How cute animals have invaded the health-care debate


(Issa.house.gov)

Let's be honest: Sometimes it's hard to get the American public engaged in policy debates. But as almost everyone on the Internet knows, it's very easy to get them to care about pictures of adorable animals. So it should probably come as no surprise that both sides of the health-care argument have enlisted BuzzFeed-style cute-animal tactics to make their arguments for them.

Advocates for the new health-care law struck first, with the Adorable Care Act: accounts on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter that used cute pictures of animals to countdown to the opening of the healthcare.gov online marketplace and discuss the merits of the law. After both the White House and Organizing for America denied involvement, a former Obama campaign digital staffer was identified as the source of the heart-warming meme.

(Twitter.com)
(Twitter.com)

But the healthcare.gov site has been plagued by problems: Consumers have had difficulty signing up for the program because demand outpaced capacity, and insurance companies say the system has been feeding them confusing or duplicative information about consumers who have actually been able to get through the process.

Now, Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) has posted a list of  "8 Cats Who Called 1-800-ObamaCare but Still Couldn’t Get Healthcare" on his official congressional Web site.  Although, curiously, at the time of the launch, the list included only seven cats "who’ve struggled to signup for ObamaCare" and doesn't seem to acknowledge that as non-people, the cats were unlikely to qualify for coverage under the new law in the first place.  An eighth cat has since been added. Issa's office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the addition of the final cat or its previous whereabouts.

This meme-fication of policy debates is by no means new. As my colleague Brian Fung reported earlier, the Republican National Congressional Committee underwent a makeover back in April that mirrored the BuzzFeed model of listicles and puppy pictures.

Update: A representative of Congressman Issa's office has now commented on the whereabouts of the final cat: "The 8th cat has indicated to us that it was late to work because it had been on an extended hold while calling 1-800-Obamacare and was reluctant to hang up.  It has promised not to let this happen again.  And before you ask, it was not able to successfully complete its enrollment. "

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.

business/technology

the-switch

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business

business/technology

the-switch

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Brian Fung · October 23, 2013