Sorian: White House knew how to use Obamacare deadline to its advantage

How did the White House get more than 7 million people to enroll in health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act? Former Department of Health and Human Services comms leader Richard Sorian credits its use of the March 31 deadline and a "remarkable degree of creativity" with partnerships.

WASHINGTON: Seven million people have signed up for coverage through the Affordable Healthcare Act as of Tuesday, said the White House, surpassing the Obama Administration’s modified goal and meeting the original one despite a tumultuous Healthcare.gov launch.

Richard Sorian, SVP and partner at FleishmanHillard, said the success could be attributed to the White House leveraging the power of deadlines and using a "remarkable degree of creativity" in partnership development and outreach efforts.

"It’s a very happy day," said Sorian, who previously served as director of communications, education, and outreach for the District of Columbia Health Benefit Exchange Authority.

Before that, Sorian was tapped by President Barack Obama to serve as assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.

"I think it was always part of the plan to utilize [Obama]," said Sorian, adding that the creativity might have been stretched a little further after the "disasters of Healthcare.gov," though it was "always the plan to have the late push, be creative, and not stick to kinds of traditional approaches."

People, particularly young adults, respond to deadlines very well, said Sorian. He added that what the administration did in the past month was similar to the way the 2012 campaign operated, which used the president effectively in targeted and specific tasks and multiplied that.

Obama was able to capture people’s attention because he targeted certain groups rather than trying to get all of America to listen at once.

People may not have seen Funny or Die’s Between Two Ferns, said Sorian, but they likely heard about it. Vice President Joe Biden appeared on Rachael Ray before the enrollment deadline, which targets a different set of consumers.

"It was never going to be successful to try to sell this to the whole country," said Sorian.

Meanwhile, Saturday Night Live has the "amplification effect," said Sorian, and, in some ways, it was repeating the message of the impending enrollment deadline when it spoofed the administration’s tactics on Saturday. While the show’s impact may not be able to be measured, he added that the amount of people sharing it on social media and the earned media it garnered reflects "a pretty significant reach."

On March 27, Obama announced via conference call that ACA enrollment had topped six million. On Monday night, which was deadline day, media outlets predicted signups would reach seven million.

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