For all of the political fighting in Washington over defunding the Affordable Care Act, a pair of jarring new anti-Obamacare ads shows that some leading opponents have shifted their focus to sabotaging the law once it’s in place.
The spots feature a creepy, clownish Uncle Sam character performing gynecological and prostate exams on patients who signed up for insurance under the ACA. “Don’t let the government play doctor. Opt out of Obamacare,” the ads tell viewers. Not surprisingly, they’ve gone viral.
The canny bit of marketing is part of a reported $750,000 campaign by Generation Opportunity, an anti-Obamacare group backed by the billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch, to convince young adults that their best option is to remain uninsured once the health care law kicks in next year.
What’s most notable about the ads – besides the unfortunately positioned patriotic symbol – is who they target. Young adults are crucial to the ACA’s success. The law’s state-based health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, will keep premiums affordable only if enough young, healthy people sign up for coverage to offset the cost of insuring older and sicker enrollees. The White House has said the exchanges will need to enroll 2.7 million healthy 18-25-year-olds to remain solvent.
According to Yahoo! News, Generation Opportunity is planning a series of campaigns on college campuses, replete with a game that includes a “Wheel of Misery” and “informative palm cards,” as a counter-effort to groups working to enroll young people in the exchanges. Generation Opportunity’s staff is packed with conservative recent college graduates and some more experienced political hands, including a failed 2012 congressional candidate from Pennsylvania and a former vice president of Americans United for Life.
Some young people could spend less by paying a penalty for not having insurance under Obamacare than what it will cost to buy coverage. But new federal subsidies will dramatically cut the cost of coverage for individuals earning up to about $44,000 per year and low-cost, high-deductible plans often favored by the young and healthy will be available to those under 30. Older Americans, by contrast, will need more comprehensive coverage to avoid paying federal fines for not having insurance.
Persuading younger, generally healthy people that they don’t need insurance is an acknowledgment by conservatives that their only true hope of sinking Obamacare is to try and make it function poorly. House Republicans are poised to pass a stopgap spending measure this week that will tie funds to keep the government running to a measure that would defund Obamacare. With the Senate under Democratic control, the effort amounts to little more than political theater. Campaigns like Generation Opportunity’s represent the real new front in the fight over Obamacare: persuading young people to opt in or out.