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PhRMA-Funded Ads Tout Health Care Reform

A well-heeled health care coalition backed by the pharmaceutical industry will continue an advertising blitz over the weekend, targeting Senators with television ads in a dozen states. The buy included ads in the states of pivotal Democratic fence-sitters Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.).

Americans for Stable Quality Care, which receives the bulk of its money from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also is setting itself up to be the cavalry for unions and other financially fatigued organizations that have shelled out millions of dollars since last summer to promote major changes to the nation’s health care system.

“They’re the only show in town left on the pro-reform side,— a health care consultant said of the 23-member coalition that has spent $30 million so far on advertising — and could spend twice that by the time a bill reaches President Barack Obama’s desk.

Coalition spokesman Phil Singer declined to discuss the group’s advertising strategy, its funding or provide exact details about its most recent television buy. But the former spokesman for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign did say in an e-mail that “with the bill in the Senate, we will keep doing what we need to do to get health reform across the finish line.—

The ad will air nationally on cable channels and on broadcast television in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In one of the coalition’s new spots, titled “All of Us,— a narrator says, “Trying to figure out how health reform would work?

“If you’ve got coverage you like, you can keep it, no government takeover, medical decisions made by you and your doctor, no more coverage denied if you get sick or have a pre-existing condition,— the voice-over continues. “If you don’t have health care, you’ll finally have quality affordable options, paid for by common-sense ideas like ending duplication of tests and other wastes.—

The 30-second commercial concludes with: “And no increase in the deficit or increase in middle-class taxes. It’s reform that works for all of us.—

An executive with another group advocating for a health care overhaul said that corporate money from pharmaceutical companies is the only match for a high-dollar campaign recently launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been ramping up against current Democratic proposals.

According to the Associated Press, the chamber and other health care opponents are outspending the other side by 2-to-1, buying up $24 million in television advertisements in the past month alone.

“The problem is the opposition is picking up hugely,— the pro-reform executive said. “The only one with the deep enough pockets that can come close to the opposition at this point is the PhRMA-backed groups.—

In addition to PhRMA, the coalition includes the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Families USA and the American Academy of Family Physicians. In recent weeks, the coalition added four new members: AIDS Action, AIDS Institute, Coshar Foundation and Alliance for Aging Research.

A PhRMA spokesman said the trade association’s involvement with the coalition “is part of our ongoing efforts to make comprehensive health care reform a reality this year.—

“We’ve been advertising with other partners and in PhRMA’s name alone in trying to get a single message across: We can’t wait any longer for health care reform in America,— PhRMA Senior Vice President Ken Johnson said.

A union official, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, joked that the pharmaceutical industry’s commitment to changing the country’s health care system hinges entirely on a “sweetheart deal— it cut with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Still, the official agreed that health care proponents are relying on the pharmaceutical industry’s nearly unlimited war chest.

“They’re going to be the one that the White House is going to be relying on for firepower,— the union source said.

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