There are two important principles of direct-response advertising. First, make the toll-free number easy to remember. And second, never insult your audience. By respecting the first principle, Obamacare blundered into violating the second with an obscene 800 number, newspapers and blogs across the nation reported October 3.
Washington Free Beacon writer Lachlan Markay was the first to do one simple thing that the Obamacare big-data brain trust never bothered with over the past three-and-a-half years. He checked his phone's dialpad to see what letters went with the number, 1-800-318-2596. At 7:33 PM Eastern time, October 2, he tweeted, "Fun fact: if you exclude the 1 (no associated letters), the federal Obamacare hotline is 1-800-F--K-YO." (He tweeted in all the letters; we censored some.)
"After allowing for the lack of letters attached to 1 on a traditional American telephone keypad," writes the Daily Caller's Katie McHugh,
the number spells out a clear message. For every duped voter, every young invincible weighing the cost of a penalty versus a newly tripled yearly deductible, every ailing old granny in a wheelchair (whom, remember, Paul Ryan wants to push off a cliff) who needs adequate and affordable health care, Obama's message is:
1-800-3(F) 8(U) 2(C) 5(K) 9(Y) 6(O).
From that point on, UPI headlined, "Obamacare phone number spells swear, Internet goes wild."
"Social media users are all over the Obamacare phone number after it was pointed out the official hotline nearly spelled out a swear," they reported.
The official national hotline Health and Human Services advertises for healthcare help is 1-800-318-2596.
On a dialpad, the number spells out 1-800-F1U-CKYO.
The discovery spawned the #ObamacarePhoneNumbers trend on Twitter with critics of the Affordable Care Act taking aim and the law.
Proposed numbers include 1-800-404-FAIL, 1-800-HOT MESS and 1-800-SOY-LENT ext. Green.
"Dialing for depravity?" asks the Washington Times.
The new toll-free consumer number associated with the Affordable Care Act uses an unfortunate sequence of numbers that unfortunately spells out 1-800-F***-YO.
The number was set up by the Department of Health and Human Services, which has offered no acknowledgement or comment so far.
The New York Daily News, which, unlike the Washington Times, is not a conservative newspaper, writes that "The hotline set up to help those wanting to learn more about insurance options made available under the Affordable Care Act actually spells out an unfortunate insult on a telephone keypad."
Its caption of a photo showing Obama scratching his head with his middle finger says, "The number for the hotline setup to provide information on his signature health care law suggests a similar message," while the lead sentence goes on to say "Critics of Obamacare who claim the law may end up screwing the people it aims to help might turn out to be right."
Out in Seattle, KTTH radio host David Boze asks, "What? Obamacare's hotline spells out what?" on his daily show and the MYNorthwest.com blog.
The Blaze posted a screen capture of Markay's tweet, noting that "if you want to commit the number to memory, this isn't an ineffective method. Conservatives, however, might say the phrase is closer to a Freudian slip."
"Though the phone number is missing the important “U” at the end, which would have simply required taking out the unassigned number 1 and adding an 8 at the end," comments BIZPAC Review from Florida, "it’s still pretty much the message Obama has had for the American people since day one."
If anything can help the anemic response to Obamacare's 1 rollout – which turned out to be entire orders of magnitude lower than HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's wildly extravagant claims – it's an easy-to-remember response number. And, as Hunter Schwartz writes at BuzzFeed, this is a number you'll "never forget." But "if there are children around, you're going to want to ask them to leave" when you dial it.