Ad Wars Ramp Up As Health Bill Vote Draws Near As health care overhaul legislation winds its way toward the finish line, both sides are working to get their opinions heard. As usual, some use fear and exaggeration to make their claims. How accurate are these 30-second attempts to boil down a year's worth of debate? We decided to put a few to the test.

Ad Wars Ramp Up As Health Bill Vote Draws Near

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

It increasingly looks like the House is heading for a showdown vote on the health care bill this weekend. This morning, the Congressional Budget Office is reporting that the revised bill will cut the federal deficit by $130 billion over the next decade, and $1.2 trillion over 20 years.

MONTAGNE: Meanwhile, TV viewers in some parts of the country can't escape the health care debate. Ads are popping up on cable news and local TV channels.

NPR's Julie Rovner checked the accuracy of a few of them.

JULIE ROVNER: Like all political ads, these health care calls to action attempt to condense a year's worth of debate into 30 seconds. Among the most ardent backers of the health care bill, now facing a showdown vote, are America's labor unions.

Here's a spot being financed by the union that represents state and local employees and the liberal group Americans United for Change.

(Soundbite of political advertisement)

Unidentified Man: Health insurance companies just announced more huge rate increases, some as high as 75 percent. Insurance companies are out of control. They deny our claims, drop us when we're sick and pay their CEOs huge bonuses. They refuse to cover people who have preexisting conditions, leaving families in financial ruin.

ROVNER: Now technically, most of those statements are true, but they only apply in full to a small portion of the insurance market: people who buy insurance themselves. That's about 14 million people. But most people get their health insurance at work, and there's already a federal law that bars most health insurance discrimination in group insurance plans.

Here's another ad from the National Republican Campaign Committee. It's responsible for electing Republicans to the House of Representatives.

(Soundbite of political advertisement)

Unidentified Man: It's March, and that means it's madness - but not basketball madness. It's madness in Washington. Democrats like Alan Mollohan are backing a corrupt bill: pork-barrel spending, special deals for Nebraska, Florida, Louisiana. The press says it's about bribery behind closed doors.

ROVNER: Okay, this one sort of speaks for itself. Alan Mollohan, by the way, is a West Virginia Democrat who's been on the fence about whether to vote for the Senate version of the health bill that does indeed include special deals for Florida, Nebraska and Louisiana.

And the bill the House will vote on after it approves that Senate bill will get rid of the deal for Florida. It will give Nebraska's deal for expanded federal funding for Medicaid to every state. And Louisiana's deal, which had to do with a funding quirk as a result of Hurricane Katrina, gets to stay.

This next ad is from a pair of liberal groups, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America. It begins with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying she's sad that there's no public health insurance option in the bill.

(Soundbite of political advertisement)

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): It isn't in there because we don't have the votes.

ROVNER: The ad cites a letter signed by 41 senators who say they want to include a public plan in the so-called fix-it bill. Then, one by one, it shows another 10 who say they'll also support a public plan, bringing the total to 51. They include Alaska's Mark Begich.

(Soundbite of political advertisement)

Representative MARK BEGICH (Democrat, Alaska): Well, (unintelligible), if it's part of the reconciliation total bill and I like it, I'll vote for it.

ROVNER: And Iowa's Tom Harkin.

(Soundbite of political advertisement)

Representative TOM HARKIN (Democrat, Iowa): I'm for a public option, always have been.

ROVNER: The end of the ad asks viewers to urge Speaker Pelosi to reconsider the public option. But even some of the senators expressing support for the public option in the ad have said they don't support trying to add it back into the bill.

Finally, here's an ad from an employer group that's funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It's among the bill's most ardent opponents.

(Soundbite of political advertisement)

Unidentified Woman: We thought Washington understood. But now Congress is trying to use special rules to ram through their same trillion-dollar health care bill: billions in new taxes, more mandates on business. Health care costs will go even higher.

ROVNER: Special rules? Well, they're rules that have been long used by both parties. And the Congressional Budget Office says the Senate bill would cut health costs, not raise them, although it would raise taxes.

So are any of the dozens of ads airing these days entirely accurate? Yes, a few. Actually, we couldn't find anything to correct in the ads being run by two of the most outspoken opponents in the health care fight: the insurance industry trade group AHIP and the consumer group Health Care for America Now.

Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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