Close Readings: An alarming message from

You know that scene in Scanners where the guy's head blows up?

You ever seen that scene in Scanners where the dude’s head blows up?

Caption readers are hereby issued an apology for the compound movie reference. Link clickers are issued an apology for the quality of that video. And health insurance exchange customers are issued their usual packet of vague information and warnings. We also got an email beginning with this sentence:

You’re unique, so why should your health plan be any different?

Uh…[explodes.] Close reading of why this sentence is a threat to skull integrity after the jump.

Ah, unique: being the only one of its kind, unlike anything else. The Oxford American Dictionary does not include the second, ad-influenced definition of the word: you. In this modern iEpoch, every customer is unique, particularly when they’re being marketed to en masse. The claim you’re unique has become boilerplate, no more noticeable than some restrictions apply.

Until somebody draws attention to it—then the actual meaning of unique makes trouble. You’re unique, so why should your health plan be any different? thwarts sense because everything should be different from something that’s unique. Implying that I, as a unique person, should have a bunch of things including health insurance that are no different from me collapses the meaning of unique.

It draws attention to what an empty buzzword unique has become, yielding a sentence that reads as you’re you, so your health plan should be yours. In short, it reflects the level of thoughtfulness we have come to expect from

I bought my policy on the Montana state insurance exchange, which was a mistake. I don’t qualify for any subsidies, so the only advantage I got from using the exchange was’s famously enjoyable website. The disadvantage I got is that any change to my policy1 has to be approved by the state exchange office. Estimated wait time to even investigate my problem: 10 weeks.

Don’t worry—I fixed that months ago, with virtually no help from the exchange. They did give me a bunch of wrong phone numbers and, at a key moment in the process, created a second file/identity for Dan Brooks that briefly screwed everything up, but otherwise they just hung out being a symbol of Obamacare.

That symbolic status should make them more careful about how they communicate. Whenever I get an email from, I picture the president writing it. When I got my enrollment letter and noticed the various their/there errors within, my faith in the Affordable Care Act declined by about 1%.

It’s not much, and probably other people do not consider usage the canary in the mine of good government the way I do. But you can only mail me so many comical declarations before I start to worry. Writing an email isn’t brain surgery. You guys may be in charge of funding and arranging my brain surgery later, though, so maybe hire a copy editor.

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