Insurers and Liberals Take Their Fracas to the Airwaves
By Ben Pershing
The fight between insurance companies and proponents of Democrats' health-care reform plans is heating up on the airwaves, as both sides are mounting new television campaigns.
The industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans sparked controversy this week with its report claiming that a Senate committee bill would cause premiums to skyrocket. A day later, a key liberal group hit back:
This ad from Americans United for Change seeks to link two subjects currently in the news -- the health-care debate and the baseball playoffs -- by noting that health-insurance companies and Major League Baseball teams are both exempt from federal antitrust laws. The ad says that insurance companies are "scared of competition," a reference to the industry's opposition to the creation of a government-sponsored insurance program, or "public option." (On a related note, the Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing scheduled Wednesday on "Prohibiting Price Fixing and Other Anticompetitive Conduct in the Health Insurance Industry.") The ad is running this week on Washington-area cable TV stations, and the overall buy is relatively small -- "low five figures," according to an Americans United spokesman.
AHIP, meanwhile, is out with a new ad of its own:
The insurers' group's ad says, "Congress is proposing over $100 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says many seniors will see cuts in benefits." Aimed at seniors, the AHIP ad focuses on the fate of the Medicare Advantage program, which pays private insurance companies to provide their own form of Medicare.
Democrats have long criticized the program, which they say gives its enrollees much more elaborate health coverage that is subsidized by regular Medicare patients. Democrats propose to cut funding for the program to boost the overall solvency of Medicare. Republicans and insurance companies counter that millions of Americans who rely on Medicare Advantage and are happy with it should not be made to suffer for the larger cause of reform. The overall effectiveness of Medicare Advantage remains the subject of debate between the two sides.
The Huffington Post reports that AHIP is spending more than $1 million to run the ad in several key states. AHIP did not respond to a request to confirm those details.
October 13, 2009; 3:42 PM ET
Categories: Health Reform
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