The CMS is banking on the power of nostalgia, hoping that soft-focus memories of Aunt Bee, Opie and the rest of the Mayberry gang will help to ease seniors' fears and convince them of the benefits of upcoming health reforms. The government released a 30-second public service ad on July 30—the 45th anniversary of Medicare—featuring Andy Griffith, the 84-year-old star best known for his roles as the town sheriff on The Andy Griffith Show and a clever Southern lawyer on Matlock, one of Outliers' old favorites.
The ad, which will run on cable TV stations, shows Griffith in a sunny room, intermittently addressing the camera directly and petting a yellow Labrador retriever. “1965, a lot of good things came out that year, like Medicare,” he says, in his trademark drawl. “This year, like always, we'll have our guaranteed benefits, and with the new healthcare law, more good things are coming.”
The TV spot is only one of the ways that the government is trying to combat misinformation and educate older adults about improvements included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, such as the “doughnut hole” rebate checks and preventive-care screenings, the CMS said in a news release.
But Republicans cried foul at using taxpayer dollars to create what they say is a pro-health reform ad. In an Aug. 3 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a group of five Republican senators said the commercial “had a clear political motivation,” and they called for the CMS to pull the ad and reimburse the Treasury.
Brooks Jackson, director of FactCheck.org, also took issue with the ad, he said, because the reform law will lead to cuts in Medicare Advantage plans. “Would the sheriff of Mayberry mislead you about Medicare? Alas, yes,” he wrote in a blog posting.
For now, Griffith is keeping quiet and has declined to comment on the hubbub.