the national interest

The Obamacare Wars Get Weirder and More Authentic

The desperate, doomed conservative plan to force President Obama to destroy his own health-care plan is commanding the headlines right now. But the front that has some nonzero chance of working is the conservative quasi campaign to keep young and healthy people of out the health-care exchanges. Conservative activists, backed by Koch brother lucre, are planning a series of guerilla-style operations. Their goal is to destabilize the health-care exchanges by triggering an actuarial death spiral — if too few young, healthy people sign up, the customer base will be disproportionately older and in need of medical care, causing premiums to rise, driving the remaining healthies out, and precipitating a collapse of the exchanges.

Chris Moody reports from the front lines, where the activists are planning all sorts of hip, youth-targeted outreach:

Generation Opportunity intends to host events at college football tailgate parties festivals, where “brand ambassadors” (read: hot young people) will pass out beer koozies that read, “opt out,” pizza and literature about the health care law. Some events may have impromptu dance parties with DJ’s, complete with games of Cornhole and competitions for prizes, organizers said.

The aspect of the story getting the most attention is the creepy-clown Uncle Sam television ads:

What makes the ads so distinctive, aside from their Ayn Randhead–on-acid gestalt, is that they abandon the predominant appeal conservatives have been making to the young, which centers on financial self-interest. Conservatives have been hammering home the “rate shock” story for months, arguing that young people will have to pay higher insurance premiums to subsidize worse insurance risks and would be better off going uninsured. The story is wildly overblown — it usually ignored tax credits, which drives down the cost of insurance, and likewise assumes that minimizing risk has no value in and of itself — but it does contain a germ of truth.

The rape-clown argument, by contrast, is the product of sheer fantasy. In what world does giving people tax credits to offset the cost of private insurance subject them to the risk of some kind of dystopian federal intrusion? There is actually an answer to this question: in Betsy McCaughey’s world. McCaughey is a prominent fantasist/conservative health-care analyst, known for promoting the most lurid fears of health-care reform, up to and including death panels. McCaughey has most recently been peddling nightmare scenarios that Obamacare will cause doctors to ask intrusive questions about your sex life, which you can see debunked by James Hamblin here.

Within the conservative information cocoon, where the news about Obamacare has been a ceaseless procession of disasters, McCaughey is a sage figure. And, what’s more, the free-floating terror of intrusive government is a closer approximation than some dry appeal to actuarial odds of how conservatives actually feel about Obamacare.

Obamacare Wars Get Weirder and More Authentic