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Coming soon to your TV: Ads promoting and defending Obamacare

Right after the big health care bill squeaked through in March, there was a lot of talk about how public suppport for the law would increase once people got past the misleading Republican rhetoric about “socialized medicine” and how the bill established “death panels” to decide when to “pull the plug on granny.”

You can find polls suggesting that the public likes various features of the bill, but at the level of impact on the midterm election, it seems that the 2009 health care debate is still helping Republicans and hurting Democrats in 2010. My buddy tom Hamburger’s story yesterday in the L.A. Times presents the latest evidence, in the form of TV advertising. For example, from Tom’s story:

“Since the bill passed in March, $23.3 million has been spent on ads attacking the law, compared with $6.3 million supporting the legislation.”

You could say this is a mixture of cause and effect, not a measure of the public’s true feelings. But the worst sign that Democrats don’t think so is this finding: The only Democrats in midterm races that Tom could find who are advertising about the new law are those who voted against it and want to make sure voters know that.

Now a group of organizations that support the bill, in coordination with the White House, are gearing up for another effort to convince the public that the law does more good than harm to the health care system. From Tom’s story:

A nationwide, multimillion-dollar ad offensive — organized in consultation with the White House and funded by sympathetic groups and wealthy individual donors — is set to kick off in the coming days. At the same time, dozens of leading consumer advocates, patient associations and medical groups, working independently and alongside the Obama administration, are scrambling to put together initiatives to tout the law’s benefits.

Those will have to be some very good ads. Also from the story:

“A recent survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly half of the country’s seniors think — erroneously — that the law creates a new government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff noted that voters also still think the law will lead to higher health costs, taxes and deficit spending, and lower quality of care — impressions that provide a clear advantage to Republicans.”

A small p.s. I have often referred to the law as “Obamacare.” Tom notes that this is a term mostly used — derisivly — by opponents. I’ve had some pushback from those objected to my use of the word. I confess that I don’t get it. Seems like a neutral nickname for the law. Its official name is “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

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Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/27/2010 - 10:24 am.

    My 17 year old son who is an athlete and an excellent scholar was recently denied coverage due to 2 fairly insignificant congenital disorders. I read today that this fall one of the first parts of the bill are being enacted and that is that there is to be no more denial of coverage of children for preexising conditions. We had 12 years of republican rule from 1994 to 2006 and the best they came up with was HSAs and minute clinics. For the legislation of 2008 I am pleased and very much relieved.
    There are few civil words for representatives like Kline who are intent on repealing many parts of the bill.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/27/2010 - 11:58 am.

    They’ve got their work cut out for them. Its going to be mighty tough spinning fantasy from the hard, cold truth:

    “HealthMarkets, the North Richland Hills-based seller of health insurance, laid off 70 employees this month and expects to trim 180 more positions by the end of the first quarter of 2011, according to a recent federal filing.

    In the Securities and Exchange Commission filing, HealthMarkets blamed the layoffs on “dropping enrollment levels experienced by the company’s insurance subsidiaries,” along with national healthcare reform and “related legislative developments.”

    HealthMarkets provides insurance plans to the self-employed, individuals and small businesses.”


    “About 50 full-time jobs will be eliminated at the HealthAlliance Hospital — Leominster Campus, and one of two planned expansion projects may be cut back.

    Mary Lourdes Burke, chief communications officer for the hospital attributed the cuts to health care reform, with its reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, along with cuts in private health insurance reimbursements and increasing co-payments for patients…David F. Duncan, hospital vice president for facilities, told the City Council earlier this year that the design may be scaled back because the new federal health reform law discourages emergency room visits.

    …In addition, he said, health care reform is expected to result in the loss of $24 million in Medicare reimbursements, out of $170 million total, starting in five years. The state’s health insurance reform laws, on which the national model is based, have already resulted in at least that much in losses, Mr. Muldoon said.”

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/27/2010 - 12:29 pm.

    Your usual unbiased info sources.
    The likely main cause of the drop in policy holders is unemployment — people without jobs can’t pay for insurance.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/27/2010 - 01:47 pm.

    In reality, MOST people, including some of the loudest voices on the right have no idea what “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” even is, let alone any of it’s provisions.

    When any of us describe the healthcare bill as “Obamacare,” we are, whether willingly or not, participating in and reinforcing a concerted effort to discredit the new healthcare law while, at the same time preventing people from ever taking the trouble to discover what it might contain.

    There are those on the right who continue a well-orchestrated, massive, and completely B.S. e-mail campaign against the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, the virtue of Michelle Obama, even the quality and nature of Obama’s children (if you aren’t among those to whom this stuff is forwarded, let me assure you it is incredibly ignorant and unbelievably vile)…

    In doing so, they have successfully sought to encourage others to develop a viscerally negative reaction to the name “Obama.” These same folks are also being manipulated into an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” regardless of its provisions, simply because it’s being called “Obamacare.”

    For these highly-biased, low information, logic challenged, overly-ideological folks, calling the health care law “Obamacare” raises red flags, causes their “red alert” siren to go off, and prevents them from giving the slightest consideration to the fact that it will have a positive impact on their lives and the lives of those they love.

    All of which is just to say, please STOP using the term “Obamacare.” That term, in and of itself, is preventing people, even people who should know better, from taking note of and appreciating what the bill will do for them.

  5. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 08/27/2010 - 02:02 pm.

    By Sept. 17, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to announce whether they will withdraw their 2008 recommendation of Avastin for breast cancer treatment; this sets off new attention to the reality that no one can trust any Federal medical action, while Obama remains in office, and Obamacare remains in effect. His “Affordable Health Care for America Act” was forced through, for the express purpose of shortening lives and protecting HMOs’ money. Both these purposes will be served if the FDA revokes its OK of Avastin for breast cancer.

    The FDA advisory board has already voted 12 – 1 against the drug, saying that results that give an additional year of life are not worth it.

    The related question is: will any DFL candidate openly claim this Fall that they supported Obamacare? Will any DFL candidate invite the economic plague known as Barack Obama to visit Minnesota this Fall? The Star Tribune has already “sacked” this idea in a cartoon last Monday.

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/27/2010 - 02:06 pm.

    Paul, you do realize the sources I’ve listed are newspapers and that they are directly quoting the spokespeople, don’t you?

    I’m guessing you’d consider bad news from anywhere biased. Have you ever heard of cognitive dissonance?

    Shunning information one finds uncomfortable isn’t helpful if one hopes to achieve a broad perspective; that’s one reason I’m a faithful Minnpost reader.

    Are you suggesting the TV ads we’re being warned about will contain useful information because they are being bankrolled by sympathetic groups and wealthy individual donors (*cough* Soros *cough*) who Eric didn’t even care to identify?

  7. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 08/27/2010 - 02:12 pm.

    Hospitals are supposed to have lower revenue after health care reform. That’s called bending the cost curve. Moving people from emergency room visits to office visits is a fantastic outcome.

  8. Submitted by John E Iacono on 08/27/2010 - 03:50 pm.

    They will have a hard time selling it in Phoenix, where a friend in her eighties who has been on Medicare Advantage has been advised her benefits will be cut back significantly, I hear.

    “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” I suppose, could be referred to as PPAC, but if the bill is as wonderful as it’s supporters say I can’t imagine why they would have any objection to having O’Bama’s name attached to it.

    Can you?

  9. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 08/27/2010 - 05:12 pm.

    The problem with the term “Obamacare” is that is suggests a new program, like Medicare or Medicaid. What we really have here is health insurance reform.

  10. Submitted by Tim Larson on 08/27/2010 - 08:32 pm.

    //What we really have here is health insurance reform.


    Eric, this “health insurance reform” creates dozens of new government agencies.

    What exactly is your definition of “new program”?

  11. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/27/2010 - 08:57 pm.

    Dear Thomas Swift, You have heard of the Koch brothers who are just as politically active if not more than George Soros. While both men do much philanthropic work, the main difference is that Soros is much more open about his political work. We both can read all about it this weekend. Keep your ears open.

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/27/2010 - 09:28 pm.

    “…the main difference is that Soros is much more open about his political work.”

    Good one, dan. I’m betting even Eric got a chuckle out of that one.

  13. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/27/2010 - 09:37 pm.

    I suspect that I had Leon Festinger before you were born.

    And your quotes may have been accurate — I was not questioning that these individuals spoke those words.

  14. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/27/2010 - 09:38 pm.

    “I had READ Leon Festinger ….”

  15. Submitted by Tim Larson on 08/27/2010 - 10:09 pm.

    dan b,

    Can you explain how your 17 year old came to be without insurance?

  16. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 08/28/2010 - 01:13 am.

    Let’s be clear about this. Obama took a very “hands off” position during the critical parts of this “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” There were several bills but the main one which drew a lot of attention from supporters of “single payer” like me was the Max Baucus bill which had absolutely NO provision for public health care in it. In fact, the “compromise” of a “public option” of a government provided health care was bargained away and dropped without a whisper.

    This was an outrage and a total scam. Yet the opponents behaved like the US was about to adopt a Swedish health care reform bill! Were it only half true.

    A lot of the “low information voters” bought into this and apparently they still do, judging from the mileage Bachmann and Beck are getting out of the “government takeover” of health care. For those of us lucky enough to be able to afford to pay for health coverage, the bill has not made much of a palpable impact. But if the right somehow manages to take over Congress in November, we may be seeing a reaction to establish a health care system that would resemble our completely warped and federalized system of credit, where the states with the least consumer health care protections preempts the states with the best.

  17. Submitted by Michael Zalar on 08/28/2010 - 05:45 am.

    Deaths per year due to lack of Health Insurance

    2002 – 18,000 Institute of Medicine study
    2006 – 22,000 Institute of Medicine
    2006 – 27,000 Urban Institute
    2008 – 45,000 Harvard University study.

    All arguments regarding health care must be measured with these statistics in mind.

  18. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/28/2010 - 06:37 am.

    Tom, you seem to ignore the large political work (funding) that the Koch brothers do. The object of journalism is to bring facts out into the light. Just google Koch brothers to see the latest journalistic inquiries.

  19. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/28/2010 - 06:40 am.

    The real debate will take place in court. But the phony debate will last a lot longer, if history is any guide.

  20. Submitted by Sue Halligan on 08/28/2010 - 03:03 pm.

    It is my hope that when the new health care reform legislation is fully implemented, the hate-and scare-mongers will no longer be listened to and people will be thrilled to discover real benefits to their lives.

    By the way, anyone wishing to know the whole history of the Koch brothers should read Jane Mayer’s article, “Covert Operations,” in the current NEW YORKER.

  21. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/29/2010 - 04:24 pm.

    Tom Swift (#2) — the Medicare funding cut is ONLY to the private fee-for-service coverage that right-wing members of Congress created as part of their effort to privatize all of Medicare and, if possible, kill it.

    Those plans get far more money from Medicare per person in order to offer incentives like gym memberships to attract younger, healthier seniors while leaving older, sicker seniors in traditional Medicare. The result would be growth in profits for those insurers who offer private fee for service coverage and greater pay-outs for those who offer traditional Medicare.

    Tom S (#12) Murdoch and the Koch brothers are using their kabillions to destroy by any means anything or anyone that interferes with profits. George Soros, on the other hand, uses his fortune to support a free press anywhere in the world where such support is necessary.

    Glen M (#5) “… no one can trust any Federal medical action as long as Obama is in office, and Obamacare remains in effect.”

    The reason many actions taken by the FDA over the past 10 years have been untrustworthy is that George Bush cut the FDA’s staffing and funding AND appointed people to run it whose allegiance was skewed toward drug company profits instead of consumer safety.

  22. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 08/29/2010 - 11:06 pm.

    Obama proposed it; Obama created it; Obama pushed it through Congress; therefore Obama owns it. It’s Obamacare.

  23. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/30/2010 - 09:57 am.

    Mr. Sanders:
    By that logic Bush owns Iraq and Afghanistan.

  24. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 08/30/2010 - 07:22 pm.

    OK, Mr. Brandon, you tell me who conceived and pushed through Obamacare.

  25. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/30/2010 - 08:41 pm.

    @ 24 Hal, I would say that big Pharma and the insurance industry did the heavy lifting. Though they were thoughtful enough to let Obama claim the credit…….

  26. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/31/2010 - 10:57 am.

    And of course ‘Obamacare’ is basically the model promulgated by that great Massachusetts Democrat Mitt Romney.

  27. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 08/31/2010 - 02:55 pm.

    OK, we agree, if Obamacare ends up being a rip-roaring success we won’t give him the credit for it.

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