A highly personalized push for health care reform is being launched in several key states, with breast cancer survivors urging reluctant Democrats to support a public option for health insurance coverage.
On Wednesday, a coalition of progressive groups, including Democracy for America, MoveOn, and Change Congress, released a 60-second television ad in Louisiana ramping up the pressure on Sen. Mary Landrieu to support a government vehicle for insurance. In addition to shining a spotlight on the $1.6 million Landrieu has received from health and insurance companies in the form of campaign contributions, the spot also elevates the story of Karen Gadbois, a breast cancer survivor who had won the title of 2008 New Orleanian of the Year by exposing corruption after Hurricane Katrina.
"I'm a breast cancer survivor, so I know how important affordable health care is," says Gadbois. "But right now I'm uninsured, even though I work full-time, because the cost is just so high. It would literally take away half my salary."
The Landrieu ad, which will run in New Orleans and Baton Rouge for a week, is not an isolated incident of progressives using stories of medical suffering to push for more comprehensive health care reform. In a highly personalized essay on her site, FireDogLake, Jane Hamsher wrote about her own experiences with breast cancer and how it has affected the way she approaches the health care debate. In addition to calling out those female senators who currently sit on the fence when it comes to a public option, Hamsher adds that -- in coordination with the progressive group BlueNC and fellow blog, Pam's House Blend -- she will be reaching out to "my fellow breast cancer survivors in North Carolina," to put the pressure on Sen. Kay Hagan.
"Kay Hagan has been the sole obstacle keeping a public plan from coming out of the Senate HELP Committee," Hamsher writes. "On Friday, Pam Spaulding and breast cancer survivors of North Carolina will go to Kay Hagan's office carrying their signatures and those of the people who stand with them, asking Hagan to stand with us, too."
Finally, the White House itself seems to be increasingly willing to use health care horror stories as a launching pad to build momentum for reform. The president's campaign arm, Organizing for America, is raising funds for a nationwide ad campaign featuring, "real people, looking us in the eye, telling their actual story, and asking for our help to fix this broken system."
The targets, in all likelihood, won't be specific Democratic senators but rather a national audience. The goal, however, will be the same as the MoveOn ad and Hamsher's post: crystallizing public pressure for Congress to act and act in a way that reflects the president's agenda.