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Super Bowl Champs to Promote Obamacare

9/4/2013, 3:37 p.m.
President Obama welcomes the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens to the White House. (Photo by CNN Mark Walz.)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - While the National Football League decided against teaming up with the Obama administration to promote health care reform, individual teams are free to work with states on educational campaigns for open enrollment.

And this year's Super Bowl champs, the Baltimore Ravens, are doing just that.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown announced Tuesday the state-based health insurance marketplace and the NFL team will partner this fall to educate football fans on open enrollment for the state's marketplace once it opens on October 1.

"Research shows that 71 percent of the uninsured population in Maryland have watched, attended or listened to a Ravens game in the past 12 months," the announcement stated. "The partnership will provide Maryland Health Connection with the opportunity to reach and engage fans while making them aware of the new opportunity they have for health coverage beginning this fall through the health insurance marketplace."

The NFL said in June it had "no plans" to work with the Obama administration to promote health care reform after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said a "variety of sports affiliates" had been "very actively and enthusiastically engaged" with the administration over the idea.

Two top Republicans in the Senate had cautioned the league against teaming up for the project, saying in a letter the NFL would "risk damaging" its nonpartisan reputation by getting involved in a highly divisive issue.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that while the league as a whole decided not to participate, they're not discouraging individual franchises from taking part.

"These are decisions that I think each club's got to make," he said on CBS' "This Morning." "We as a league decided not to do that but allow our clubs to enter into agreements where they feel it is to be beneficial. The Ravens have made that decision and we support them."

In talking about pairing up with sports affiliates back in June, Sebelius pointed to the example set by the Boston Red Sox, who worked with the commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2007 to urge residents to sign up for the state's health insurance plan. The team used television ads to get out the message, and Fenway Park hosted a health care kiosk at home games and held a themed health care night. They also included informational inserts in their programs.

"We know the Red Sox were incredibly effective in Massachusetts ... so it's a logical place to go," Sebelius told reporters Monday.

Republicans have been highly critical of the administration's efforts to spend millions in public awareness campaigns for the health care program. They have especially highlighted signs of ill-preparedness by the administration to launch the individual health care exchanges next year.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, wrote a letter to Sebelius on Tuesday, blasting the health and human services secretary for plans to spend $8.7 million on a media blitz to promote the exchanges.

"Until critical questions can be answered regarding the availability and type of health insurance to be provided by ObamaCare, it is unconscionable to spend taxpayer dollars to promote and advertise ObamaCare plans that have yet to be finalized," he wrote.