WASHINGTON — A conservative group that's been running ominous ads warning that President Barack Obama will institute government-run health care is expanding its campaign this week ahead of congressional action.
Conservatives for Patients' Rights has produced a 30-minute documentary-style video featuring patients from the United Kingdom and Canada recounting horror stories at the hands of their country's government health care systems.
The group has purchased air time immediately after NBC's Sunday talk show "Meet the Press" May 31 to broadcast the ad in Washington. It will also run nationally on cable networks beginning Wednesday and will be distributed to activists in key senators' home states.
Congress is on a weeklong break and many lawmakers are using the time to listen to constituents on health care. When lawmakers return to Washington, they're expected to renew their work on sweeping legislation to bring down costs and extend coverage to 50 million uninsured Americans. Their goal, a priority for Obama, is to introduce legislation in the House and Senate by August.
Conservatives for Patients' Rights is run by Rick Scott, the former head of Columbia/HCA health care company who was ousted amid a fraud investigation that ultimately resulted in the firm pleading guilty to charges of overbilling.
Scott has emphasized he was never charged or even contacted by investigators, but liberal and labor groups have seized on his background to counter his attacks. Scott is spending about $1 million on the new campaign.
Scott's angle underscores the likely contours of the coming debate. Many Democrats are supporting the creation of a public insurance plan that middle-class Americans could buy into for the first time, saying it would create affordable choices and needed competition for private insurers.
The insurance industry contends such a plan would drive private companies out of business, and many Republicans argue it would put the United States on the road to an entirely government-run plan, like Canada or some European countries.
Scott's new documentary-style ad paints such systems as producing ghastly results for patients, including a Canadian man with a serious heart problem who faced an 18-month wait to see a cardiologist.