Published: November 16, 2013
Forget the website fiasco, which will eventually get fixed. Forget the multiple false assurances President Barack Obama made about Americans keeping whatever policies they liked "no matter what." Forget the weird and seemingly unworkable presidential proclamation that people who have lost health policies can somehow keep them now.
The biggest problem with Obamacare is the fact it counts on young healthy people paying exorbitant prices for health insurance policies they don't really want or need and cannot afford.
If they don't buy health insurance, and opt instead for the penalty of declining it, Obamacare cannot survive. Without the young and healthy subsidizing the old and ill, nothing can adequately fund it. An economic death spiral will almost certainly ensue if the most healthy among us do not line up to pay for policies that far exceed anything they want.
Understanding this threat, advocates of the Affordable Care Act are employing dramatic measures to attract young consumers. A series of "Got Insurance?" ads began making national news this week, and not in a good way. Critics on cable talk shows, and as quoted in the Denver Post, call the ads "demeaning" and insulting to women. The ads, which promote Colorado's health care exchange, are produced by Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado.
"This ad campaign is desperately trying to distract from the fact that exchange sign-ups have essentially ground to a halt," said political strategist Kelly Maher, as quoted in the Post. "While nearly a quarter of a million Coloradans have had their plans canceled, ProgressNow Colorado and Colorado Consumer Health Initiative are demeaning and belittling women with shallow sexual caricatures and making light of serious women's health issues."
The Post quoted an associate professor of advertising at the University of Colorado-Boulder saying the ads are so bad she thought they were a joke created by Obamacare critics.
"I think it's a strategic mistake," said Harsha Gangadharbatla, of CU-Boulder.
The Denver Post's editorial board called the ads "comically stupid."
One ad features a young woman next to a young man, with the woman saying: "OMG, he's hot! Let's hope he's as easy to get as this birth control. My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers."
Another ad explains that saving money on flu shots leaves more money for shots of liquor. Another involves a young man drinking from a beer keg.
Sure, images of sex and alcohol can probably sell beach properties on Mars to ill-informed consumers. Still, it's hard to believe "easy access to birth control" and flu shots will cause young adults to further subsidize lifestyles of older generations to the tune of hundreds of dollars each month. They may like sex and booze, but they're not stupid and they're not made of money.
While many are complaining they are insulting and offensive, the ads raise a bigger concern. They reveal all-out desperation to sell policies that probably cannot be sold.
Despite all other concerns, the Affordable Care Act simply won't work without those who consume the least amount of health care paying the most into the system. It appears a fatal flaw in the plan, and these ads come across as desperate attempts to achieve the impossible.