It was good to see the media challenge the Americans for Prosperity commercial, which is running on cable and network channels shows watched by women and on such popular programs as Good Morning America, Chopped, and Law & Order. Christopher Flavelle, a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board, pushed back hard, noting that Julie makes “cunningly deceptive assertions about the law, disguised as questions,” and noted how insurers restrict consumers’ ability to pick out-of-network doctors. He attacked Julie’s question about whether she can trust Washington with her family’s healthcare:

Obamacare doesn’t empower anyone in government to dictate the health-care services people receive. It’s a catchy fiction and conservatives have done a good job of repeating it in the face of all evidence.

Steve Koff, Washington bureau chief for the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the ad was running in Ohio and tackled the questions Julie posed. He got the point about insurance companies, and noted that employers who provide coverage for their workers, which is the case for most Americans, actually pick the insurance—a point often overlooked in the spin to demonize insurance companies. Employers are the ones that want to lower their costs.

In the commercial, Julie asks, “What am I getting in exchange for higher premiums and a smaller paycheck?” Koff gave this one a reality check by providing context. Premiums have gone up three times as much as wages since 2002, and in Ohio, Julie may well see higher premiums under Obamacare. But we don’t know yet. She’ll have to wait until later, when the state announces rates for next year in the new healthcare insurance shopping exchanges that open in October, or, if she is insured via her employer, like 160 million other Americans, when that employer announces new premiums for 2014.

A viewer would have to be highly knowledgeable about healthcare to cut through the fog this ad lays down, as its makers surely know. In his piece, Flavelle noted the work of philosopher Harry Frankfurt, who said the goal of political advertising isn’t deceiving your audience about what is true or false so much as making the distinction so confusing as to be irrelevant. “By that definition,” Flavelle wrote, “this latest AFP campaign is a work of art.” Indeed it is, with more “artwork” to come.

Follow @USProjectCJR for more posts from Trudy Lieberman and the rest of the United States Project team, including our work on healthcare issues and public health at The Second Opinion. And for Trudy’s resource guide to covering the ins and outs of buying insurance on the state exchanges, see Open Wide, from CJR’s new July/August issue.

Related stories:

Untangling Obamacare: What’s behind the rate increases?

Medicare Uncovered: the insurers’ latest campaign

Medicare Uncovered: Cost cutting? We can’t have that!


Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.