Is This Obamacare 'Hot to Trot' Ad Sexist?

First came the derided “brosurance” ads — part of a “Got Insurance?” campaign launched by a pair of Colorado non-profits last month in an attempt to convince healthy frat-boy types to opt into Affordable Care Act coverage. Now comes an even more controversial sequel aimed at young women, which critics are calling “ridiculous” and “demeaning.”

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The ad features a photo of a titillated young woman standing beside a pleased-looking man and holding a packet of birth-control pills. The text reads, “Let's get physical. OMG, he's hot! Let's hope he's as easy to get as this birth control. My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers. I got insurance. Now you can too. Thanks Obamacare!” Beneath their photo is the caption, "Susie & Nate Hot to Trot."

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The latest ad is just one in a series released by ProgressNow Colorado and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, focused on encouraging young people to enroll in the state's new health insurance exchange, an important part of the Affordable Care Act. Enrollment of young subscribers is pivotal because their medical costs are expected to be relatively low, which helps keep premiums down.

Other ads in the campaign target parents, athletes, and pregnant women. But it’s the new “OMG” version that’s been generating the most online chatter.

A slew of tweets aimed at the spot criticize it for “highlighting horny women on the prowl for men who are ‘easy to get’” and for touting a message of “now we can all get slutty.”

The blog Generation Opportunity – geared towards “free thinking” young people – writes, “Good news, bros and hos!,” calls the latest ad “condescending,” and accuses it of “disparagingly treating women like sex objects.”

Others wondered if the new ad was simply a goof, tweeting, "Is this seriously an Ad for Health Care?" and "That cannot be real."

Harsha Gangadharbatla, an associate professor of advertising at the University of Colorado at Boulder, tells the Denver Post he thinks the ad is “a strategic mistake," adding that he initially thought it was a gag. "Consumers could see it as a joke, making it appear not to be a serious issue. And the issue of health care is clearly a serious issue in the United States. There's already so many negative headlines and problematic issues out there with rollout of Obamacare, so why add fuel with ads like these, if the true intent is to enroll more young people."

But Adam Fox, the director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, tells Business Insider that attention was exactly what the organizations behind the ad were going for. "It's been fun to watch how it all plays out," he says. "We've seen both positive and negative reactions, but if people are seeing the ads and purchasing health insurance, that's a good thing." Traffic to the website that features the ads has exploded — so much, in fact, that the site went down briefly on Tuesday.

Amy Runyon-Harms, of ProgressNow Colorado, also believes that the campaign is accomplishing its goal. “"The whole intention of these ads is to raise awareness, and that's what we're doing," she tells the Denver Post. "It's great that more and more people are talking about it."

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