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Kai Ryssdal: There’s obviously a lot of information — and misinformation — flying around out there about health-care reform. President Obama’s trying get back on top of the debate. He’s doing a series of his own town hall meetings across the country this month. And he’s getting a boost from a $12 million ad campaign that started airing this morning.
Health-care Ad: What does health insurance aid…and your doctor. It means lower costs
Chris Frates covers health care for Politico. Good to have you with us.
CHRIS FRATES: Good to be here.
RYSSDAL: Let’s go straight to the bottom of the screen on this ad. That line that comes at the end of all these political ads that say, ‘paid for by.’ In this case, ‘paid for by Americans for stable, quality care.’ Who are these guys?
FRATES: Well, these are a group of industry and consumer groups that have gotten together to pump President Obama and the Democrats’ push for health-care reform. They’re the pharmaceutical industry, they are Families USA, they’re a health-care consumer group, nationally respected, you have the Federation of American Hospitals, and SEIU, the Service Employees Union.
RYSSDAL: The phrase strange bed fellows comes to mind.
FRATES: Absolutely, and I think that’s part of why this body is so important, because it combines the unions and the industry, as well as consumers, to say we are pushing for health-care reform at a time when President Obama is on the defensive for his reform efforts.
RYSSDAL: Who are these ads aiming at, though?
FRATES: Well, these ads are aiming at folks who are getting the messages all over the media that Americans are opposed to health-care reform. And what they’re trying to do is to convince Americans that there are items in health-care reform that are good for them. They’re trying to sell them on why they should be for reform, that they won’t be denied coverage for things like pre-existing conditions, that they’ll have access to the health care they need even if they were to lose their jobs. Because proponents of health-care reform feel that if they could get their message out, above the roar of the town halls that we’ve had so far this August, that people would get behind the effort because there is so much in reform for them.
RYSSDAL: Well, let’s talk about that roar for a minute. It’s fairly substantial. Can these ads and this buy, no matter how big it is, really push through?
FRATES: I think that is the hope of supporters. That with these ads, which comes with a substantially deep-pocketed group. The pharmaceutical industry has said that they are willing to put almost $150,000 million toward reform ads. So they believe that if they could saturate the air waves with these pro messages, that eventually people would begin to see that there’s a lot of sizzle, but no steak behind this opposition. But as you point out, it is very loud, all the media coverage now is about the conflict and the confrontations. They’re trying to rise above that and give the president some air cover as he goes around and tries to make the case to the American people.
RYSSDAL: Do we know who is outspending who in these ad wars. The pro reform side or the con side?
FRATES: Right now we do know that about $51 million has been spent so far on health-care reform ads. The bulk of those ads have been generically for reform. So they say we need health-care reform now, but they don’t get behind any one plan or another. Which is why this buy is so significant because it’s a substantial investment in getting behind the Democratic plans now pending in Congress.
RYSSDAL: Chris Frates. He covers health care for Politico. Chris, thanks a lot.
FRATES: Hey, thank you.
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