Republican efforts to block Obamacare have taken shape in several different forms. On the federal level, lawmakers repeatedly threaten to cast votes to defund and delay the health law. On the state level, lawmakers are doing their best to impede the law’s new insurance marketplaces, which are set to roll out next month. And as a “grassroots” strategy, Obamacare opponents hope they can simply convince Americans to forgo signing up for health insurance altogether.
A new campaign by Generation Opportunity, a conservative group that Yahoo News reports has “financial ties to billionaire businessmen and political activists Charles and David Koch,” is taking this third approach. Generation Opportunity wants to specifically target college students this fall, spending up to $750,000 on a campaign to convince young people they don’t need health insurance.
“What we’re trying to communicate is, ‘No, you’re actually not required to buy health insurance,’ ” Generation Opportunity’s president, Evan Feinberg, explained in an interview with Yahoo News. “You might have to pay a fine, but that’s going to be cheaper for you and better for you.”
How does Generation Opportunity want to get that message across to college students? They’re planning a college tour, bringing anti-Obamacare literature and beer coozies emblazoned with the words “opt out” to 20 different campuses. And they’re also unveiling an ad campaign that features an unsettling image of “Uncle Sam” appearing in the doctor’s office to subject young adults to invasive exams.
In the first ad, a young woman explains she’s just signed up for Obamacare. She’s led to an exam room and appears to be preparing to have a Pap smear. A figure dressed as Uncle Sam emerges from between her legs. In the final scene, Uncle Sam is shown holding a speculum, the instrument gynecologists typically use to collect a cervical sample.
In the second ad, a similar situation unfolds with a young man who appears to be about to receive a prostate exam. He is told to take off his pants, and Uncle Sam appears behind him.
Generation Opportunity’s ads attempt to convey that Obamacare is a government overreach by suggesting that it will subject Americans to invasive exams. That falls in line with the new conservative myth that the health law will force doctors to ask their patients private questions about their sex lives, which has been stirring up controversy in the right-wing blogosphere this week.
Obamacare does not actually mandate any specific changes in the way that doctors conduct sexual health exams. Ironically, it’s actually Republican policies that threaten to subject female patients to state-mandated vaginal probes. Under forced ultrasound laws — an increasingly popular type of abortion restriction that seeks to enact additional barriers to the procedure — women are required to have a medical procedure regardless of whether their own doctor actually thinks it’s necessary. For very early abortion procedures, when an invasive transvaginal ultrasound is the only way to detect a clear image, that means women seeking abortions may need to undergo a probe.
This isn’t the first “grassroots” effort to try to convince young Americans that they don’t need health coverage. The right-wing group FreedomWorks has been urging young adults to burn their “Obamacare draft cards,” likening going uninsured to resisting the military draft during the Vietnam War. Nonetheless, several recent studies have found that young adults say they want to sign up for insurance under the health law.
Planned Parenthood is condemning the new ads. “It is hard to tell if this is real or if it’s a ‘Saturday Night Live’ parody about the hypocrisy of extremists who want to be in every exam room in America but don’t want to expand access to quality health care,” Eric Ferroro, the group’s vice president for communications, said in a statement. “These videos are the height of hypocrisy.”