Like the success of a sports team, the success of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) depends on many factors.  However, one critical factor contributing to the success of ACA is the enrollment of individuals in the exchanges. In an effort to promote enrollment, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) took a lesson from Massachusetts’ partnership with the Boston Red Sox in 2007. 

Massachusetts enacted a comprehensive health care reform bill in 2006 in an effort to achieve nearly universal health insurance coverage for its residents. To increase enrollment in the Commonwealth’s health insurance plans, Massachusetts teamed up with the Boston Red Sox the next year.  As part of this partnership, the Red Sox hosted a health care kiosk, featured advertisements, and included information in program inserts .

On June 24, 2013, the Secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, announced that a variety of sports team affiliates engaged in discussions to help promote enrollment of individuals in the exchanges pursuant to ACA, modeled after the Red Sox partnership with Massachusetts.  In particular, Ms. Sebelius stated that the National Football League (“NFL”) had been very actively and enthusiastically engaged in these discussions.

However, in a June 27, 2013 letter to the Commissioner of the NFL, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn stated that, unlike the Massachusetts law, ACA is a divisive statute that was not adopted through strong bipartisan effort.  The NFL later announced that it currently has no plans to promote enrollment of individuals in exchanges. 

Similar letters were sent to five other professional sports leagues (including the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the Professional Golf Association and the National Association for Stock Car Racing (“NASCAR”).

Posted by Jennifer K. Shanley

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