Fourteen years ago, Harry and Louise helped fend off greater government involvement in healthcare and sink the Clinton health plan. On Sunday, they'll come groveling back to the airwaves, asking the next president and Congress to fix our national healthcare mess in a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign
aimed at opinion leaders and coinciding with the Republican and Democratic conventions.
Their change of heart is due, in part, to new employers. The characters, played by Harry Johnson and Louise Claire Clark, are owned by Washington issue advocacy firm Goddard Claussen, which invented them for consortium of health insurers in 1994 and is reviving them for a polyglot group of organizations with divergent views of healthcare reform. The group was initially convened by left-leaning advocacy group Families USA but includes the National Federation of Independent Business, the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
One of the original ads advised: “If we let the government choose, we lose.” In the new spot, Harry and Louise worry about a friend's spouse who's just been diagnosed with cancer and, having recently joined a startup company, is uninsured. “Whoever the next president is, healthcare should be at the top of his agenda,” Louise concludes.
“Healthcare reform is likely not going to happen unless the people demand it,” said Steve Weiss, senior director of media advocacy for the American Cancer Society/Cancer Action Network. Weiss said in addition to the ad, all of the groups involved are mobilizing their constituencies to demand change from Washington.
The spot, targeting lawmakers and other leaders in the policy debate, will debut on Sunday and run through September 7, airing on Sunday talk shows and national cable channels as well as websites including Politico and National Journal Online. The group will reevaluate after the election.
Barack Obama's ad team paid apparent homage to the original ads with a January mailer attacking his then-rival Hillary Clinton's health plan. The mailer showed a young couple at their kitchen table, doing the bills, under the copy: “Hillary's healthcare plan forces everyone to buy insurance -- even if you can't afford it.”