How Many More Viral Comedy Videos A Day Will Obama Need To Meet Healthcare Goals?

President Obama’s hilarious “Between Two Ferns” cameo is on its way to becoming one of the most viral videos in Funny or Die history. It spiked visits to an impressive 40%, compared to the day before. Unfortunately, this latest political touchdown was made in the 4th quarter and the White House is still way short of its goal.

They are still about 2.8 million enrollees short of their original goal of 7 million for the March 31st enrollment deadline. So, how many more viral videos a day does the Administration need to meet its goals? Let’s get nerdy with the numbers.

By any metric, Obama’s comedy skit was a smash hit. The first day, it amassed 15 million views and, according to Health and Human Services, drove over half-a-million visits to the healthcare marketplace, Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett, spiked the football, declaring the move “Overwhelmingly successful”.

But, when we dig through the broader numbers, it’s not looking pretty. The Administration originally hoped for 7 million enrollees, flooding the system with the healthy bodies of young 20-somethings, whose sparse doctor visits will subsidize health care for the rest of the country. Unfortunately, massive website problems put the brakes on enrollment for the first few months (and, as I’ve argued, it’s because the U.S. government refused to let startups get involved).

So, by the end of February, only 4.2 million people have enrolled in a new health plan. February’s numbers are particularly disturbing because we expect to see a steady increase in enrollment as we race toward the deadline. In Massachusetts in 2007, which experimented with a healthcare mandate similar to the one in the Affordable Care Act, the state saw a surge of signups until the deadline. Yet, in February, less people signed up than the month before (943K in February vs. 1.1M in January).

The New York Times notes that Health and Human Services was hoping to have 5.6 million enrolled by February, with 1.3 million that month alone.

The Funny Or Die video certainly helped enroll more folks, but how many more?

Well, previous estimates of conversion rate of visitors to enrollees have pegged the number at about 5% (5 out of every 100 people who visit the site actually get insurance).

If Funny or Die drove roughly 600,000 more page views, that’s an extra 30,000 enrollees (rounding to be conservative). If the Administration managed a new viral video every day until the deadline on March 31st, it’d mean about 450k additional signups.

If March is a run-a-way success, and enrolls 50% more people than last month (1 million), the additional 500 thousand could meet the Congressional Budget Office’s downgraded goal.

See, after the website problems, the administration started floating a plan “B” goal of 6 million. But, if it actually needs 7 million, the Administration will need 2 more viral videos every single day.

Our rough estimates seem to jive with previously released numbers.

CNN notes that on an average day in February, 33,000 people signed up for Obamacare. If the day before the Funny Or Die video saw roughly 635,000 views, and that represents the average page views a day, then does, indeed, have about a 5% conversion rate (again, we’re rounding to be conservative).

So, if all of the 40% more Funny or Die visitors had the same propensity to buy health insurance, we would have about 42,000 enrollees a day, for every day the administration released a viral video.

If the administration needs 1 million more signups, it still needs about 24 more viral videos (1M divided by 42K). Or, two videos a day for the next 12 days.

If you want a lot more math nerdiness, has a very detailed count of enrollment . Ultimately, the final numbers will depend on the success of the states, greater marketing from the White House, and the procrastination of consumers. Our numbers are just rough estimates to put the Funny or Die video in to context.


Given that it’s going to be difficult to meet the enrollment goals, one option is to chain Funny or Die workers to their desks and churn out some laughs. Or, the most likely option: the administration will just move the goal post again.