Creepy Uncle Sam is back! And this time, he’s starring in a Halloween-themed spooktacular that’s meant to scare young adults away from enrolling in Obamacare.
Oh, you’re not familiar with Creepy Uncle Sam’s body of work? We’ll step back a bit and fill you in: He’s an actor who wears an Uncle Sam suit and an oversize, grinning head that makes him look like a freaky, patriotic garden gnome. The character is a creation of Generation Opportunity, a conservative political activist group aimed at the Millennial Generation.
He debuted in September in two ads: Creepy Uncle Sam appears at a crucial moment in health examinations, scaring the young folk who are about to be subject to that. The point was to emphasize Generation Opportunity’s belief that the Affordable Care Act injects too much government into the health-care marketplace.
Critics complained the treatment was so heavy-handed that the ads might have the effect of turning young people away from conservatives. For instance, in one ad Creepy Uncle Sam, snapping a speculum, approaches a young woman in an examination room. In another, he approaches a young man under similar circumstances, while snapping a rubber glove.
Creepy, yes. Also widely viewed. These two ads have been seen a combined 3.5 million times on YouTube. Their number of thumbs-down “dislikes” on the site outnumbers their “likes” by about 25 percent.
The just-released sequel to these efforts might be called “Creepy Uncle Sam 2: This Time, He Wants Your Candy.” It is longer and features a more complicated plot than the original videos.
It opens with a young man named Chad who's watching a horror movie at home, alone. An ad comes on in which a mustachioed hard-sell artist pushes Obamacare. The ad gets louder. Chad can’t turn it off! He pulls the plug on his TV. Then the doorbell rings ...
We won’t spoil the whole thing in case you want to watch it. Suffice to say that it ends with Creepy Uncle Sam at the door, opening his bag wide, while Chad recoils in horror.
Will this work? Well, it’s not as overbearing as the medical exam videos, so in that sense it’s probably less likely to actually turn people off. It’s kind of long, though: Our inner Spielberg says it could have been edited.
And at this point, Obamacare’s own enrollment troubles would seem to be more of an obstacle to Millennials’ enrollment than any ad-induced second thoughts. Given that context, perhaps Generation Opportunity should have just kept Creepy Uncle Sam in his box and let media coverage of those troubles continue undisturbed.
There’s also some question about the group’s assertions concerning health insurance costs.
Generation Opportunity’s main point is that Millennials should “opt out” of Obamacare and its government-run insurance exchanges and buy their coverage on the existing open market.
That means they’d forgo any government subsidies for which they might be eligible if they bought through the exchanges. But the FAQ at Generation Opportunity’s Optout.org says not to worry about that.
“[M]any people will not be eligible and it still won’t be enough to make it a good deal for you,” the FAQ says.
That statement is simply inaccurate, critics say. It depends entirely on personal circumstances and geography and varies widely.
“[T]hat advice is not based on math,” wrote Allie Jones at The Atlantic Wire earlier this month.
One big point of this struggle is that Obamacare needs to attract a high percentage of currently uninsured healthy young people to make its own math work. They are relatively healthy, and their premiums are needed to offset the costs of others.