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White House and Twitch hosting gaming marathon to promote Obamacare sign-ups (update)

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The White House, seen on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016.
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Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

The Obama administration is once again focusing on the gaming community in an effort to encourage people to sign up for health insurance, this time with a gaming marathon that will be livestreamed on Twitch from the White House next week.

Twitch and the White House announced today that they will hold a livestream called the White House Competitive Gaming Event — the first gaming marathon in White House history, according to Twitch — next Monday, Dec. 12. The four-hour marathon will run from 4-8 p.m. ET, and will feature more than a dozen gaming celebrities and professional gamers. The list includes Street Fighter players Mike Ross and Justin Wong, who will compete in a match of Street Fighter 5 with Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez doing commentary.

In addition to playing esports-focused games like Rocket League, many of the participants will appear on the stream to discuss the importance of securing health insurance. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, young adults (19- to 25-year-olds) had the highest uninsured rates of any demographic. While that group has seen the biggest drop in the rates of uninsured Americans, the White House said in a blog post today that “millions of millennials remain uninsured.”

The Obama administration has been making an effort to target health coverage toward underserved demographics, including young adults — many of whom play games. Last year, the eSports League produced a public service announcement urging gamers to sign up for health insurance before a particular deadline.

This time around, that effort is expanding with the White House Competitive Gaming Event. The event is part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ new initiative to enroll young adults in health insurance. Twitch, which is running the event, has also been participating in that youth outreach program, promoting with pre-roll ads and more.

“We appreciate how the White House has recognized the power and passion of our community,” said Brian Petrocelli, product marketing manager for Twitch, in a news release. “Their desire to present the Competitive Gaming Event to promote health coverage enrollment exemplifies how they continue to have their hand on the pulse of the younger generation. We share their enthusiasm since we also see the value of health coverage and encourage everyone to explore their options.”

Dec. 15 is this year’s deadline to sign up for health insurance and receive coverage as of Jan. 1, 2017. For more on the White House Competitive Gaming Event, check out the video featuring Shaquille O’Neal above.

Update (Dec. 9): A representative for Twitch clarified to Polygon that the White House Competitive Gaming Event won’t be esports-only; there will be casual games played competitively as well as esports titles. We’ve edited the article to reflect this.

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