Remember the Harry and Louise ads? Much was made over the advertising campaign which ran during the first few months of the Clinton presidency; some went so far as to give the ads credit for helping kill the Clinton healthcare initiative. The ads showed two relatively ordinary Americans, sitting around the kitchen table, saying bad things about Clinton's ideas for healthcare reform. Few were surprised that the ads were funded by the Health Insurance Association of America, who had a vested interest in seeing that healthcare reform died.
It worked. Health care reform died. And one of the people who has regretted it, ever since, is Louise.
Judith Warner reports in the New York Times that Louise Caire Clark, the actress who starred in the original commercials, is strongly in favor of healthcare reform today, and was just as strongly in favor of healthcare reform 15 years ago when she filmed those ads. "I always wanted reform," the actress says, "I felt bad it didn't happen." And not just incremental healthcare reform: Louise favors national socialized medicine similar to the type of healthcare she received while living in Australia. Warner quotes Louise as saying that she's "familiar with what it's like to take a four year old to the emergency room...late at night...and have five doctors standing at the door and not get a bill."
According to the article, Louise campaigned for Bill Clinton ("door to door"), and Clinton's promise of healthcare reform was one reason she supported him; as a single mother of two children, the actress was very afraid of what would happen to her family if she lost her health insurance. Little wonder then that after reading the script for the 'Harry and Louise' ad she almost walked off the set. Why did she stay? Louise told Warner the director talked her into it, partly by assuring her "everyone knows there's going to be health reform." And there was also a personal reason; Louise fell for the director. They had their first date the night of the filming and were eventually married.
The Harry and Louise ads made Louise famous but ruined her chances of working in advertising. Few were willing to cast the woman who "wrecked the Clinton healthcare plan." Louise got the blame on a personal level as well, telling Warner: "I'm always asked, 'How does it feel have killed health care?"
Warner says Louise was "sad" and "very upset" when health care reform failed fifteen years ago, and that may explain her current job: both Harry and Louise have returned to the airwaves, this time with ads promoting healthcare reform. Their conversation in the new ads has a decidedly upbeat tone. In the first ad to be aired, Harry tells Louise: "Well, it looks we might finally get healthcare reform," to which Louise responds: "It's about time."
The real life Louise agrees, telling Warner: "I hope I get to be part of helping it happen this time."
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