The fight to save the Affordable Care Act has migrated to a new battleground: Facebook.

Since early September, a viral Facebook status has been making the rounds, claiming that the Trump administration is attempting to sabotage the law by making enrolling in a health plan on Healthcare.gov confusing and difficult.


The wording varies from post to post, but the message is largely the same. It urges users to "copy and paste" and to employ a linguistic trick meant to boost the post's prominence on the social network:

CONGRATULATIONS! The White House is trying to stop you from enrolling in Obamacare. Fortunately, your friends (like me) are posting this and using the word "CONGRATULATIONS" so that Facebook's algorithm shows this to more people. Enrollment for 2018 Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) starts November 1 and ends December 15. Snopes verified that the enrollment period was shortened and GOP has cut by 90% the funding to advertise these deadlines. Administration is also taking the website down for "maintenance" for 12 hrs at a time on weekends for most of the enrollment period when working people might most likely need to use it - doing what they can to sabotage ACA. (Please leave a comment saying, "Congratulations!" to influence FB's algorithm to increase the visibility of this posting.) THEN, PLEASE COPY AND PASTE ON YOUR OWN TIMELINE.

"[It] sucks when I'm told I don't deserve affordable health care and when it's implied it's my fault I have a pacemaker or need pain meds," says Jackie Todd, a filmmaker who posted the status to her page in September. She believes her chronic heart condition would make her uninsurable, should the Affordable Care Act be repealed.

The "congratulations!" Facebook status offers users the twin satisfactions of doing one's civic duty and hacking Facebook's mysterious "algorithm." And the accusations of sabotage jibe with recent reports that claim the Trump administration is rolling back its support for the law.

At the same time, it's hard not to be skeptical of a random post that appears in your feed.

Should you believe it? Should you share it?

That depends on a few things. And I looked into those things.

Is the information about the ACA in the post accurate? Broadly, yes. Let's break it down:

"Enrollment for 2018 Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) starts November 1 and ends December 15."

True, according to Healthcare.gov. That's six weeks shorter than the 2016 open enrollment period, which ran from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31.

"Snopes verified that the enrollment period was shortened and GOP has cut by 90% the funding to advertise these deadlines."

Also true, with a caveat. On Aug. 31, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it would allocate $10 million for its ACA promotional budget, down from $100 million in 2016. The agency claimed that despite doubling advertising funding from 2015 to 2016, "first-time enrollment [declined] by 42 percent," justifying the deep cuts.  

As for the caveat? Snopes did verify the information — though the claim that the "GOP" is responsible is not exactly right, as the adjustment was made by the Trump administration, not any particular political party.

"Administration is also taking the website down for 'maintenance' for 12 hrs at a time on weekends for most of the enrollment period when working people might most likely need to use it."

Again, true. In late September, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would be taking Healthcare.gov offline on five Sundays during the open enrollment period, from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Is the "congratulations" tactic an effective way to "hack" Facebook's mysterious algorithm?

Unfortunately, probably not. At least no more so than simply posting the information to Facebook without the "congratulations" attached.

The claim that including "congratulations" in a status boosts a post's ranking on Facebook comes from from a 2014 Wired article, which reported that Mark Zuckerberg proposed the idea himself, after noticing that a post about a colleague's birthday appeared higher on his own feed than a post about the birth of his own niece.

That's not the case today. A Facebook spokesperson said that including highlighted words like "congratulations" (which trigger delightful special effects when clicked) do nothing to improve a post's ranking on the news feed. He noted that posts that feature the word do "tend to get more engagement from people on the platform," which does increase their reach.

So should you post it yourself?

"Anything and everything is helpful in spreading the word," says Lori Lodes, co-founder of Get America Covered. A former director of communications at Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Lodes was responsible for outreach efforts during Healthcare.gov's second and third open enrollment periods. Get America Covered was founded to fill the gaps left by the administration's cutbacks, in part by putting together resources to help individuals encourage those in their social networks to enroll.

In the meantime, Lodes supports sounding the alarm on Facebook.

"The most important thing people can do right now is to get the word out — whether that is talking to friends, sharing on social media or hanging up signs in their neighborhoods," she says.

The next few months will help determine whether the Affordable Care Act thrives or merely survives.

Can anyone really help replace the well-funded, coordinated effort of a large federal bureaucracy?

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

That part remains to be seen. But it's up to you, regardless.

Congratulations!

Please copy and share?

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.