Remember those taxpayer-funded commercials with kindly Andy Griffith — the ones that promoted the ways the so-unaptly-titled Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act supposedly strengthens Medicare? They weren’t the last campaign of their kind. The L.A. Times reports:

The Obama administration is kicking off a nationwide ad campaign urging seniors to take advantage of free preventive services such as cancer screenings made possible in Medicare by the new healthcare law.

The campaign — featuring television and radio ads in English and Spanish … — comes on the heels of a new report showing that less than one in six Medicare beneficiaries have taken advantage of the new benefit since President Obama signed the law last year.

Donald Berwick, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says these ads are fundamentally different than the Andy Griffith ads, even though they also use taxpayer funding to tout the still-highly-controversial law. “Everyone is interested in prevention,” he said. “I don’t think this is a partisan issue.”

But even if that’s true — that most people recognize preemptive care goes a long way to lower costs — does that mean it’s the federal government’s responsibility to provide, advertise and urge preventive services on the public?

It’s hard to know where to draw the line between genuine public service announcements and inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars to promote partisan policy (or the partisan “free giveaway parts” of a policy that make a questionable law look more appealing). I’d say this falls in the latter camp, regardless of the advisability of preventive services, in general.

Education as to the contents of the bill ought to have taken place before Congress passed it — and at the expense of those who wanted to make it law, rather than now, when, conveniently and against ongoing opposition, the administration can pay for the ads with taxpayers’ dollars. It would have been better to ascertain whether the demand for “free” preventive services existed then rather than try to drum up demand now.

Berwick wants us to believe these are ads of a different ilk, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …