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Oct 26, 2009-2009

United States of America

Public Option Annie



Public Option Annie


Healthcare Insurance Industry, specifically adding a public option portion.


American healthcare should be reformed.


Issues and Opposition: In 2009, when President Obama proposed healthcare reforms, there were objections from health insurance companies and a section of the American Medical Association (AMA). Their main objection was against the clause on the public health insurance option. The option meant that Americans could now get a federally or state-run health insurance program (that may be administered by private health insurance companies) and that this option would be offered to them in addition to private health insurance plans. The Obama administration underlined that the public option would not only increase competition among private players in the market (thereby forcing them to lower their premiums and run more efficiently), but it would also be affordable for many Americans (especially those from marginalized communities) who until now did not have health insurance coverage (or had very little). The reformed healthcare implied that Americans from all socioeconomic strata would now have access to quality and reliable healthcare and substantial benefits. Besides, the public option was designed to act as a source of non-tax government income. However, private insurance companies decried the reforms, particularly, the public option, claiming that it would increase their costs uncontrollably. The GOP members joined the insurance companies in criticizing the public option. In protest against the private insurance companies, lobbyists, and the GOP politicians, a group of activists who called themselves the Billionaires for Wealthcare came forward and organized a hilarious dilemma action. Their objective was to expose the nexus between private insurers and politicians and show before the public the ugly face of corporate America.
Dilemma Action: “Billionaires for Wealthcare” (B4W) is a group of political activists, theater personalities, and singers well-known for staging jamming and guerilla theater in different US cities. Many of their performances are satirical. The activists arrived at pro-reform and anti-reform events, in limos, wearing expensive clothes, and satirically opposed the healthcare reforms. The activists carried banners that read anti-reform but hilarious slogans such as “Let them eat Advil”, “Do not harm our bottom”, and “If we ain’t broke, do not fix us”. To add more humor to their action, they called each other funny names such as “Phil T. Rich” and “Z. Roe Compassion”. The main element of the dilemma action was breaking out into songs to the tunes of Annie’s “Tomorrow”. The idea of the group’s name was a tweak of the earlier Billionaires for Bush that opposed Bush’s tea party politics. B4W activists replicated their satirical protest in many US cities starting from Phoenix, Arizona. This action was one of many actions staged by pro-reform activists and was part of a larger campaign.
Outcome: The activists received a lot of media attention and people enjoyed their satirical protests. The pro-reformers especially enjoyed the confusion that the group created among the anti-reform parties. The public option finally had to be abandoned for lack of support from the Senate.


Accountability / Corruption


Humorous skits and pranks



9 / 12

(MC) Media Coverage

(MSYMP) Media coverage was sympathetic to the activists

(OR) Opponent response

(PUN) Punishment favored the activists

(REFR) Dilemma action reframed the narrative of the opponent

(RF) Dilemma action reduced fear and/or apathy among the activists

(SA) Dilemma action appealed to a broad segment of the public




3 / 3

Activist group continued working together after the action

Encouraged more participants to join the movement

Internally replicated by the same movement


Project documentation

Dilemma Actions Coding Guidebook

Case study documentation


CC BY 4.0 Deed, Attribution 4.0 International


BillsForWealthcare. 2009. “Public Option Annie – with lyrics (guerrilla musical at AHIP conference),” YouTube. Retrieved July 22, 2023. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2QX9sMV5xI).

Franke-Ruta, G. 2009. “Public Option Annie, the musical health-care protest,” The Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2023. (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/10/24/public_action_annie_the_musica.html).

Crikey. 2009. “Public Option Annie: an impromptu insurance industry musical,” Retrieved July 22, 2023. (https://www.crikey.com.au/2009/10/26/public-option-annie-an-impromptu-insurance-industry-musical/).

Pedro, J. 2009. “Public Option Annie: Protesters Perform Guerilla Musical at Healthcare Conference,” Global Cocktails Blog. Retrieved July 22, 2023. (https://globalcocktails.com/public-option-annie-protesters-perform-guerilla-musical-at-healthcare-conference/).

Haugerud, A. 2012. “Satire and Dissent in the Age of Billionaires,” Social Research: An International Quarterly. Retrieved July 22, 2023. (https://muse.jhu.edu/article/528056/summary).

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