Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY 5:58 p.m. EDT July 10, 2013
WASHINGTON — Opponents of the 2010 health care law have out-spent supporters by nearly 5-1 on the airwaves — as conservatives seek to cast doubts about its effects and pledge to keep it at the forefront of federal, state and local races, an analysis shows.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act spent at least $385 million from March 2010, when Congress enacted the sweeping health care measure, through the end of last month, according to an analysis of TV advertising nationwide by Kantar Media.
The biggest spender among opponents: Crossroads GPS, a political advocacy group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. It pumped at least $40 million into advertising that mentioned the law. Backers, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spent roughly $78 million.
Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group predicts spending on the law will hit $1 billion by its fifth anniversary in 2015, according to the analysis released this week.
“There’s been no other law we can think of that has been the focus of this much ad spending” immediately following its passage, said Elizabeth Wilner, vice president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group. “The gap between enactment and implementation has created an opening for this to continue to be a point of attack for its critics.”
A new round of advertising hit the airwaves this week.
Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit advocacy group co-founded by billionaire industrialist David Koch, launched a $700,000 TV advertising campaign, largely in Virginia and Ohio, that features a pregnant mother worried that the law will restrict her family’s health care choices and drive up premiums.
The law’s proponents also are gearing up to defend the law and encourage uninsured individuals to begin seeking coverage in new state health insurance exchanges. Enrollment in the exchanges begins Oct. 1.
Organizing for Action, an advocacy group linked to President Obama, released an ad this week touting the law’s elimination of lifetime caps for health-insurance benefits. The ad, featuring Phoenix mother Stacey Lihn, whose young daughter has undergone multiple surgeries for a heart defect, is part of what the group says is a series of commercials over the summer that will cost a total of “seven figures.”
“When people understand the concrete examples of what this means for them, they like the law; they are excited about the law and they want to tell people about it,” said Jon Carson, the group’s executive director.
On Wednesday, two large health care companies — Walgreens and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association — rolled out a new website to encourage enrollment.
“The overwhelming majority of the public is tired of the political back-and-forth contentiousness and really just wants to know how the Affordable Care Act will help them in the future,” said Ron Pollack, who is executive director of Families USA and a founder of Enroll America, a non-profit group promoting the law.
He said the groups have raised millions to promote enrollment and will target their efforts on counties with big populations of uninsured residents. They include Los Angeles County, home to about 2.2 million people who lack health care coverage — or nearly 5% of the nation’s 46 million uninsured.
The advertising flurry comes as Republican leaders on Capitol Hill vow new attempts to roll back key provisions of the law — emboldened by the Obama administration’s surprise decision last week to impose a one-year delay on the mandate that larger employers provide insurance to their employees or face penalties.
The law “is never going to be ready for prime time,” Senate Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said on Fox News this week. “We need a permanent delay.”
In one sign of how volatile the issue has become, the National Football League recently declined to become involved in promoting the law. The league’s decision came after two leading Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, warned the NFL and other professional sports leagues that promoting the health care exchanges would “risk damaging” their “apolitical” brands.
Kantar’s analysis shows the issue also has reached contests for local offices that have little role in the law’s future.
Last month, the Republican State Leadership Committee ran ads that sought to tie the law to Democrat James Kay during a special election in Kentucky for a state House seat. Kay prevailed in the three-way contest, allowing his party to retain its 10-seat advantage in the chamber.
Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon said voters are “starting to block out” the health care attack ads. “Folks can distinguish between sending someone to the state Legislature … and supporting Obamacare,” he said. “People aren’t stupid.”
RSLC’s president, Chris Jankowski, said his group will press the issue in legislative races in Kentucky next year — a state Obama lost by more than 22 percentage points in 2012 — and other state and local contests across the country in the coming years.
“We believe there are gains to be made for Republicans in Kentucky,” he said. “We think President Obama definitely is going to be an issue at the state level in Kentucky in general, and we think the Affordable Care Act, specifically, is going to be front and center as it begins to affect the public more directly.”
Contributing: Kelly Kennedy