Washington’s new health insurance exchange dispatched a sign-up envoy to one of the city’s gay clubs one recent night to get out the word about Obamacare. It envisioned men mingling on the dance floor, a cocktail in one hand and enrollment information in the other.
But the brochures about DC Health Link, as the exchange is called, weren’t snapped up as quickly as the free condoms provided by a local clinic.
Like other health exchanges and coverage advocacy groups across the country, DC Health Link is reaching out to people wherever they may be, including bars. President Barack Obama even urged bartenders — who may themselves be uninsured — to hold happy hours to talk about health insurance and what it can offer young adults.
That strategy has clear challenges, however. In a packed nightclub like Town Danceboutique in Northwest D.C., music smothers conversation, dimmed lights make reading difficult, and health coverage is not what’s on people’s minds.
“They’re looking to let loose. They’re not looking to talk about serious topics,” patron Maven Saleh said as he surveyed the Town crowd on a winter weekend.
Add an appearance by Santa wearing a “Naughty” hat as he posed for pictures on stage, and DC Health Link assister John Esposito had a near-impossible task that night. Positioned behind the stage and bar area, he stood by a small table offering not just information about insurance enrollment but packages of condoms and tubes of lubricant. The latter items were courtesy of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which also had its HIV testing van parked outside.