Behind the selling of Obamacare

Fascinating piece at about the selling of Obamacare. that gives us some background on how the campaign developed.

On many occasions it has seemed that selling the law, rather than getting it to work, is the main political priority. On November 19, after the launch turned into a flaming dirigible of website crashes, President Obama's response to the crisis was that the White House would have to "remarket and rebrand" the law. Just days after his remarks, Organizing for Action, the 501(c)4 that advocates Obama's agenda, sent out an email urging supporters to use canned Obamacare talking points on their relatives that Thanksgiving. Seven months and several similarly terrible marketing campaigns later, insurance executives told Congress in May that the exchange website still had major technical problems.

But Obamacare is unprecedented not just in the size of the propaganda campaign but also because the very success of the law hinges on that propaganda campaign being successful. As an actuarial matter, Obamacare's ambitious and costly plan to expand health coverage to millions of Americans requires the participation of precisely those who have the least incentive to sign-up for health insurance-the so-called "young invincibles."

Forcing insurers to provide comprehensive coverage for millions of older and sicker Americans is really expensive. So insurers need lots of young and healthy Americans to offset the cost by signing up for overpriced insurance policies. The law dictates that insurers can't charge older Americans more than three times what younger Americans pay for health insurance, despite the fact that older Americans are a much wealthier demographic. (Remember this next time you hear Democrats drone on about income inequality.)

Last year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that in order for the exchanges to be financially sustainable, 39 percent of those signing up for the Obamacare exchanges needed to be adults between the ages of 18 and 34. But of the 8 million people the White House initially reported signing up for the federal health insurance exchange, only 28 percent are in this demographic target group. And despite being one of Obama's most reliable electoral demographics, a Harvard poll last December found that 57 percent of millennials disapproved of the law.

Obamacare's financial structure was already a bad deal for young Americans, but the problem became compounded because, as one headline in the Daily Beast put it, "Obamacare's Marketing to Millennials Has Been a Disaster." Instead of telling young Americans the truth about how the law works (which, in fairness, would probably turn them off), the state and national ad campaigns have consistently presupposed that most young people are vapid social media addicts and slutty drunkards.

The ad campaign comes with a $700 million price tag - an unprecedented amount. And that doesn't include the gobs of free and glowing coverage Obamacare got from administration allies in the media.

It might seem odd that Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, was invited to the White House for lunch. After all, why would the most powerful person in the world bother meeting with the editor of a publication that specializes in hot summer sex tricks and the year's most dangerous diet? Particularly on May 2, 2014, when just about every important political journalist was in town for the White House Correspondents Dinner, the annual gala where pols and press rub shoulders and bond over bottomless booze.

But Coles had a big favor coming to her. In 2013, she publicly pledged her magazine's ad space and editorial content to help promote the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. There are now more than 100 references to Obamacare on Cosmo's website, almost all of them glowing.

It would have been one thing if the magazine had exercised any degree of creativity or editorial tie-in while touting the law, e.g. "7 Tricks to Get Your Boyfriend to Sign Up For Overpriced Health Insurance-in Bed!" But alas, Cosmo's Obamacare headlines have all the joie de vivre one expects of diktats from the Ministry of Information: "5 Important Questions About the Affordable Care Act"; "Valerie Jarrett: 'All Insurance Plans Are Required to Cover Contraception"; "What the Affordable Care Act Means for Women With Pre-Existing Conditions"; and the hilariously defensive "Fox News Wrongly Believes Obamacare is 'Advertising' in Cosmopolitan."

The payoff for Cosmo came when Obama invited the editor to the Oval Office for a chat. A small price to pay for selling your soul.

Read the whole thing.

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