KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Ad Wars Over Health Care Overhaul Heat Up

"The ad wars over the health care campaign are heating up once [again] this week," The New York Times reports. At a speech on Monday, Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, released a party television ad "which its spokeswoman says will first be broadcast in Arkansas, North Dakota and Nevada." The ad "opens with a tiny infant, and spools out with a narrator's voice saying: 'They've loaned Barack Obama their future, without even knowing it. Trillions for rushed government bailouts and takeovers, banks, the auto industry.' And then it continues, as children appear on the screen: 'The biggest spending spree in our nation's in history. And they'll have to pay. The next big ticket item? A risky experiment with our health care. Barack Obama's massive spending experiment hasn't healed our economy. His new experiment risks their future and our health.'"

"In another campaign, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network bought virtually all of the summer ad space in the Capitol South metro station just south of the Capitol, a stop that's frequented by members of Congress, their staffs, and Hill visitors. The group said it hoped the installment of banners, holograms and before-and-after patient photos 'enflames peoples' passions and encourages political will 'to quickly reform health care'" (Southall, 7/20). 

"Opponents and proponents of the [health care] measures are intensifying their rhetoric and saturating the media to move public support to their sides," McClatchy reports. "Political analysts and advocates predict that the rhetoric from Obama and lawmakers combined with the ad wars from interest groups will be sharper and more superheated than the 1993 public debate over President Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton's failed health care plan." Darrell West, "the vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a public policy research center, said the debate was just getting started, particularly on the advertising side" (Douglas, 7/20).

Major business groups are launching their own ad campaigns, The Wall Street Journal reports. "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents three million employers, plans to introduce a sharply worded multimedia advertising campaign in the next several days pushing back against the key planks of Democrats' health overhaul proposals." And "separately, America's Health Insurance Plans, the nation's largest health insurance lobby, on Monday launched a television advertising campaign costing at least $1 million, with ads that say the industry supports the idea of health overhaul -- but only one that is bipartisan. So far, no Republicans have voted for the measures passed through committees in the Democratic-led Senate and House" (Adamy, 7/20).

Meanwhile, grass-roots progressives are targeting Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., Politico reports. "Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee conducted a four-day, online poll of their members, and with about 64,000 votes cast, Baucus beat seven other Democratic senators as the lawmaker whose arm is most in need of twisting over health care reform. And so on Wednesday, an ad will begin airing in Montana charging Baucus with choosing monied interests over average voters who want the public insurance option." The ads are "the latest escalation in the Democrat versus Democrat ad wars over health care reform. With all but a handful of Republicans opposed to President Barack Obama's plan, advocacy groups have spent their money almost entirely targeting wayward and undecided Democrats." And "even the president's political operation, Organizing for America, couldn't resist a TV campaign aimed at lassoing members of his own party. The group stepped up its effort last week, putting up an ad in more than a dozen states targeting swing Senate and House members, including three Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee." Health Care For America Now also "elevated its efforts last week" with an ad campaign in nine states "focusing primarily on the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, which has slowed legislation in the House" (Brown, 7/21). 

Kaiser Health News analyzes the ad campaign of Healthy Economy Now, "an 'odd bedfellows' coalition" made up of "the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), AARP, the American Medical Association, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, Business Roundtable, Families USA and the Service Employees International Union. This is the third ad the coalition has released in an ad buy that has totaled more than $12 million. The goal of the ads is to press the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who have been snarling about the cost of a health care overhaul and other issues, to support the House bill. The ad urges people to call congressmen who have expressed reservations to ask them to support the legislation" (Villegas, 7/21).

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