Anti-Reformists Hit Airwaves

Several healthcare issue commercials hit the small screen last week as lobby groups aim to influence the healthcare debate in Congress and shape the political
climate for the 2000 elections.
The American Association of Health Plans, a trade group, kicked off a campaign slamming a Democratic proposal to strengthen patient rights in managed-care plans. A spot from The Murphy Pintak Gautier Hudome Agency in Falls Church, Va., argues that only trial lawyers will benefit from expanding liability laws.
Separately, the Coalition for Affordable Quality Healthcare, which includes insurers like Aetna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, launched a two-year, $10 million TV campaign polishing the image of HMOs. The ads, created by Waylon Ad in St. Louis, use testimonials from managed-care doctors to counter “a perception that physicians are not favorably disposed toward managed care,” said Roger Bolton, chairman of the coalition.
Waylon, the lead shop for Aetna, won the account in January, besting GSD&M, Austin, Texas; The Lord Group, New York; and incumbent Goddard Claussen, Malibu, Calif. The campaign is aimed at opinion leaders, defined as people who vote and are otherwise active in their communities, said creative director Kipp Monroe.
In 1994, one member of the Coalition–the Health Insurance Association of America–funded the “Harry and Louise” ads from Goddard. That campaign showed a suburban couple worrying that President Clinton’s healthcare plan would take away their coverage and is credited with playing a significant role in defeating reform.
Some observers think the Waylon campaign faces an uphill battle, however. Jef Loeb, creative director for Katsin/Loeb in San Francisco, which counts Kaiser Permanente as a former client, said, “This effort is attempting to say to consumers ‘we are not as bad as you think we are’ when people are hearing from their friends and the environment the exact opposite message.” One factor: There are now about 43 million uninsured Americans, up from about 38 million five years ago.