A story in Politico has the internet riled up, detailing how hunky, smile-laden Bradley Cooper connected President Obama to Zach Galifianakis and thereby basically saved Obamacare. That story, particularly in its shorthand, is false.
obama going on between two ferns was bradley cooper's idea. bradley cooper saved obamacare. BRADLEY COOPER 4 PREZ http://t.co/q7vuORjLHx— Amanda Lucci (@alucci) April 2, 2014
Here's the story, as Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere and Carrie Budoff Brown tell it. Cooper was attending the state dinner for the French president when Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett asked for his help with ideas about how to sell Obamacare. Cooper suggested Galifianakis' Between Two Ferns. Jarrett went for it. So, "Cooper pulled out his cell phone, got Galifianakis on the line and put him on speaker. He was ready to help." Boom; done; an eagle flew by, chanting "USA." Here's how Politico's Dan Berman summarizes it: "How Bradley Cooper saved Obamacare."
The only problem with the story is what happens next. On the day the Obama video dropped, we speculated about the unlikely turn of events that would make Galifianakis the hero of the Obama administration. As part of that, I tried to figure out how useful the government's traffic metrics were — particularly day-of claims that it was the top referrer and information the next day that traffic was up 40 percent. I spoke with a web marketing expert who called the increase "reasonable," a more demure assessment than HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' celebration of a "Galifianakis bump" (no relation).
But I also reached out to a state exchange and got a response two days later. Larry Hicks is information officer for Covered California, the exchange that users would be redirected to if they'd gone to Healthcare.gov and said they were from the Golden State. "It did seem like there was a slight uptick in traffic yesterday (Tuesday), especially mid-afternoon," Hicks told me by email, "but it wasn’t huge, and could easily be attributed to the upcoming March 15 enrollment deadline (for April 1 coverage) as well." If the video had been a smash hit driving people to sign up, surely the largest state in the country would have seen a spike. It didn't.
At ACASignups.net, Charles Gaba has been tracking enrollment regularly, updating his figures several times a day. He created a graph showing how enrollment has fared. We took a tiny section of it and labeled it, as you can see at right. When the Two Ferns video came out, the effect on enrollments was … modest. Or, uncharitably, imperceptible. What really caused the important spike, seen at the end of the month, was the end of the month. As many had predicted all along, it was the looming enrollment deadline on April 1 that spurred enrollment, not Bradley Cooper.
April Fool's Day Saved Obamacare. Not that this is as catchy a headline.