Health Care Infomercial Airs Despite Objections

A controversial conservative group fired a 30-minute opening salvo in the debate over universal health care Sunday, with a slick infomercial aimed at raising questions about the effectiveness of government-run health care. 

NBC's Washington affiliate ran the half-hour ad after "Meet the Press" Sunday, despite objections from some organizations. The Service Employees International Union had petitioned the network not to run the documentary-style advertisement, claiming it would "maliciously mislead" viewers. 

Conservatives for Patients' Rights, founded by former hospital chief executive Rick Scott, had already run shorter ads questioning Democrats' plans for health care reform. But the new infomercial, despite the "paid programming" label in the upper-left hand corner of the screen, had the appearance of a "60 Minutes" special. 

Scott tapped former network correspondent Gene Randall to "report" on the shortcomings of publicly run health care systems in countries like Britain and Canada

In the program, Randall interviewed academics and experts as well as patients who claimed they struggled to receive care in both countries. The infomercial featured one 51-year-old poultry farmer in British Columbia who apparently had to wait one year and eight months to get an appointment to see a cardiologist for his heart arrhythmia. 

The reporting generally raised questions about long wait times under publicly run plans and an alleged tendency by governments to prioritize cost-controlling over providing quality care. 

"Anything that seems too good to be true like national health service truly is," Scott, who was interviewed repeatedly, said in the infomercial. 

Scott was one of the backers of the "Swift Boat" attacks that wounded John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. He's using $5 million of his own money, and millions more from supporters, to push his campaign, The Washington Post reported. 

The ad, which Scott's group said debuted earlier on ION Television, is expected to run Monday on A & E and Wednesday on the History Channel.