President Obama, vowing to succeed in health care reform where President Clinton failed, claimed progress in early May after a meeting with industry officials, who seemed open to his call to reduce spending by $2 trillion over 10 years.
But a major new national attack-ad campaign has the potential to put a dent in Obama's plans, with millions of dollars coming from one of the backers of the "Swift Boat" attacks that wounded John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.
Conservatives for Patients' Rights, founded by multimillionaire investor and former hospital chief executive Rick Scott, began this week airing a 30-minute infomercial on some cable networks warning Americans of a health care takeover.
The new battle comes as the Senate races to produce legislation that could pass this year guaranteeing universal access to health care. The proposal outlined by Democrats would create a public insurance option and require individuals and employers to buy coverage.
Scott, who helped finance the "Swift Boat" ads, has hired the same group responsible for those ads, CRC Public Relations, to coordinate the campaign. The Washington Post reports he is using $5 million of his own money and up to $15 million more from supporters to push his campaign.
"As Congress looks for solutions inside the Washington Beltway, we plan to go straight to the family rooms of America to let people see the very real consequences of letting the government take over their health care decisions," Scott said in a statement.
"This documentary will educate people on what 'government-run health care' really means: stalling, waiting lists and rationing and withholding care because of red tape, politics, and bureaucratic foot-dragging."
"We'll continue sounding the alarm bell and won't rest until we're sure the freedoms and rights of patients' are protected," Scott said.
The infomercial has drawn strong opposition from SEIU. The union, which represents health care workers, claims more than 68,000 petitions have been signed urging NBC to pull the ad, scheduled to air in the Washington, D.C., market on Sunday after "Meet the Press."
"NBC needs to know that if they run this fake 'documentary' ... and it contains any falsehoods, which is likely, given his track record, they could face an FCC violation and big fines," SEIU said in a post on the group's Web site.
Obama's supporters are pushing back. His former campaign manager, David Plouffe, who is now head of Organizing for America, has sought help in a fund-raising e-mail that notes Scott's connection to the "Swift Boat" ads.
"We knew healthcare reform would face fierce opposition -- and it's begun," he wrote. "We need the resources to take them head on with an urgent, grassroots campaign to pass real healthcare reform in 2009."