There was something unusual on the National Mall last week: a creepy carnival hoping to scare Millennials away from Obamacare. Sponsored by Generation Opportunity, the libertarian-oriented youth organization backed by billionaire GOP donors David and Charles Koch, the event featured more than a dozen stations to educate young people about health reform.
The so-called “Creepy Care-nival” is the latest installment of Generation Opportunity’s “Opt Out” campaign, which has also featured similarly themed video ads and anti-Obamacare keggers on college campuses. Each aspect of the campaign aims to deter Millennials, who help balance the risk pools in the new insurance marketplaces, from signing up for new health plans. As Generation Opportunity President Evan Feinberg told Yahoo News in September, “If young people do opt out en mass, it will put the law in a bind, for sure.”
In order to dissuade young people from participating in Obamacare, the Care-nival was riddled with misleading facts that often cited Freedom Works, another Koch-funded group. Here are five ways that the carnival, and the Koch Brothers, are wrong about the health law:
1. “Death Panels” will decide when Americans get care.
The centerpiece of the event, a sinister hospital flooded with blacklights, presented a three person “death panel,” joined by Creepy Uncle Sam. The judges, surrounded by piles of faux money, denied a college athlete health care and advised him to deal with the pain of two broken ankles by “walking it off.” Although right wing media recently used the VA health scandal to revive fears over potential death panels, that myth about the health law has been thoroughly debunked over the past several years, And in reality, the Affordable Care Act includes provisions to ensure that insurance companies cannot cancel coverage just because you get sick or sustain an injury, according to healthcare.gov.
2. The government will run the health care system.
The insistence that Obamacare creates a government-run health care system is a tired refrain on behalf of opponents of the Affordable Care Act and was once deemed the “lie of the year” by a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site. Nevertheless, Generation Opportunity marched forward with the assertion and attendees at the Creepy Care-nival encountered signs prominently displaying this message throughout the event. One sign was stationed in a hospital ward filled with fake corpses who allegedly expired at the hands of a rambling actor dressed as Dr. Grim (Reaper).
3. Obamacare will bankrupt average Americans.
Generation Opportunity’s warning that Obamacare would total the economy with millions in new taxes was deceptively ambiguous. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the suggestion that the Affordable Care Act will add $1 trillion in new taxes is not entirely false. Nonetheless, the CBO also projects that Obamacare will save middle class Americans at least $1 trillion in tax credits within ten years of implementation, while the tax burden will fall predominantly on the highest-cost health plans and on the employer mandate. Though it is unclear what the long-term consequences of the Affordable Care Act will be, it’s inaccurate to unequivocally suggest that it will cause the national deficit to balloon.
4. Young people won’t be able to afford a doctor.
Two popular activities at the Care-nival included the Strength Test and the Wonky Mirror, which illustrated Generation Opportunity’s belief that Obamacare will cause the cost of health care for young adults to skyrocket. However, many low-to-moderate income earners will qualify for both federal and state subsidies, depending on their location, which will make plans more affordable for young people in those income brackets. The Affordable Care Act will not only allow for more young adults to qualify for health insurance, but will also increase the quality of coverage offered in the exchanges. Plus, according to a report from the Center for American Progress, only three percent of young adults will actually see premium increases.
5. Young people don’t like Obamacare.
At the Care-nival, booths distributed fortune cookies claiming a brighter future was possible without Obamacare, and a magician played tricks on unsuspecting audience members. These features rested upon the assumption that young adults, the group’s target audience, are opposed to Obamacare. But millions of young adults are already benefiting from the health reform law. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, young adults made up 28 percent of the over eight million people who enrolled in marketplace plans during Obamacare’s first enrollment period. Plus, an estimated three million young adults have gained coverage by remaining on their parents’ insurance policies. As long as young adults remain happy with their health care, the upward trend doesn’t look likely to stop.
Nick Ahamed, Christa Chiao, Will Freeman and Leah Hughes are interns at Center for American Progress.