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Conservative Group To Young People: 'Opt Out' Of Obamacare

Linda Norman (right) and Joanna Galt, both from Florida, hold their banners during a "Exempt America from Obamacare" rally on the West Lawn of the Capitol on Sept. 10.
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Linda Norman (right) and Joanna Galt, both from Florida, hold their banners during a "Exempt America from Obamacare" rally on the West Lawn of the Capitol on Sept. 10.

Not all of the action to defund and otherwise undermine the Affordable Care Act is taking place in Congress.

Outside conservative groups keep looking for new angles to attack Obamacare. The latest comes in the form of ads sponsored by Generation Opportunity — an organization for young conservatives that's backed by the billionaire political activists David and Charles Koch.

The ads argue, in purposely creepy fashion, that young people should be wary of signing up for the health care exchanges the health care law creates.

It's a vibe Generation Opportunity spokesman David Pasch embraces.

"Yes, the ads are a little creepy," he says, "but the bottom line is Obamacare exchanges are a little creepy."

One features a young woman as the patient; the other uses a young man.

In the first spot, the female patient is greeted by a friendly nurse:

Nurse: Oh I see you choose to sign up for Obamacare

Female patient: Yeah it's actually my first time here.

Nurse: Well, here we are then. Change into a gown and the doctor will see you soon.

Comical, circuslike music plays. A female doctor enters. The mood is now less friendly, but still businesslike.

Doctor: Hey, your vitals look good. Any changes in your diet or exercise?

(Female patient shakes head. )

Doctor: All right, can you swing on over, scoot on down, and try to make yourself comfortable?

This is where it gets creepy.

The music gets ominous.

There's a close-up of feet going into stirrups.

Then, suddenly, a giant Uncle Sam appears wearing a giant plastic head with a leering smile, all framed in a patient's-eye view.

More ominous music.

Uncle Sam leers again ... this time holding aloft the shiny metal speculum.

The screen goes black. The final warning on screen reads:

"Don't let the government play doctor."

Criticism of the ads hasn't been in short supply. Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, says the effort by the Koch brothers is "sabotage."

Further, he says, the ads are a lie and that there will be no government bureaucrat getting in the middle of your gynecological or any other type of exam.

Woodhouse insists there's considerable hypocrisy here, given some of the policies Republicans have called for regarding women's health issues.

"You have Republicans who do want to and attempt to do things like in Virginia where they attempted to force women to get a vaginal probe if they wanted to seek an abortion."

Generation Opportunity concedes the ads may be short on specifics — Pasch says they'll make a more detailed case about government intrusion and what he describes as a mandated health care law that is unfair to young people.

Professor Peter Levine of Tufts University, who studies the engagement of young Americans in the political process, says humorous advertisements get attention but have relatively little impact when it comes to persuasion.

"People find things funny if they agree with them and they don't find them funny if they really strongly disagree with them," he says.

"I would be skeptical that this kind of ad could really change people's minds," Levine added.

Ultimately, these new ads may be best viewed from a different lens.

They target young people, but ultimately the ads are just another part of a much broader effort by Affordable Care Act opponents — an effort that's designed to undermine the law in every way possible, with every group possible, using every available tool.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.