Opinion: Obamacare advertisements hard to take seriously, especially considering costs

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Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law just over four years ago, President Obama’s signature achievement has been surrounded by controversy. The sweeping legislation, commonly referred to as Obamacare, is a massive overhaul of the United States’ healthcare system the likes of which we haven’t seen since Medicare and Medicaid passed in 1965.

The bill has been surrounded by controversy, legal battles, technical difficulties and deadline extensions- in fact, the Washington Post reported last week that the Obama administration would give extra time to Americans who didn’t enroll through the federal insurance marketplace by the original March 31 deadline.

I could argue about countless aspects of the law itself or the poor job the federal government has done implementing it, but at this point, it would be beating a horse that has long since been dead. Instead, I want to talk about something that hasn’t received nearly as much attention: the expensive, yet atrocious, promotional campaign designed to convince people to enroll in Obamacare. Despite costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, the ads looked downright amateurish, and weren’t very effective, as the administration barely reached their “revised” goal of six million enrollments.

If you’ve watched TV, listened to the radio or gone online anytime over the past few years, chances are pretty great that you’ve seen your share of Obamacare plugs. One such ad that aired during this year’s NCAA Tournament, which millions of people watch, starred former NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning. In it, the 6-foot-10-inch center shows up to a pickup basketball game in a park, “wondering if [he] could get next.” As the players gather around him in awe, he proceeds to turn the conversation from hoops to healthcare, saying that the “invincible” mentality that the athletes have is foolish, and advising them to go to healthcare.gov to “get covered.” As an avid college basketball fan, I had to sit through the ad several dozen times while watching the tournament. It was painful to watch. The dialogue was awkward and forced, and the acting was just as bad.

Another, equally ridiculous ad on Healthcare.gov’s YouTube channel is titled “Bubble Wrap vs. Health Insurance.” Apparently, as the ad states, “You don’t need health insurance if you have an endless supply of bubble wrap.” My dad works in food distribution, which gives him access to more bubble wrap than you can imagine, and we still have health insurance, but I digress. In the commercial, a young woman wraps a man in an entire roll of the plastic packing material. He then hops around for a second or two before falling to the ground. It’s pretty much impossible to take seriously.

My personal favorite part of the campaign was the series of posters meant to appeal to college students and other young adults. One features Susie and Nate, who are described as “Hot to Trot.” Susie is leaning up against a smug-looking Nate, holding a box of birth control pills and shooting a thumbs up sign. “OMG, he’s hot!,” the caption reads. “Let’s hope he’s as easy to get as this birth control.” Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

Another poster stars Rob, Zach and Sam, “bros for life.” Rob and Sam are lifting Zach up for a keg stand, and holding red Solo cups in their free hands. According to the ad, as crazy as keg stands may be, they’re not as crazy as not being uninsured. We youngsters shouldn’t have to “tap into our beer money” for health coverage, it posits.

If you need a good laugh, I’d highly suggest a quick Google Image search for the “Got Insurance” campaign. There are dozens of posters like the two I mentioned above, each more absurd than the last.

The worst part about all the low-quality propaganda is its cost to taxpayers. An article on The Blaze from July 2013 said that data compiled from the Associated Press and federal and state sources pegged the tab for marketing the Affordable Care Act as at least $684 million. What’s more, according to Townhall.com, in December 2013, Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration didn’t need to advertise or campaign for the law.

Clearly, throwing a bunch of money at a campaign doesn’t guarantee quality. It blows my mind that the federal government spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting the president’s pet project, and that’s what they came up with. I can name dozens of college students off the top of my head that could have promoted the Act more effectively, especially with a budget that size. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of federally mandated healthcare, I think we can all agree that this marketing campaign was a flop and a colossal waste of money.

Mike Stanton is a sophomore in journalism and mass communications. Please send all comments to [email protected]

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