New Volley of Ads Aims to Stop Obama's Health-Care Reforms

Chamber of Commerce, Others Launch $10M Campaign

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Here come the anti-health-care-reform ads.

Again.

Seven months after an initial blitz of advertising surrounding the health-care reform bill, various parties are at it again in response to President Barack Obama's push to have the Senate version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives before Easter on April 4.

At least three separate entities -- all against the health-care legislation -- have launched or are about to launch ad campaigns, the biggest of which is an effort from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of 248 lobbying groups that will spend up to $10 million in measured media over a 10-day period. A national cable TV buy began on Tuesday; further TV ads will air in 17 states targeting moderate and conservative Democrats and urging constituents to contact their legislators to vote "no" on health care.

The spot, called "Afford," tells viewers to "stop this health-care bill we can't afford to pay."

Included among the lobbying groups in the Chamber's campaign are the National Association of Manufacturers, the International Foodservice Distributors Association, National Retail Federation and a host of others who believe the bill, in its current form, will damage businesses by increasing taxes to help pay for health care.

"Businesses are struggling," R. Bruce Josten, exec VP-government affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said on a conference call. "So we're calling on viewers to call Congress to stop this bill."

Separately, the health-insurance industry's umbrella group, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), began airing a series of ads today on cable in which it tells viewers that insurance costs are only a small slice of the health-care pie and that "Doctors, hospitals and medicines" also add to the costs. AHIP would not say how long the ads will run, or what the spend is, only that it is more than $1 million.

Insurance industry a frequent target
The health-insurance industry has been a frequent target of Mr. Obama in the health-care debate. AHIP is currently in the midst of its annual two-day policy conference in Washington, where Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today told the group: "It's not too late to work on this issue together, for insurance companies to come to the table and work with us."

In her opening remarks at the conference on Tuesday, AHIP CEO Karen Ignagni stressed that health insurers still want to play a role in health-care reform, saying "the current system is unsustainable. ... The current debate about rising premiums has demonstrated that, in fact, we have a health-care cost crisis in this country. Unfortunately, the path that has been followed is one of vilification rather than problem-solving."

Finally, yet a third group, the relatively new Americans for Responsible Health Care (ARHC), has launched a seven-state radio campaign targeting U.S. Reps. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.; Baron Hill, D-Ind.; Dina Titus, D-Nev.; Zack Space, D-Ohio; John Spratt, D-S.C.; Tom Perriello, D-Va.; and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

"The majority of the American people oppose Obama-care," ARHC spokesman Jeff Cohen said. "The question is, will these members of Congress listen to the people or will they continue to side with the elite Washington insiders and their astonishingly liberal plans for the government to takeover and control our health care? It's really quite simple -- if these members of Congress vote against the people again, then the people will undoubtedly return the favor in kind come November."

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