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Health Care Industry Throws Away Money On "Pro-Reform" Ads (VIDEO)

First Posted: 09/20/09 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:50 PM ET

Harry And Louise

This past weekend, the New York Times's Katharine Seelye took stock of the advertising battle that's been raging over health care reform, to the tune of $57 million worth of issue ads that have been launched on the airwaves this year, the lion's share coming in the past month and a half. That's a lot of cash, too much to waste! And yet, when you watch some of these teevee commercials, that ostensibly support reform, it sure looks like this money is being spent to bake up a batch of milquetoast.

At issue are the advertisements being cut by various health care industry organizations. Some stand by their work by name. Others partner up with dynamic-sounding grassroots organizations. All of them are extraordinarily tepid in their support of health care reform. These ads seem to like the idea of someone doing something about health care, but none of them are exactly going to the wall for the public option or anything. One wonders: why is this? The answer may be: Because these ads are made by people who want credit for supporting President Barack Obama's health care reform agenda, but don't actually want the reform itself.

I know. This is probably coming as a shock to all of you. But hey, let's take a look at some!

Billy Tauzin's PhRMA has been up at the White House, cuttin' deals, and in return, cuttin' ads under the aegis of something called "Americans For Stable Quality Care."



Yeah! "What does health care reform mean for you?" A bunch of vaguely pleasant sounding concepts! And how do we get those vaguely pleasant sounding concepts? Push hard for a public option, mayhap? Uhm, no! Not really. Just smile, and hope, and have a positive attitude!

PhRMA's also been teaming up with something called "Families USA," and their big achievement has been to revive the characters of Harry and Louise. Years ago, Harry and Louise had themselves a stilted, scripted conversation on the teevee that helped defeat President Bill Clinton's attempt at health care reform:


In their new incarnation, they have another stilted, scripted conversation about how now, maybe we can have some more reform if everyone in Congress could just simmer down and start co-operating with each other:


Hey! Thanks for the warm wishes, Harry and Louise, but really, shouldn't you two be on the screen, flagellating yourselves with razor-tipped scourges, in demonstration of what reform opponents deserve?

America's Health Insurance Plans are united under the banner of reform -- as long as it's SHINY AND BIPARTISAN. Naturally, this means that they are in favor of some hyper-timid incrementalist bullshit! And their ad builds the strong case that illness...uhm...doesn't need GoogleMaps to find you?


Yeah! AHIP, is very much opposed to you getting sick! This stands to reason, because they've made a bunch of high-dollar bets that they'll never have to pay to make you well again!

There's also this classic PhRMA ad, where America's pharmaceutical companies plant a wet one on President Obama!


PhRMA should get this baby tweaked and back in rotation! TRANSLATION: "Okay! What if, in return for toothless reform, WE TOTALLY CURE CANCER OR SOMETHING?"

Remember: these organizations have dumped a crap-ton of money on ads that might as well be Rickrolls, for all the good they actually do for the cause of health care reform. One wonders: is it possible to make an advertisement that is less effective than these? Maybe thirty seconds of a children's choir, singing "All You Need Is Love?" Patch Adams imitators prescribing "laughter" as the "best medicine" for "massive head trauma?" Maybe PhRMA can team up with Families United For Maybe Giving Leeches Another Try!

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not? Also, please send tips to tv@huffingtonpost.com -- learn more about our media monitoring project here.]

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