Now showing in a 60-second spot during the 6 o’clock news: Andy Griffith’s got the starring role in promoting the peoples’ use of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). Here is the announcement of the ad in The White House blog of July 30 2010.

In the ad, Andy, now 84, recalls the signing of Medicare by President Johnson and moves into some details about the good things PPACA brings to seniors in the U.S. The Christian Science Monitor covers the story and shows the video here.

This has caused quite a stir among Republicans who say the spot is too political. The ad reportedly cost $700,000 to produce, and taxpayer funds shouldn’t go to such a use, the GOP contends, according to The Hill.

Organized Wisdom has assembled the many points of view here on their site in a WisdomCard.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Perhaps some people need to learn about the concept of “health plan illiteracy:” this occurs when people, who are blessed to have a health benefit, and don’t know what it covers or how to use it. Enrollees in commercial insurance are known to be dazed and confused in their understanding of their own health benefits. Many seniors have also been in the dark about how to navigate Medicare, and particularly the new-ish Part D program. Educating people on how to use  public benefits is a public good, in this case.

The choice of Andy Griffith is a savvy one, in at least two respects: first, Andy himself belongs to the current Medicare generation of consumers who have benefited from Part D, the prescription drug coverage program, some of whom have fallen into the so-called ‘doughnut hole’ of expenses not covered by Part D version 1. In the Affordable Care Act, Part D becomes, well, more affordable, by helping to fill in that hole. Andy speaks directly to that provision in PPACA during the 60-second spot.

Second, Andy speaks to a second age cohort: Baby Boomers, who grew up with the Sheriff and his son, little Opie, Ron Howard, who’s now grown into the successful movie director and producer.

If DHHS had one dollar to spend on one ad to promote the relevance of PPACA to health care consumers. the agency cast this one pretty well: to resonate with some of the heaviest users of health care.

One question: how does Andy Griffith resonate with women, older and younger, who actually use more health care and determine more health decisions than men? Perhaps in v2 of the DHHS ad on the Dummies Guide to PPACA, they’ll cast someone like Betty White in the starring role of health benefits educator.

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