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Scare Tactics the Standard for Anti-Healthcare Reform Ads

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, August 5, 2009

"As the debate on healthcare reform heats up the United States, it seems certain that Canada's public healthcare system will be used, or more accurately misused, in the battle for hearts and minds," she concludes.

Another ad, sponsored by the Independence Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization, uses humor to criticize healthcare reform—to the point that it's hard to tell whether or not it's a spoof.

Does the Massachusetts model of mandatory health insurance work? The voiceover asks. "Take this doofus-looking guy," the narrator continues, as a picture of a young fellow in baggy khakis and a frumpy wrinkled plaid shirt pops up on the screen. Justin is healthy, likes to bike to work, and has a $5,000 deductible health insurance plan. "If he lived in Massachusetts, he would be a criminal," the narrator claims, since the maximum deductible in Massachusetts is $2,000.

The ad shows poor Justin behind cartoon jail cell bars. "Justin shouldn't be a criminal for buying affordable healthcare," our friendly but wildly misleading narrator concludes.

It's an inaccurate scare tactic—not having health insurance or not having a qualifying policy is not a crime in Massachusetts (or, safe to say, anywhere else).

But, hey, it's funny! And—scariest of all—it's probably effective.

Next week I'll write about some pro-health reform ads, just in case you're getting ready to e-mail me and tell me how misleading this column is. So instead, write to tell me what you think of the current crop of healthcare reform ads. Are they mostly accurate or wildly off-base? And, in either case, are they effective?


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