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Creepy 'Uncle Sam': Scaring students away from Obamacare – or from conservatives?

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(Read caption) A screenshot from a YouTube video shows the 'Creepy Uncle Sam' featured in a series of controversial videos by a conservative group urging young adults to opt out of Obamacare.

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A young woman enters an exam room, gets up on the table, and puts her feet in the stirrups.

“OK, let’s have a look,” says a cheery woman doctor, who then leaves the room.

Enter the creepiest Uncle Sam you’ve ever seen, popping up between the young woman’s legs. She screams in fright, her legs squirming. In the final scene, a leering Uncle Sam wields a speculum.

“Don’t let government play doctor,” flashes the final message of the one-minute video. “Opt out of Obamacare.”

The phones are lighting up at Generation Opportunity, the conservative Virginia-based outfit behind the video (and another like it), aimed at convincing young people not to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. 

Enrollment via online exchanges begins Oct. 1, ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline for Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine. As Republicans on Capitol Hill attempt to defund Obamacare in a high-stakes battle that could shut down the government, ground skirmishes are heating up around the country. Generation Opportunity and other conservative groups are joining the fray.

On the pro-Obamacare side, Enroll America and Organizing for Action are holding events aimed at informing the public about the law and how to enroll. The enrollment of healthy young adults is critical to the success of the reform, which relies on their premiums to help fund insurance for older, less-healthy people whom insurers must now cover.

Generation Opportunity made a video for guys, too, involving a rubber glove. (More on that in a moment.) The group, which gets funding from the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, is also planning events around the country, including a tour of 20 college campuses later this month that will have tailgate parties, dances with deejays, games, and prizes, according to Yahoo News.  

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Generation Opportunity decided to launch its “creepy Uncle Sam” campaign because “we heard consistently that young people didn’t understand the law, and thought they were either being forced to buy government insurance or would get all their health care for free,” says Evan Feinberg, president of Generation Opportunity. “They didn’t realize they had to make a difficult decision whether to opt into these government-run health-care exchanges.”

Mr. Feinberg says that enrolling via the exchanges will allow the federal government to have access to one’s health records, an assertion that the Obama administration says is false. The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a rule aimed at protecting patient privacy.  

Feinberg says his goal is to let young people know they have options – including the ability to opt out of coverage by paying a small penalty – and not to scare young women into thinking Uncle Sam wants to rape them. (Indeed, the whole rape thing has been problematic for conservative candidates in recent elections, as former Rep. Todd Akin proved last year, but Feinberg disagrees his group might be playing with fire.)

The first year, the penalty for being uninsured is $95 or 1 percent of one’s income, and will rise in subsequent years. Feinberg acknowledges that young people up to the age of 26 now have the right to stay on their parents' health plan, but adds that not all young people have parents who are able to do that for them. He doesn’t advocate going without insurance; young people who are employed but not covered through work can purchase insurance on the private market.  

OK, about that video aimed at guys: A young man goes in for a checkup, and the doctor tells him… well, we’ll spare you the details. But it involves a kind of exam that men especially don’t like. And yes, in the final scene, Creepy Uncle Sam snaps on a rubber glove.


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