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White House touts health law in women's magazines

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By Christi Parsons
Tribune Washington Bureau
Published:
WASHINGTON -- The current Cosmopolitan magazine explains the Affordable Care Act with the "Top Eight Ways Young Women Benefit from Obamacare." Glamour lays out the "Five Things You Need to Know" about the marketplaces kicking into gear Tuesday.
The other night, late-night TV host Conan O'Brien put his own spin on the meme with "Ten Pre-existing Conditions to Drive Your Man Crazy."
At the White House, which is pushing the message hard with women's magazines, officials laughed. They figure they're in on the joke - as long as people are getting the Democratic message that the new health care law is easy to check out.
"Lots of women who will benefit may not read The New York Times or Politico but do read Cosmo," said one administration official working on the project, who requested anonymity to discuss strategy. "Much bigger reach; reaches women exactly where they are - and they're a key demographic."
To be specific, White House officials are aiming at a demographic of people who pass on information they find useful to others. They tell their friends, moms and daughters, the official said, making them "even more trusted messengers" than the magazines themselves, the official said.
Selling the message is the No. 1 task this week for President Barack Obama and his aides, even as they serve as host to the Israeli prime minister Monday and prepare for the possibility of a government shutdown starting Tuesday.
Just getting people to try the new health care marketplaces will be no easy lift. Polling data suggest that even uninsured Americans, those who stand to benefit the most, are wary of the Affordable Care Act, as the law is officially known. One Pew Research survey conducted last week found the uninsured as likely to disapprove of the law as they are to approve of it.
"The policy is complicated and hard to explain. That has been the problem for the Obama administration all along," said Patrick Griffin, former legislative director for President Bill Clinton and now the academic director of the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute at American University. "Now, though, people are starting to think about it in practical terms. The rubber is about to meet the road."
As they try to get Americans to take the plan out for a spin, White House strategists are targeting women and the sources they trust.
Top administration officials have been talking to women's magazines, including Woman's Day, Cosmo Latina, Marie Claire and Ebony, several of which are running stories in their October print issues. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has started the website Obamacare Works to take questions about how the program operates.
Critics of the law are having their say in the same venues. One reader comment on Glamour's Web version of the story notes that some small businesses are changing their business practices so they don't have to comply with the law. Since the beginning of the health care debate, some business leaders have threatened to reduce worker hours or cut back the size of their workforce to avoid the law's reach.
Obama aides hope the larger audience of uninsured individuals will at least be intrigued enough to visit the online signup sites when they open Tuesday.
"For us, this is about meeting people where they are," the White House official said. "With all of these, there was thought put into circulation numbers, reach ... and also who the most trusted messengers are."

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