Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Cool" ObamaCare Ads Target Kids With Poor Morals

Attention Americans! This weekend, the ObamaCare website woes will (supposedly) be over. Since the website opened for business, it has been nothing but a nightmare. Still, as the government fails again and again to repair the website and justify its shortcomings, they are still trying to sell this program to the American people.

The people in charge of marketing the Affordable Care Act have come up with some exceedingly creative ways to entice the citizenry to participate in the program. To be perfectly honest, I find some of the advertisements a little unsettling, especially this television commercial produced by Cover Oregon. But hey, the song is stuck in my head, so good job, I suppose.

The state of Colorado has produced a website designed to encourage its citizens to explore their new healthcare options. Part of this site is a series of ads that are meant to target teenagers and young adults. Frankly, I find these ads almost uncomfortable to look at, but I know, much to my disappointment, that they are actually very likely to be effective.

These ads feature teenagers and young adults getting themselves into situations that may require them to make use of their insurance. In other words, they picture kids doing dumb stuff. The costumes and actions are exaggerated, turning these incidents of potential injury into laughing matters. As young Americans look at these ads, they are expected to respond by identifying with the subjects, thinking, “Haha, yeah, I would totally do that, man.”

One of the biggest problems that I see with my generation is that we seem to have no concept of when our behavior is wrong or inappropriate. Since early civilizations, I am sure that kids disobeyed their parents and got into trouble. Our grandparents all had too much to drink at some point and even the generations before them most assuredly attended some rocking parties in their youth. I am equally as sure that they did not flaunt it as my peers do today. Were I to partake in these irresponsible activities, especially if I got hurt in the process, I would be rather embarrassed and would likely not tell people. I certainly wouldn’t buy a product that highlighted those mistakes as normal, acceptable parts of life.

One of these ads features a young man doing a “keg stand”, bearing the caption “Keg stands are crazy. Not having health insurance is crazier”. Because we are supposed to identify with him, it must be assumed that keg stands are considered a normal part of life, and that crazy in this context means the sort of wild and cool stuff that really awesome people do.

The girls in this ad want to work out “to stay smokin’ hot”. Their healthcare plan consists of exercising, drinking red wine, and having insurance. True, studies have shown that a glass of red wine each day may promote cardiac health. But might I suggest that vegetables are a more important part of a health plan? What’s that, Colorado? Veggies aren’t cool? Wine is very popular amongst college girls? Oh, okay. I suppose that’s fine then...

This next ad is, in my opinion, the most offensive. The sentiment being expressed here is that this new healthcare will pay for birth control, so girls can now devote more energy to scoring hot dudes. My favourite part has to be the footnote, which warns “The pill doesn’t protect you from STDs, condoms and common sense do that.” Nothing about this ad says common sense to me. It screams risky behavior and hook-up culture. A footnote disclaimer doesn’t make the rest of this ad okay.

I’m not the only one who feels uncomfortable about this ad. Several sites, such as and have catalogued the negative response it has received. Still, the administrators who produced the advertisements have not backed down from their campaign.

The next issue these ads inadvertently illustrate is a lack of self-efficacy. Yes, I am aware that under the Affordable Care Act, children can stay on their parents’ healthcare plan until age 26.  (I will save my disappointment at the mollycoddling of our young adults for a future post.) Still, the fact that these ads are encouraging college age students to ask “Yo, Mom, do I got insurance?” is a little sad. I am on my mother’s health insurance plan. But I carry around my own card for the plan and fill out the information for my doctor’s records. Yes, it is my mother’s plan, but it is my healthcare, and I take charge of my own personal health. These ads are encouraging young adults to make sure mom has got their back in case they get themselves into a situation where they require assistance.

Finally, I must comment on the language of these advertisements. Of course, one must always target wording toward the intended audience. A Hot Wheels racetrack that is billed as “the most aerodynamically sound course for model automobiles” would not appeal to very many grade school children. But evn if I wanted 2 market sumthing 2 gurls so there hair wuld look gr8, I’d still have 2 use words that makes me sound smart. It is an incredibly clever idea to write these ads in the sort of modern day language the target audience uses. I feel that these ads take it a step too far, however, and end up in the realm of satire and hyperbole. The name of the website is, for goodness sake! By doing this, the ad creators are either trying to be funny, or grossly underestimating the intelligence of their audience. I pray that it is an underestimation.

Unfortunately, these ads are brilliant. They’re simple, silly, and get their message across to a generation that wants easy fixes for everything without having to think too hard. To those of us who have morals and a sense of personal responsibility, they not only won’t work, they turn us away. But it will take more than clever ads to make this program function. The coming days will show whether the newest website repairs have been effective. If not, the ObamaCare plan will likely have as bright a future as “Sam Gargoyling Bro”.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Parenting: Yet Another Task The Government Can’t Handle

This summer, the parents of two year old Alexandria Hill made what is quite possibly the most heartwrenching decision with which a parent can be faced. They chose to take their daughter off of life support after she had spent several days in a coma caused by a traumatic brain injury.

Her tragic death is all the more devastating because it was not the result of an innocent fall or car accident. Alexandria’s injury was caused by the blunt force trauma of being forcibly hit against a floor by her foster mother.

 Last November, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services removed Alexandria from the care of her parents for “neglectful supervision”. Father Joshua Hill admits that he and Alexandria’s mother were regular marijuana users and that this was the reason for the DFPS intervention.

The foster home where Alexandria experienced the abuse that ended her life was not her first. During scheduled visitations, her parents noticed bruises on her body and mold on her personal belongings. They reported the suspected abuse to DFPS, and new placement was arranged.

In January, Alexandria was moved to Sherill Small’s home, where it was believed she would receive better care. On July 29th, however, Small called 9-1-1 to report that Alexandria “was not breathing and unresponsive”. Small originally claimed that she had been playing with the child when she accidentally hit her head. When police confronted her with doctors’ statements that her story did not match the injury, Small amended her explanation. She now admits to slamming the toddler’s head against the floor.

Texas DFPS hires foster agencies to handle the placement of children, but is still ultimately responsible to check that these agencies are providing appropriate care. The agency employed to cover Alexandria’s case, Texas Mentor, “has been cited 15 times in the past two years, including four citations for failing to perform background checks on foster parents”.  The DFPS continues to employ this organization to find safe homes for children.

Joshua Hill told reporters, “We never hurt our daughter. She was never sick, she was never in the hospital and she never had any issues until she went into state care”. While I personally believe in the legalization, or at least the decriminalization, of marijuana, I understand that citizens must obey current laws until such reform takes place. Under the circumstances, it was appropriate for DFPS to remove Alexandria. But her parents cared for her wellbeing and loved her. They were working with authorities to correct their behaviour and regain custody of her. They visited her regularly, and identified the abuse she was suffering at her first foster home, which the DFPS had failed to notice.

It was the State of Texas, not Alexandria’s parents, who ultimately provided “neglectful supervision”. DFPS allowed her to be placed in a home where she was hurt and exposed to mold. When her parents intervened to protect their child, they moved her to yet another unsafe location. This time, the two year old girl sustained physical abuse severe enough to end her life. In this case, as with many other attempts of government to intervene in the lives of individuals, the government’s alternative to parents who use recreational marijuana has proven to be much more devastating than the problem they set out to fix.