Harry and Louise Want Healthcare Fixed Now

This time, the famous couple think reform is a good thing.

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They're back. Harry and Louise, that famously frustrated fictional couple whose negative comments about the Clinton healthcare reform plan back in the early 1990s helped sink it, are taking to the airwaves again. But this time, they're urging the next president to make healthcare reform a priority. The new ad, which was unveiled yesterday, will run from August 24 through September 7, on local TV stations in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul during the Democratic and Republican conventions as well as national cable and network programs.

The ad is sponsored by five groups—the National Federation of Independent Business, Families USA, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Hospital Association, and the Catholic Health Association—that do not always see eye to eye on healthcare issues. Employers and business groups, for example, often favor the expansion of "consumer driven" healthcare, with high-deductible health plans that offer lower premiums. Many consumer advocacy groups argue that these plans leave sick patients with high medical bills that they can't afford. But all agree that the time has come for sweeping change. According to the press release announcing the ad campaign, "The joint campaign effort by the five organizations is intended to communicate the urgency of this crisis and demonstrate the commitment of these diverse groups to meaningful healthcare reform." Fair enough, but the original Harry and Louise ads represented partisan politics at their nastiest. You'd think the new ad's sponsors might have chosen a less divisive symbol to advocate for shared goals. Check it out, and see what you think.

During the Clinton years, Harry and Louise worried aloud that reform would mean they'd be stuck choosing among just a few plans designed by government bureaucrats. In the new ad, Louise says the next president should put fixing healthcare at the top of his agenda. "Bring everyone to the table, and make it happen," she says. Voters, however, have other priorities on their minds, according to an election tracking poll released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. According to the poll of more than 1,500 people who say they're registered to vote, 49 percent say the economy is the single most important issue in their vote for president this November, followed by Iraq (25 percent), gas prices (18 percent), and, in fourth place, healthcare (16 percent).