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Ad Wars: Intensity Picks Up During August Recess

by VR Sreeraman on August 14, 2009 at 12:06 PM
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 Ad Wars: Intensity Picks Up During August Recess

The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting a Democrat on health care reform for the first time, as ad wars, and message wars, continue between parties, Roll Call reports.

"The ad targeting Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.) is the first in what committee officials said will be a series of TV and radio spots hitting vulnerable Democrats over the August recess. Other Democrats whom the NRCC is zeroing in on include Reps. Zack Space (Ohio), Michael Arcuri (N.Y.), Harry Teague (N.M.), Ike Skelton (Mo.), Christopher Carney (Pa.) and Bill Foster (Ill.)." The ad ties Kagen to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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Democrats are also getting in on the ad blitz. "Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Wednesday unveiled the third phase of its month-long advertising and grass-roots effort targeting more than two dozen Republicans on the health care reform issue. This phase consists of sending 'Health Care Fact Check Cards' to millions of the party's grass-roots supporters across the country" (Whittington, 8/12).

USA Today examines one of the Democratic National Committee's ads, which says "'President Obama's plan will end unfair insurance practices ... like denying coverage for a pre-existing condition ... outrageous out of pocket expenses ... and dropping coverage when you get too sick.'" Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, "says the organization has proposed plans to address all of the concerns raised in the ad" (Jackson, 8/12).
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Business groups are getting ready to move to "Plan B:" if positive ads don't work, they will 'go negative,' Politico reports: "The increasingly aggressive tone is not good news for Obama. The president has worked hard to keep industry groups at the negotiating table, even cutting side deals with the drug and hospital industries to keep reform on track. By keeping deep-pocketed interest groups close, Obama is trying to avoid a well-funded opposition campaign" (Frates, 8/12).

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has began running its new ad criticizing current reform plans in "about 20 states," CBS News reports. "The ad shows a balloon being inflated with words "tax increases, swelling deficits, government control" written on it. A voiceover notes that the Congressional Budget Office predicts the deficit will grow $239 billion if one form of health care reform is passed." The balloon eventually bursts (Aulova, 8/12).

At the same time, there are many ads supporting health reform, including a $12 million campaign to support Obama's goals, Politico reports in a second story. "The new group, funded largely by the pharmaceutical industry, is called Americans for Stable Quality Care. It includes some odd bedfellows: the American Medical Association, FamiliesUSA, the Federation of American Hospitals, PhRMA and SEIU, the service employees' union. ... The debut ad is meant to shore up support among the conservative House Blue Dog Democrats, and to target swing senators. So it's airing in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Virginia. The first buy is expected to run for two weeks, with a weekly spend of around $3 million" (Allen, 8/13).

One health insurer is paying for an ad New York state officials say is misleading, The Associated Press reports in a second story. "A health insurer whose TV commercials promised 'peace of mind' for just $5 a day must stop running the national ads and pay a fine of $700,000 after New York officials accused it of leaving patients only with huge hospital bills."

"The American Medical and Life Insurance Co., advertising through an intermediary called Cinergy, marketed health insurance as a lower cost option for the uninsured and underinsured. It was pitched as costing just $5 a day, or the cost of a hamburger or pack of cigarettes. ... As part of a settlement announced Wednesday, the state Insurance Department forced the company to agree to halt the nationwide ads. American Medical and Life Insurance is based in New York City and sells policies in 38 states and the District of Columbia" (Gormley, 8/12).

Source: Kaiser Health News
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