How Dark Money Groups Are Attacking Dems’ Health Care Plans

More than a million dollars worth of advertising spots were purchased in August in Iowa by three dark-money groups trying to impact the health care conversation in the state as voters vet presidential candidates.

One Nation, Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, and Doctor Patient Unity all spent big bucks to buy spots in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids markets, targeting different pieces of health care legislation.

One Nation is most specifically targeting Medicare for All, using it as a way to attack Democrats and help Republicans hold their seats in the Senate. Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a group with nearly 60 private health industry members, is targeting any move to increase the government’s role in health care, whether it be a public option or something more progressive, like Medicare for All, in an attempt to make their case that any government-run care would be bad for consumers and patients. Doctor Patient Unity is worried about one piece of legislation in particular — rate setting — and is urging citizens to contact their incumbent senators to urge them to oppose it.

Check out our story on their ad buys for a bit more information on the groups, and see their ads below.

One Nation

One Nation is running a ton of ads across the U.S. right now, but only a few deal with health care. The group, funded to keep the Republican majority in the Senate, is also running ads attacking immigration reform and pushing to de-fund sanctuary cities.

The health care ads, though, really focus in on just a couple counter-arguments to a government-run system.

Part of their campaign includes the use of signs saying how long it would supposedly take to receive care under a fully, or partially, government-run health care system. The ad below focuses on long wait times and asks the audience, “how long will you wait?”

The other big piece of their marketing plan seems to be focusing on the lack of options for Americans. In pretty much every health care ad they’re running, they focus on the abolition of private insurance. In the ad below, they focus on this lack of options for coverage in addition to losing your hospital and doctor. It also fixates on tax increases, saying it could raise income taxes to triple or double the rate at separate points in the ad.

One Nation is also running another health care ad focused on cancer medications. In this ad, they claim that the government will make medical decisions, not doctors.

“If you have cancer, what you care about is getting the medicines you need when you need them,” the ad states. “But under so-called ‘Medicare for All,’ the government will make those decisions, not you and your doctor.”

Advertise on Iowa Starting Line

Partnership for America’s Health Care Future

Partnership for America’s Health Care Future is running a set of ads with similar messages of varying lengths. But the length is one of the only things that changes between the ads. This group is pushing back against any type of government option. The theme of their ads is that any government plan proposed means the same thing: government bureaucrats will decide when and where you get coverage, and it will cost more and take longer.

All of the ads have the same tagline: “Medicare for All, Medicare Buy-In, Public Option; they all mean the same thing – you’ pay more more to wait longer for worse care.”

The ads all hit these notes, but the longer ones add some extra layers. One of the more interesting pieces of these ads are the hot-button phrases they choose to highlight with text on the screen. In the ad below, those phrases are ‘politicians in control,’ ‘higher taxes,’ ‘higher premiums,’ ‘lower quality care,’ and ‘we can’t afford one-size-fits-all plans.’

In some of the ads, the language gets more alarmist in relation to ‘government control.’ In the next ad, they add the phrase ‘government takeover,’ as well as claiming it will take away control for citizens and destabilize Medicare through increased participation.

They also hit the tagline of ‘you pay more to wait longer for worse care,’ but build the argument further with a visual aid (graph).

The last one they’re running is a longer ad, just over a minute and a half. This ad goes deeper into the aspect of government-run care, claiming that the bills in Congress are “worse than we thought possible.” The ad claims that health care would be run by “political appointees, unaccountable to voters'” who, “will have unchecked power to make decisions that impact you. Under these bills, government officials will control your health care coverage, from the doctor you see, to the benefits covered, even your reproductive health.”

The ad also states that these bills would, “take power out of the hands of patients and doctors and put it into the hands of the government, eliminating the current health care system, Medicare and Medicaid in the process.” This ad uses fear tactics more than any of the other ads they’re running, making it seem as though life would simply be flipped upside down if so much as a public option were instituted. To the same tune, they focus heavily on government control, several times mentioning “D.C. bureaucrats.”

Doctor Patient Unity

Doctor Patient Unity is perhaps the most mysterious of these three groups, but they’ve already spent a lot of money in Iowa. This group isn’t running ads against Medicare for All, but is instead working against a government rate-setting bill that would cap out-of-network expenses.

Rate setting, they claim, would lead to hospital closures and doctor shortages across the country. Rate setting is a mechanism to control out-of-pocket costs for emergency visits to the hospital that may be out of your coverage’s network. This could be anything from a hospital itself, to a doctor, a medication or even a diagnosis test.

Government rate setting would effectively set a cap for these expenses, guaranteeing that patients would pay the same as if everything they were treated with were in their network. Doctor Patient Unity’s ad claims that this would only help private insurance companies, and would hurt patients. The ending of the ad is unique to the locality it’s being aired in, presenting a call-to-action to call incumbent Senators, on both sides of the aisle, and urge them to say no to this policy.

The name Doctor Patient Unity suggests that this group would be working with groups of doctors or patients. However, so far, the group has only been linked to Women for Winning Political Action Committee, which works to get conservative women elected, and Smart Media Group, a consulting firm for Republican candidates.

One doctor, from New Hampshire, wrote an op-ed about this ad specifically, calling it “misleading,” and saying it is an, “attempt to protect the current practice by providers of emergency and emergency-related services, of charging rates up to 300% of those paid by insurers (often referred to as in-network rates).”


by Josh Cook
Posted 8/27/19

8 Comments on "How Dark Money Groups Are Attacking Dems’ Health Care Plans"

  • These ads make no sense in light of Maryland’s successful 35 years of using an All-Payer-One-Rate system which uses the same reimbursement schedule for all Medicaid, Medicare and commercial insurance covered hospital care. Vermont & Pennsylvania have adopted Maryland’s approach. California is considering it. Advantages: stops commercial insurance from having to finance gov’t underpayment of Medicaid & Medicare thus lowers commercial insurance premiums substantially. Opens all healthcare providers in a state to all insureds regardless of insurer. Minimizes adjudicated claims. Gets rid of consumer surprise bills. Significantly lowers providers’ & insurers’ administrative costs. Healthcare providers should be begging for this – it allows them to focus on health care rather than the business concerns of patient’s finances, bill collection, out-of-network issues, etc. In fact, states that do not seriously consider All-Payer-One-Rate are not serving their states responsibly.

    • My county in Michigan has one healthcare provider. ONE. They decide who your doctor is. They decide what drugs you MUST take, or be denied all other care.

      You are treated like factory animals for slaughter in this system. No humanity, no recourse. Except to move. If you can. I dread when this is the national system.

      We moved our father to Arizona to live with our sister, there at least, there are choices.

  • I’ve seen a couple of the ads they’re running here in the Eastern Corridor. While some of their assertions are, shall we say, misleading, some fo them are out-and-out lies, using the same rhetoric that private insurers/pharma have been using for, iterally, years. (remember the “socialized medicine” kerfuffles of years past?)
    The scare tactics they’re using were used back during the “Medicare” legislation fights in the ’60’s. Same old stuff, stale, misleading and incorrect, but trotted out again, and no more accurate now than that dreck was back then.

  • Good job of presenting what these ads say, without much critical thinking. I’m sure the Partnership in particular appreciates the exposure and reinforcement. Now how about pointing out how blatantly they lie? And how destructive and malicious those lies are? According to the most recent Gallup poll commissioned by Kaiser, the number of uninsured has risen from a low of 29 million in 2016 (the last year of Obamacare before Trump) to the current 2018 number of 45 million. As reported in the Lancet, a Harvard study showed that the ratio of deaths attributed to lack of insurance to the number of uninsured is about 1 to 1,000. In other words, 29 thousand people died in 2016 because they had no insurance, and 45 thousand people died in 2018. 600 thousand people declared bankruptcy in 2018 due to medical cost they couldn’t afford. The current private, for-profit health care system of a few insurance billionaires and millions of insurance bureaucrats is killing us and bankrupting us. It is a predatory protection racket, what Ralph Nader calls “The Pay Up or Die Industry,” that provides no service whatsoever while charging us unconscionably enormous gatekeeper protection money. Death and bankruptcy is only the beginning of the cost of not exposing these lies.

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