Four weeks after producing its first television ad, the state’s leading anti-single payer group has finally raised enough money to put it on the air.
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom will spend about $12,000 to run the 30-second spot on WCAX and WPTZ between now and the end of October.
Jeff Wennberg, executive director of the organization, said that with Election Day on the horizon, it made sense for the group to bring the message to a statewide audience. The ad will run during “news and information” shows, he said.
“The good thing is that prior to an election, people are thinking about policy matters and thinking about the direction the state and our nation are headed,” Wennberg said Thursday.
Production was a low-budget affair. The spot, titled “Bureaucrats,” was made using donated space and unpaid volunteer “actors,” according to Wennberg.
“Even so we believe it effectively communicates the message that once the government has full control of our health care system, our access to needed services will be limited, not by medical professionals but by unaccountable bureaucrats in the name of cost containment,” Wennberg said when the ad was released on the Internet last month.
The spot features a woman, facing a potentially dire prognosis, and a doctor saying, “I think we need to run a test, if that’s OK.”
“That’s OK with me,” the female patient says.
“Sorry — I wasn’t talking to you,” the doctor says. “Is that OK with you?”
The conceit here is that the doctor is in fact talking to the “bureaucrats” that Wennberg says would, under a single-payer system, be empowered to make health care decisions on behalf of Vermonters.
“Gov. Shumlin’s single-payer health care plan gives unaccountable bureaucrats the power to limit the care Vermonters receive,” the ad says.
As a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization, Vermonters for Health Care Freedom is permitted to engage only in “issue advocacy” and cannot advocate for the election or defeat of a specific candidate.
Despite the use of Shumlin’s name in the ad, and the fact that it’ll be running on the eve of an election, Wennberg says the group is on sound legal footing.
“We are certainly not advocating that anyone vote for or against any candidate,” Wennberg said. “I believe we mention that the single-payer program is Gov. Shumlin’s single-payer program, and the ad speaks directly to concerns for what that program will do to the doctor-patient relationship if it’s implemented. I think that’s fair game and I don’t think we have any (legal) issues there.”
Republican gubernatorial challenger Randy Brock, who this week outlined in greater detail his free-market alternative to single payer, has made opposition to Shumlin’s health care plan one of the hallmarks of his fall campaign.
Wennberg said the ad campaign is also intended to provide a countervailing view to the pro-single payer ads run by the organization Vermont Leads this summer. That group, funded entirely by a chapter of the Service Employees International Union, spent about $100,000 on the ad campaign.
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