@SamSeaborn 5h

Still not covered? Go to http://healthcare.gov now. Today is the deadline to #GetCovered for this year.

Jayson Blair, 13K followers

Jayson Blair@Jayson_Blair 29m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered Don’t be an April Fool tomorrow y’all. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

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