US businesses to fight health insurance reform with huge adverts

A coalition of organizations led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans to spend as much as $1 million a day on advertisements designed to pressure lawmakers to vote “no” on health-care legislation.

The campaign will last about 10 days and cost between $4 million and $10 million, said Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s top lobbyist. The ad will start on cable television and then run in 17 states served by moderate and conservative Democrats, he said.

Separately, the health-insurance industry lobby America’s Health Insurance Plans launched a $1 million-plus ad campaign on national cable TV. Proposed premium increases by insurers, in particular, have come under fire from President Obama in recent days as he tries to rally public support for the biggest changes to U.S. health care in 45 years.

Business groups say the Democratic legislation will hurt companies by adding taxes and requirements while failing to control medical costs. Josten said the ads will target House Democrats who voted “no” on the original legislation or voted “yes with reluctance.”

“We don’t believe Washington got the message, so we’re calling on viewers to tell Congress to stop this bill,” Josten said. The spot, called “Afford,” says the legislation will make a “tough economy worse.”

In addition to the Chamber of Commerce, others in the 248-group coalition include the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation, and groups representing the construction and food-service industries.

Obama’s plan, which among other things would cover 31 million uninsured Americans and impose tighter restrictions on insurers, relies mostly on a Senate bill passed in December. He is pressing House Democrats to approve that bill while passing another measure that would make negotiated changes. The changes would be passed under a budget procedure called reconciliation that would require a simple majority vote in the Democratic-controlled, 100-member Senate, rather than the 60 votes often needed for major legislation.

The White House has set a target for completion, March 18, which would be a “steep climb,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said getting work done before Congress leaves for a two-week recess March 26 is the “objective, not a deadline.”

Meanwhile, liberal public-option backers and conservative tea partyers launched last-chance campaigns Tuesday to persuade Congress to pass — or reject — the health-care legislation.

Thousands of supporters of Obama’s plan — many organized by unions and some dressed in hospital gowns with tubes taped to their faces — protested outside a Washington hotel where America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group of health insurers, was conducting a meeting. Ten protesters saying they were there to make citizens’ arrests of insurance officials crossed a police line. Police hauled the 10 away.

At an earlier rally nearby, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean declared that Republicans are in the bag for insurance companies.

Source: Seattle Times

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