A Direct Marketer Gags on Obamacare

“God protect us from Amateurs!” —Henry Castor

Copywriters empathize.

They are highly paid to get inside the heads of those to whom they are writing. Copywriters think how their prospects and customers think and feel what they feel.

Politicians have the hides of a rhinoceros.

Their overarching agenda: re-election at all costs.

Members of Congress must raise $12,000 a week in order to buy back their jobs every two or six years. All else is tertiary.

Totally focused on re-election, politicians have no time for understanding humanity or the feelings of the electorate. They preach at us from their bubble.

Preacher-in-Chief in the grandest of bubbles is President Barack Obama.

Health Insurance in the Early Days
When I was starting out in business, I had a series of lousy little jobs as well as lousy little paychecks.

Every time I received a paycheck, the stub showed automatic deductions. These included Federal and state taxes, as well as something called F.I.C.A.—Federal Insurance Contributions Act (a.k.a Social Security).

These deductions were a hefty percent of my already minuscule paycheck and always left me feeling ripped off.

“Death and taxes, yes,” I groused. “But I wasn’t going to retire for many, many years.”

Whereupon I cashed the check, lived on the residue and thought no more about it.

In terms of health care, I paid dentists and doctors for minor ailments. Company insurance picked up the tab for bigger ills.

I was healthy. In between jobs I didn’t think about it.

When Peggy and I went on our own, we bought high-deductible health insurance. As I recall, it cost us $10,000 a year 30 years ago.

Enter the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare
At age 79, I’m on Social Security, Medicare, Medi-gap and I have a doctor with a concierge service. It is seamless and gloriously efficient. I get world-class health care. I never see a bill. In my golden years I am completely free to think golden thoughts.
As a result, I paid minimal attention to the mechanics of Obamacare when it was launched.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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  • dan

    ACA is just another pay-off to big corporations by bought and paid for politicians. Putting it under Medicare or Medicaid or any other government programs would have closed the multi-billion dollar health care insurance industry. Think of these facts: A doctor has a certain cost of staying in business and personal expenses IE: cost of doing business. Insurance says we will pay the doctor a percentage of what he charges say 15%. Doctor needs to make $1000, but to get paid only 15 % he needs to charge $6667. Insurance companies have strangle-hold legal agreements that keep the doctors from saying too much. Insurance company says OK, you pay the first $12,000 (deductible) then we will pay 80%. Note: this is on the inflated cost. You pay 20% of that inflated cost. 20% of 6667 is $1333.10 for a service that should only cost you $1000 (this is after the $12000 you already paid) and don’t forget about those monthly premiums. And while your building up to that $12,000 you’re paying the inflated costs instead of the normal costs. Dental programs run the same scam. Since these companies are working under a governent program, I think they should have to open their books to their legal agreements and payback programs. Once that is out in the open, everyone will know how they can afford to build the huge office buildings and pay off the politicians with excessive profits.

  • Steve


    Probably the most important item attached to Obamacare is the fine print. And understanding some of it is just common sense.

    Ever have an automatic deduction/expense payment attached to your checking account or credit card so that regular payments are made automatically.

    This is the method of paying monthly premiums for Obamacare. We have already heard horror stories about people who signed up for it and experienced unauthorized debits from their checking accounts.

    By signing up half the country into an Obamacare insurance program, the government now has access to everyone’s checking account. And that is okay, because when you signed up for it, you gave them permission.

    The day will come when the Fed’s have so much debt, that the economy will break. And they will come along and say, “the only way we can fix the country’s sever economic breakdown, is to devalue money. But that speech will be after the midnight access by the Fed’s and the Federal Reserve Bank, reducing everyone’s bank account by a specified amount. So one night you will go to bed and in the morning, you will have 30% less money in your bank account. Hopefully, none of your checks will bounce and you can still pay your monthly mortgage and car payments.

    As with nearly all federal agencies, they will act first and then say, now that we acted, we don’t need to ask for permission, such as in “We have to pass the bill so we can read it and know what is in it”, or “What difference does it make now?”

    By signing up for Obamacare, you have given the federal government and the IRS permission to access your banking accounts. Now they have another area of control of your life. In the past, the IRS or other Federal Agencies had to create paperwork to access your account. Now they have permission to simply create a debit at will, without recourse.

    What do I mean by without recourse? When you set up the Obamacare account, you gave them permission. If they decide they have a reason for taking money out of your account, there is nothing you can do. A judge will ask, did you give them permission. And you will say, well, I guess I did, but not for the reason they took this money.

    Good luck fighting the government on that one.

  • Tim Orr

    Frank Lloyd Wright is said to have said: “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.” Virtually all of our laws are “camels.”

  • Michael Moroney

    I never knew you were such a socialist, Denny. Welcome to the club. Good article.

  • GeorgeM

    Affordable Care Act. My premiums doubled. Enough said.

  • Jonathan Blaine


    I tackled this subject more than two years ago: “Single Payer: A $1 Trillion-savings US Health Care Pipe Dream?” http://jonathanblaine.com/wpress/2012/07/single-payer-healthcare-pipe-dream

    Sure, more Americans will be covered, but not all. Under the Affordable Care Act, there is more bureaucracy, not less, and much of that from insurers. The insurance companies will make out like bandits, which is why they supported the ACA. Granted, it is arguably much better than what the status quo would have been without it as it would have bankrupted the country while keeping 50 million people without medical care, but a seismic shift was needed that we didn’t get it. However, most of the fear before the vote was planted by politicians and political groups eating at big business’ troughs. It was not all ideology, but there was a lot of that floating around, too. Remember the town hall meetings where people got beat up? Obamacare proponents were not doing the beating.

    However, in a true egalitarian healthcare system, your “concierge” service must go away. A two-tier system serving the haves and have-nots is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately, America still has a multi-tier system where the well off folks will always get better care unless a single payer (i.e. government controlled) system is put in place.

    I delve into the Obamacare vs. European and Canadian systems in this article which is as true today as when it was written. Full disclosure: I was raised in Canada and know the value of carrying the government healthcare card. I never had fights with getting covered there as I have with insurance companies in the US.

  • David Henderson

    Yes, a single-payer system that does away with private insurance is the best solution. Nonetheless, Obamacare was better than what we had, and the only “reform” bill that had a chance in Congress. If you and I and others can build the case for universal care in the next couple of years to replace Obamacare, let’s do it. I think President Obama would be happy if we succeeded.

  • Donnie Bryant

    Good article, Denny.

    Can’t think of the last Zinger I saw with so many comments…

  • tony the pitiful copywriter

    Well I wish the insurance companies would make up their collective minds. Now they pay a completely separate group of politicians (Republicans) to dump ACA aka Obamacare. Oh wait, now I get it. Either way the insurance people make ducats. If they can keep Congress busy passing/repealing the same laws over and over again, they’ll be alright in the long run.

    My only positive take-away is at least we’re talking about this mess. I have seen too many people in their “golden years” have to sell off their homes to help pay for “pre-existing conditions” not covered by the traditional insurance. I have self-employed musician friends who wouldn’t have any healthcare if it wasn’t for flawed Obamacare.

    I haven’t ruled out moving to Canada.

  • John

    James Polk was a great president.

  • Tom Callahan

    I’m not sure how you could be so right and so wrong at the same time, but you’ve managed to do it. Of course the solution is to expand Medicare into a universal public option. But to think that even the suggestion of such would have created nary a ripple of protest from the electorate is demonstrably false. Even without dramatically altering the market based system driven by insurance companies, the ACA was demonized as a government takeover complete with death panels and rationing. To have the government even more involved would have have created Tea Party apoplexy.

  • Dakota Wes

    Something tells me that Affordable Healthcare under any other president, wouldn’t have been named Nixoncare, Bushcare, Reagancare, etc.. But yet, we have Obamacare. Makes me wonder.

  • Andrew Foss

    Elected folk always gag and sputter over “outlier” figures that the insurance company underwriters have accepted like chocolate syrup on a sundae. No one gets elected campaigning for 240,000 dead. But then again, How on earth can any of them be happy with 8 million signed up after a $1 billion ad campaign and multi billion dollar infrastructure build. $480 billion per year revenue stream . . . going into whose pockets? And we paid for the infrastructure?

  • Jef Laurie

    “Obamacare—designed as an automatic extension of F.I.C.A., Social Security and Medicare—would have slipped by with nary a serious whimper from the electorate.” — I seriously doubt this. As it is, Republicans/conservatives are trying to get rid of Social Security. It’s a given that government is always inefficient. But unregulated free enterprise is always exploitative. Case in point: insurance companies in bed with politicians. I totally agree with you about the need for universal healthcare. But it’s a nonstarter due to the less-government ideology of the right.

  • Bjorn A.

    The term ObamaCare was thrown in by Republicans to associate the ACA with a “n*****”!” (someone of the “black persuasion”).

    The ACA was based on “RomneyCare” (still in effect in MA), which in turn was based on a Heritage Foundation proposal for a sustainable healthcare system.

    It is not reasonable to expect a huge project like the ACA to get everything right immediately, but they certainly could have managed it a lot better from the beginning.


    Two challenges with that:

    1) Contrary to popular belief, POTUS is not a supreme ruler, and the various junior and mid-level department heads hired by the previous administrations have enough power to throw sand into the machinery and sabotage any attempt at change (and that’s without even getting into the Peter Principle which affects both government and Fortune 500).

    2) As Albert Einstein noted a long time ago: “Only 2% of people can think. Another 3% think they can think, and the remaining 95% would rather die than think.”

    /A fourth-generation conservative who misses the Republican party from back in the day when they focused on policy over politics

  • Richard Hren

    I agree with Tom C. You are absolutely correct about the marketing (aka selling ) aspects of ACA. A dismal failure to be sure. But I think you underestimate the political s**tstorm that enveloped all of this legislation. But as usual, you have written a clever and involving bit of copy to captivate and intrigue the reader. Thanks again for you wit and insight.

  • Meg Nugent Hodges

    A lot of friends and colleagues probably saw me as heartless and uncaring as I railed (loudly and often) about this system while it was still a bill. It didn’t require that much math to see it was not a viable plan. That it had the potential to become a drastic overreach over government should have been self-evident to anyone paying attention. Much of the electorate was happy to vote as they did thinking “FREE HEALTHCARE” without reading the fine print.

    “If You’re Not Angry, Then You Are Not Paying Attention.” –Tim McIlrath

  • Rob

    I believe your three legged stool has a problem. Leg number one is a bit of a stretch. The private insurance companies are more efficient than the government run counterparts.
    You have definitely hit one nail on the head: Confusion and misunderstanding are rampant with the ACA. The last estimate I heard was that the bill, if printed, would stack up to approx 14 feet tall. Rest assured, this was not the design of any insurance company.

  • Richard Armstrong

    I’ve read hundreds of articles on Obamacare, Denny, and that was one of the best. Maybe because it was written in my language, the language of direct marketing. One quibble, though. You act like this was all the insurance companies’ idea. I don’t think so. They were quite happy with the status quo. Once Obamacare became a fait accompli, however, their lobbyists got in there and made sure they got the best of it. But it was an act of self-defense in my opinion.

  • Scott

    Denny, I believe you are yourself in quite a bubble. The title had me intrigued and hungry for the content but it was like finding a half-eaten and several years old box of crackers in the pantry. Regular readers should not be surprised that you favor single-payer. The Medicare model is efficient? Please. If it were, your Medicare Advantage plan would not even exist. A major problem with any system where you “never see a bill” is . . . you never see a bill. Nothing but pure market-based reforms and a return of the “insured” to the status of “consumer” will address the cost curve. Really study the market impacts of your concierge plan and you’ll see that. But if you want to see where the policy road you’re on ends, look to the VA.

  • Trish

    Enjoyed your article, Denny. 535 depraved prostitutes and their overlords will destroy us all.