WASHINGTON (CNN) – Minority groups joined forces Monday to form a coalition aimed at mobilizing African-American and Latino communities in the national debate over health care.
The NAACP Voter Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Campaign for Community Change will kick off an advertising campaign this week. The ads are aimed at pushing minorities to join the debate, specificially by reaching out to fiscally conservative "blue dog" Democrats and urging them to support President Barack Obama's health care plan.
Television, print and radio ads are set to begin on Thursday in Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas and North Carolina, in markets within those states with large minority populations. The ads, revealed Monday at Washington's National Press Club, will appear in both English and Spanish.
"Voices of extremists are loud and clear. Voices of insurance companies are loud and clear. We're here to make sure people of color are heard loud and clear," said Deepak Bhargava, director of the Campaign for Community Change.
"A growing body of public health research is clearly showing that your zip code is more important than your genetic code," said Brian Smedley, director of health policy of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The nonprofit institution researches public policy issues of special concern to African Americans, according to its Web site.
Those racial inequities lead to inequities in health care, Smedley said.
"Today in America, it is not a guarantee that if you have an insurance card in your pocket, you get the timely quality health care that you need. In fact, for many people of color, you are in fact less likely, on average, than white patients to get the same quality of care."
Speakers at the Monday event included NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, who spoke on behalf of the NAACP Voter Fund.
"This is a very personal fight," Jealous said. "We1ve seen 880,000 black people die unnecessarily in the 1990s. We've had hundreds of thousands in this decade and it's time to stop."
The coalition said its overarching principles are twofold: no one, it believes, should do without health care because of a lack of income, and patients should take precedence over profits.
It plans to push for the public option and insist that the health care legislation contain steps to eliminate racial disparities, offer complete health care access for all legal residents and promote cultural competence in a final plan.
"We're focusing our attention on what happens next week, when the finance committee completes its work on the bill, and when both the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health Committee come together to develop a merged bill that will be sent to the floor," said Wade Henderson, CEO of the Leadership Conference of Civil Rights.
The overall tone of the health care debate is concerning to Latinos, said Janet Murguia, CEO of the National Council of La Raza.
"I think there's a growing sentiment, anxiety, in the Latino community that this is not just an anti-immigrant, anti-undocumented - this has an anti-Latino sort of feel to it," she said. "And there's an effort to shut down the entire debate on this point."
When African-American and Latino voters join together, they create a voting bloc to be reckoned with, she said. "I think it's fair for all elected officials to be on notice that we're going to use that strength to move forward an agenda and hold elected officials accountable."
Jealous spoke of an "encouragement gap" in the black community and said African-Americans would not be a sure Democratic vote. "The days of Democratic senators counting black voters as a golf handicap has to stop," he said. "It has to stop."