It's all hands on deck to try to get Americans to sign up for Obamacare before time runs out, and according to a report from Politico, that even means going to where all feet are on the dance floor – the local nightclub.
This is the last weekend to sign up for the Affordable Care Act to guarantee health insurance kicks in on January 1. The deadline to apply is Monday; apply after March 31, and a tax penalty kicks in. So the government, especially eager to get its hands on the sweet sweet program-sustaining investment of young mostly healthy people, has been reaching out with customized offensives to target specific demographics, even if it looks for all the world as if it's an avuncular old person trying to look hip by wearing a baseball cap backwards and asking "Wazzap?!"
Which is what brought Politico to a Washington gay bar on Saturday night, where poor DC Health Link employee John Esposito was sent to contend with bumping beats and those just hoping to bump uglies in an effort to subscribe young LGBT people to the program. ("Gays and lesbians," the story notes, "represent a significant percentage of the 42,000 people who are uninsured in the District. Most are African American and live in four wards where the uninsurance rate averages about 18 percent, far higher than the rest of the city.")
Add an appearance by Santa wearing a “Naughty” hat as he posed for pictures on stage, and DC Health Link assister John Esposito had a near-impossible task that night. Positioned behind the stage and bar area, he stood by a small table offering not just information about insurance enrollment but packages of condoms and tubes of lubricant. The latter items were courtesy of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which also had its HIV testing van parked outside.
It will be likely of little surprise to you that interest in reading about health insurance in a loud, darkly lit room wasn't great. Politico noted that as the night wore on, some of the men who came to get condoms took an info card and had a quick chat with Esposito about insurance options, but "no one filled out the follow-up worksheet that would have enabled him to to walk the person through the steps to actually signing up."
DC Health Link has also worked to lure subscribers by infiltrating Zumba classes, lineups for the latest Air Jordan sneaker, and late-night Denny's diners, so this wasn't the organization's first try. It wasn't even its first time at the club rodeo:
DC Health Link’s first such effort was in October when it swung by ladies night at Cobalt, another popular venue. The evening was instructive. Patrons, bartenders and bouncers were open to talking about health insurance, but all were a bit startled when the subject was brought up. The assisters realized they needed to soften their approach to more effectively engage people.
Meanwhile, as health officials work to lasso every young person in sight, a Democrat appeared in more buttoned-up places on Sunday to voice what many were already whispering in Congress's hallowed halls: that Obamacare threatens to drag the party down as it enters the midterms and as it looks ahead to the presidential race in 2016.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said this on CNN's "State of the Union" program:
If it's so much more expensive than what we anticipated and if the coverage is not as good as what we had, you've got a complete meltdown at that time. It falls of its own weight, if basically the cost becomes more than we can absorb, absolutely.
Though he is seen as a conservative Democrat, Manchin has been pushing legislation to delay the tax penalty deadline by a year. He would be the latest Democrat to grouse publicly about the risks of the President's signature legacy project. In November, 39 Democrats (mostly facing difficult paths to midterm election) voted with the Republicans to allow insurers to keep selling plans that don't meet the Affordable Care Act's criteria. It was seen as a rebuke of Obama's much-mocked and debunked claim that Americans could keep their old plans if they liked them.