WASHINGTON — Sen. Dean Heller said Thursday that athletes and “Hollywood celebrities” being recruited to promote the new health care law are little different from those who once used their fame to sell cigarettes to unsuspecting consumers.
In the latest Republican attack on “Obamacare,” the Nevadan charged the White House was seeking out movie, TV and sports personalities “to push a bill that many Americans do not support.”
“That tactic has been used before,” Heller said in a Senate speech. “In the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood and some athletes were used to sell and glamorize tobacco products.
“Today, Hollywood and some athletes are being used to peddle the Affordable Care Act, perhaps to make up for past sins,” he said.
Tobacco products have since been found cause cancer.
The criticism comes as the Obama administration has reached out to professional sports leagues and movie and television stars to help persuade young people to enroll in health care insurance pools that will become available on Oct. 1.
Health care premiums to be paid by younger people, who generally are more healthy, are seen as key to help pay to take care of sicker people under the law that Congress passed in 2010 and that is being implemented in pieces.
Actors Amy Poehler and Michael Cera, singers Jason Derulo and Jennifer Hudson and several high-profile behind-the-camera figures were among those at a White House meeting on Monday for a health care session.
In June, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration had asked the National Football League and Major League Baseball to help implement the law.
The NFL withdrew from the discussions following a warning from Senate Republicans that participating would “risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand.”
In his speech, Heller also criticized the law’s embrace of health care “navigators,” whose job would be to help individuals understand and choose among various insurance plans available under the law. The administration has announced $54 million in grants are available to states to provide navigator services.
Heller said the navigators would “push people” to enroll in the program.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.