While Democratic candidates pitch their plans on improving America’s health care system to Iowans, three dark-money groups are blanketing the Iowa airwaves with attacks ads on those reforms and similar issues.
Aligned with the health care industry, they are airing ads against Medicare for All and other progressive health care legislation, spending over $1 million in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids media market alone in just the month of August.
Despite having different particular goals, the ads of each group have a similar tone — changing the health care system will hurt patients. This flies in the face of most public opinion surveys and research on the state of America’s health care setup.
All three groups are running ads across the U.S. leading up to the Democratic primaries, and will presumably continue the trend up to the general election. Because of Iowa’s place in the primary schedule, they’re advertising heavily here in an attempt to turn the tide against growing public approval of a public option or single-payer system.
Partnership for America’s Health Care Future
An alliance of private health insurers and lobbying group, Partnership for America’s Health Care Future was formed in 2018 to influence the health care conversation. In the month of August, they’ve spent just over $225,000 in the Des Moines media market.
PAHCF is a registered lobbying group with a wide range of members, most notably BlueCross BlueShield. Recently, the American Medical Association decided to no longer be a member of the group, though there is still close to 60 members.
This group is not spending anywhere close to the $2+ million of Doctor Patient Unity – yet – but more than half of their money spent so far has been used for ad buys in Iowa. PAHCF is running ads specifically attacking presidential candidate health care plans, and has gone after both Bernie Sander’s Medicare for All and Joe Biden’s public-option plan.
“The politicians may call it Medicare for All, Medicare buy-in or the public option,” says the ad they ran during CNN’s July democratic presidential debate. “But they mean the same thing. Higher taxes or higher premiums, lower quality care.”
Last November, The Intercept and Documented were able to get ahold of strategy-planning materials used by the group, which are quite interesting. The documents show plans to influence media conversations, buy ads and and provide public education initiatives, all with the goal of, “changing the national conversation around single payer/Medicare for All.”
One Nation is the only super PAC of this group, and they’ve spent more than $385,000 on ads in Des Moines and the Cedar Rapids markets.
Originally run by Barry Bennet, one of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign advisers, the group is now run by Karl Rove and Steven Law. Rove was Senior Advisor and assistant to the President for George W. Bush, and Law is the former Chief of Staff for Mitch McConnell.
Rove is now an author and regular Fox News contributor, but Law is the president and CEO of One Nation, American Crossroads and CrossroadsGPS, as well as serving as the president of the Senate Leadership Fund, which raised and spent around $130 million during the 2018 election cycle.
In terms of their ads, One Nation is focusing on Medicare for All. Mostly, they are making the case that moving away from private insurance would lead to a clogged system and long waits for health care services.
Doctor Patient Unity
Doctor Patient Unity is spending a little more than $450,000 on the four Des Moines channels above for ads in the month of August alone. It’s also the only group of these three that are running ads targeting senators from both sides of the aisle. Doctor Patient Unity is actually focused on a piece of legislation that would establish ‘rate setting,’ which would cap out-of-pocket costs for out-of-network coverage at the same scale as if it were in network.
The group is not a super PAC, so their filings don’t give much information, but similar ads are being run in Colorado, Minnesota, Alabama and some other states. The group has been tied to several Republican and conservative operatives working with other groups.
Doctor Patient Unity was incorporated within the last month, according the OpenSecrets.org, and ran their first ad just days later during CNN’s Democratic presidential primary debate. They’ve already spent close to $2.5 million on ads around the country since then.
Spending Totals by Station in August
Below is the total amount of advertising revenues in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids markets for the month of August from just these three groups.
Des Moines Market: $951,640
Cedar Rapids Market: $116,090
by Josh Cook