President Barack Obama’s push to revamp health care got a boost Thursday as a new coalition of drug makers, unions, hospitals and others launched a $12 million pro-overhaul ad campaign. Meanwhile, the administration sought to regain control of the health care debate by asking supporters to forward a chain e-mail to counter criticism that’s circulating on the Internet.
The e-mail by White House senior adviser David Axelrod offers reasons to support Obama’s agenda — and myths to debunk.
Axelrod wrote that opponents are relying on tactics including "viral e-mails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies."
"So let’s start a chain e-mail of our own," he said, inviting supporters to forward a message countering claims that Obama’s plans would lead to rationing, encourage euthanasia or deplete veterans’ health care.
The new ad airing in a dozen states is being paid for by a new coalition called Americans for Stable Quality Care. Members of the group are Families USA, the Service Employees International Union, the drug lobby Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals.
The ad shows a series of photos of doctors and nurses interacting with patients as the narrator asks: "What does health insurance reform mean for you? It means you can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, or dropped if you get sick." The ad also cites lowered costs and a focus on prevention, among other things.
Even as public skepticism over Democrats’ health overhaul plans boils over at town hall meetings nationwide, the ad is the latest example of the odd-bedfellows help that Obama is getting in his plea to Congress to enact comprehensive legislation to lower costs and extend coverage to the nearly 50 million uninsured.
"This is really focused on what has been an increasing emphasis for almost all supporters of health care reform, namely trying to make sure families around the country understand the benefits of health reform for them — especially middle-class families that already do have health insurance," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group
Pollack said that supporters who’ve been focused on the legislative process in Congress need to turn their attention to public opinion, which has been slipping as conservative activists fuel fears of rationing and government control.
"We have a job now to do to have facts catch up with the myths," Pollack said.
Families USA, the drug makers, the 2-million-member union and the AMA also were involved in an earlier effort called Health Economy Now that ran ads supporting a health overhaul as a way to improve the economy.
For PhRMA, the ads are a piece of a larger effort that could reach $150 million or above through the fall. Drug makers and other groups stand to gain if millions more people gain access to insurance.
The new ads are running for two weeks in Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Maine and Virginia, home to moderate Democrats who would be crucial to passage of any health care legislation.
Separately, the pro-overhaul group Health Care for America Now announced a $200,000 expansion of an ad campaign targeting specific lawmakers and asking them to support health legislation.
Health Care for America Now is targeting several moderate Democratic House members who have voted against health legislation or expressed skepticism about it — Reps. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota and Rick Boucher of Virginia. Also targeted by the ads are Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Thomas Carper, D-Del.
On the other side, the group Conservatives for Patients’ Rights announced it will run TV and print ads in Bozeman, Mont., and Grand Junction, Colo., to coincide with Obama town halls in those cities on Friday and Saturday. The ads urge opposition to a new public insurance plan supported by Obama that would compete with private insurers.