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Last-Minute Health Ads Target Key Members

Liberal groups, drug companies and assorted coalitions are moving to counter the heavy blitz of ads aimed at sinking the health care overhaul legislation that could be considered as soon as this week by the House.

The ads are largely playing in the Congressional districts of moderate and conservative Democrats. Those districts have become the primary battleground in the health care reform fight.

The union-backed Health Care for America Now is launching a $1.2 million ad campaign that will begin airing in 11 Congressional districts today and in three to five more districts on Wednesday. The ads target a number of lawmakers who voted against the health care bill that was approved by the House last year, including Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), John Boccieri (D-Ohio) and Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.). The spots highlight rate hikes by health insurance companies, telling viewers that “if the insurance companies win, we lose.”

While HCAN had retreated from running ads recently, spokeswoman Jacki Schechner said, “I think it is fair to say with the date of the vote becoming more certain, we recognized there were places where it would be helpful to get our message out.”

Another coalition, Americans for Stable Quality Care, which includes the drug companies as well as progressive and medical groups, is also now expected to begin a multimillion-dollar television ad campaign supporting the reform measure.

“It looks like the ads will start running this week,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a member of the coalition.

Pollack said that one coalition member, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents the large drug companies, wanted to see what was in the final legislation before signing off on the media buy.

While PhRMA did not have an official comment about the advertising spots, an industry official said Monday that the group expected to have a decision on proceeding with the campaign within 24 hours.

The liberal group MoveOn.org also announced Monday that it was releasing a 30-second television ad featuring photos of prominent American figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Franklin Roosevelt to underscore the historic nature of the health care vote.

And another progressive coalition, Americans United for Change, is running almost $500,000 in radio and television ads that target African-American audiences and feature health care remarks by President Barack Obama.

“There are a number of Members who can use some encouragement in the home stretch. They have significant African-American communities in their district,” said Jeremy Funk, a spokesman for the group. The television ads are playing on the BET network, while the radio ads are playing on black-oriented shows, including the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has indicated that she wants to have a vote on the measure by this weekend. A number of health care opponents, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and America’s Health Insurance Plans, have announced massive advertising campaigns targeting vulnerable Democrats.

In addition, a number of conservative advocacy groups are underwriting ad campaigns in the Congressional districts and sponsoring rallies, including one planned for today near the Capitol by the Tea Party Express.

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