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Conservatives Reduced To Telling Young People Not To Get Medical Care At All

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, September 20, 2013 9:59 EDT
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Not history’s greatest monsters.

It’s been really funny, if also deeply disturbing, to see conservatives desperately cast around for any opportunity they can find to derail Obamacare as October 1st, the day the health care exchanges start, comes nearer. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Republicans realize that once people start to use the exchanges, they are going to be enthusiastic about it, and so they’re trying to keep as many people as possible from getting to the exchanges to begin with. That’s because, at this point, Republicans aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they straight up don’t think that certain people deserve health insurance. The efforts to make sure as few uninsured people as possible get health insurance include attacks on the navigator programs to help people sign up for insurance (apparently, nothing—nothing—is worse to Republicans than the idea of some uninsured person getting an hour’s worth of help getting signed up for health insurance) and, of course, propaganda trying to scare people into not even looking at the websites where you can sign up for insurance. The Koch brothers especially have been aiming ads specifically at young people that are trying to make young people think that getting into an health insurance plan is like, the worst thing that could ever happen to you. They want young people especially out of it, because they know that getting young people into insurance plans is expected to lower the overall premiums for everyone, and because the Koch brothers are Batman villain-level evil, they’ve decided it’s important that people pay more for health care because that’s why.

Which is how we got this ad:

And one for the gents:

I’ve watched these ads a few times, and while there’s some sort of weak attempt to suggest that there’s a metaphor going on, in reality the message of the ads seems awfully straightforward: “Hey, young people! You might think getting health insurance so you can go see a doctor is a good thing! But if you actually go in to see a doctor, they will do invasive medical tests that are physically unpleasant. Why not just skip the whole thing? You don’t really want someone putting a speculum in your hoo-haa or a finger up your butt, do you? Health insurance is just a scam so that doctors can touch your private bits.”

There’s just no other way this ad works. It’s about trying to make the experience of going to the doctor seem so miserable that the viewer just decides to hell with all that. The clownish Uncle Sam and the tagline seem to be groping towards an incoherent government-in-your-business message, but the emotional ploy—i.e. the real point of the ad—is all about making medical care seem too scary to be bothered with.

That’s where we are in this country: Conservative activists, actively trying to keep people from seeing a doctor. Because, that’s why.

It won’t work, of course. As Matt Yglesias says:

The advertisement, I think, underscores the conceptual problem with the boycott movement. I’m not the world’s leading expert in the field but (perhaps unlike conservative movement leaders), I have spoken to young women in my life. And in my experience they already regard gynecological exams as a not-exactly-awesome way to spend the afternoon. They’re not light entertainment, they’re medically necessary health care. And yet if you lack health insurance, you may not be able to afford the health care you need. That’s really bad.

It’s true that men might be slightly more amendable to the idea that it’s better just to never see doctors at all, but I don’t think that’s true of young men in America, who are less taken in by the message that the emasculation of having a doctor see you naked is worse than, say, dying in a ditch somewhere. And the male ad is aimed at young men: The whole idea of the ad is that if you don’t get a health care plan, no one will be sticking a finger up your butt. I just don’t think they care that much. Young people these days are actually more invested in being healthy than their elders probably were at their age. They show strong interest in having health insurance. They eat better and exercise more. They’re a lot less homophobic and sexually uptight, which I suspect means they’re not as susceptible to these kinds of ads that prey on shame about your private parts in order to discourage you from getting health care. I just don’t think this sort of thing is going to work.

Like Matt says, this is about trying to sell the idea that buying insurance through the exchange is “actually worse than having no health insurance at all.” That’s really the corner they’ve painted themselves into, so it makes sense that anti-Obamacare people are trying to sell young people on the idea that having access to check-ups is some kind of terrible torture that they should avoid. But man, that shit is dark.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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