Groups Ramp Up Health Care Lobbying, Except AARP

As President Obama moves ahead with health care reform, interest groups on both sides of the issue are again ramping up their lobbying efforts. Robert Zirkelbach of America's Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry's top lobbying group, said his industry is making "a big effort" to counteract attacks from Obama and other Democrats, who have pointed to hefty premium increases to show why health care reform is needed. "We're working really hard to set the record straight on what's driving health care prices in this country, which is underlying medical costs and not health plans," he said, repeating a statement that contradicts a recent study by Health Care for America Now that found insurers are actually raising premiums twice as fast as their underlying medical costs are rising. Organizing for America, the Democratic National Committee's grassroots arm, launched a campaign encouraging Obama supporters to call in their support for reform to talk-radio stations around the country. Other groups ramping up include the 60 Plus Association, which bought $500,000 worth of television ads targeting 18 centrist House Democrats who voted in favor of reform, the corporate-funded Americans for Prosperity, which purchased $250,000 worth of ads last week, the National Right to Life Committee, and the pharmaceutical lobby. The only group not joining the lobbying frenzy is AARP, whose chief executive, A. Barry Rand, has promised will "make no new statements, send no new letters, run no new ads about health reform." He asked other groups to do the same. "Let's turn down the volume on the outside noise to that our leaders might actually listen," he said.