WASHINGTON (CNN) - As the first legislative action on reforming the nation's health care system draws near, interest groups on various sides of the issue are stepping up their media and lobbying efforts with all sides knowing how much is at stake.
A group favoring a market-based approach and emphasizing patient choice, Conservatives for Patient Rights, came out Friday with two new ads featuring British and Canadian citizens who have suffered problems, such as a British woman who could not get a pap smear and her later diagnosis with cervical cancer came too late for treatment and a Canadian man who had to travel to the U.S. to get his heart condition treated. "Listen to those who already have government run health care," states the ad. "Tell Congress to listen to."
These ads are part of a $1 million campaign - part of the effort by the group to warn of the dangers if the U.S. imposes a government-run health care system.
That group is bankrolled by Rick Scott, who runs a chain of urgent care clinics in Florida and a former CEO of the hospital chain Columbia/HCA. Now those who want to see an extensive health care overhaul are targetting Scott focusing on his former corporation's financial problems and fraud allegations. It agreed to pay $1.7 billion in fines and penalties, but Scott was never criminally charged.
Health Care for America Now, a coalition including unions and activist organizations, has launched a $100,000 ad campaign highlighting the problems with Scott's previous corporation problems and says "Now Rick Scott is trying to block health care reform because he and his insurance company friends make millions from the broken system we have now."
In reaction, Scott said "Despite these vicious and patently untrue attacks, we will continue to educate Americans on the pitfalls of government-run health systems and promote reform based on choice, competition, accountability and personal responsibility."
Scott has said some opponents are trying to discredit him instead of focusing on the issues.
These efforts come as the Senate Finance Committee, the first congressional panel that will try to vote on health care reform, continues to hold public and private discussions to try to hammer out the outlines of a bill. The committee is expected to try to take up the issue next month.
While Democrats and Republicans both predict Congress will approve major reform this year, they warn one of the major issues that could derail it is the question of whether to offer some type of government offered health care insurance. It is an idea President Obama supported during the campaign, but the White House has refused to demand it be part of a final bill. Proponents say you need such an initiative to help lower costs. Opponents counter it could force some private insurers out of business and vow to block any bill including it.