The Maker of the Gynecologist Uncle Sam Ad Speaks

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 19 2013 11:02 AM

The Maker of the Gynecologist Uncle Sam Ad Speaks

My colleague Matt Yglesias has already weighed and judged "Creepy Uncle Sam," the video from Generation Opportunity that portrays a dark future where masked government icons peer at ladies' naughty bits. It's online-only for now, but it's designed to go viral, and working so far.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Because I'm humorless, the ad just confused me. In it, a nurse tells a young woman that she's "signed up for Obamacare." There is no program called "Obamacare." Generation Opportunity, which received $5 million from the Koch-funded trade association Freedom Partners, tells young people they can "opt out" of this program. But they can't without paying a penalty.

I talked to Evan Feinberg, the president of Generation Opportunity, and a former staffer for Rand Paul and Tom Coburn who unsuccessfully attempted to primary a Republican congressman last year. "We've seen a lot of the coverage that suggests we are a conservative group," he said. "We'd like to push back on that -- we're a liberty-minded group."

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Indeed, the ad doesn't say anything particularly conservative about health care. It just warns young people of a future in which invasive check-ups may be monitored by the government. "They're confused," said Feinberg of these young people. "They don't understand the law. A lot of them think health care is going to be free. They think their only opution is to sign up for health care."

But what does this mean, given that "Obamacare" is not a program you can sign up for. "We're saying don't sign up for Obamacare insurance, which means not signing up for insurance on the exchange," said Feinberg. "Unfortunately there are a lot of uninsured young people, and they're being given a bad deal. They're asked to pay three times as much for insurance than they could pay for one of 27 basic plans that don't meet Obamacare's requirements. We're saying, pay the penalty for not having Obamacare-approved insurance." If someone signs up for Medicare in one of the states where it's been expanded, does that count as "Obamacare?" That, said Feinberg, was a concern: "ninety-six percent of the people uninsured don't have a chronic condition, and it's those people it's a bad deal for."

Makes sense, but -- like this summer's "burn your Obamacare card" campaign from FreedomWorks -- it doesn't lead with the "you'll pay a tax." The penalty starts at $95 per year or one percent of income; it rises every year, as a way of pulling more people into the system. It's also unclear that even joining the exchange would give IRS agents access to your health records; the IRS reserves the right to peer into the data of those who join the exchanges, but it isn't the new standard. Feinberg suggested that the revelations of the NSA scandal should give pause to everyone about what the government might be tracking. "And I've read that the questionnaire for the exchanges will ask whether you're sexually active," he said. "There's no more private exam than a gynocelogical exam for a female or a prostate exam for a male. We said that this video would be a would be a good way to portray that."

One of the conservative movement's closing arguments for defunding or repeal is that Obamacare is obviously collapsing under its own weight. One piece of evidence for this is Max Baucus's on-video worry that implementing the new regulations, exchanges, et al, will be a "train wreck" if the public doesn't understand it. The person LOLing at this video, who hears that "Obamacare" is a program he can opt out of, may not be closer to understanding it.

UPDATE: If you're in the DC area and want to make some fiat money, GenOpp is hiring a live Creepy Uncle Sam to work this weekend's Liberty PAC convention.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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