updated 8/18/2008 9:35:15 PM ET 2008-08-19T01:35:15

Harry and Louise are back for an encore.

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A series of political ads starring the fictional couple back in 1994 helped sour the public's view of President Clinton's plan for universal health coverage.

Now, the two are back asking the presidential contenders to make health care their top domestic priority.

The latest Harry and Louise ads, starring the same actors as the earlier ads, will run during the Democratic and Republican Party conventions. While the kitchen table scene will look familiar, the concerns they raise will differ. Previously, Louise spoke of rationing — "you know, long waits for health care and some services not even available."

Health care should be top priority
This time, she complains that someone the couple knows has cancer but no health insurance.

Harry, shaking his head in sympathy, complains "too many people are falling through the cracks."

Louise concludes: "Whoever the next president is, health care should be at the top of his agenda, bring everyone to the table and make it happen."

The groups sponsoring the new ad include one group that aggressively fought the Clinton efforts back in 1994 — the National Federation of Independent Business. There's also a major supporter of the Clinton plan — the advocacy group Families USA. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and trade groups for hospitals are also sponsors.

Health insurers paid for the previous Harry and Louise ads.

Shifting political landscape
In some respects, the ad shows a shifting political landscape for overhauling the nation's health care system. Business groups and consumer groups are working together to stress that changes have to be made to deal with rising costs and the growing number of uninsured. Yet, the coalitions could prove fragile once candidates get beyond their campaign blueprints.

For example, the NFIB's principles for health care reform include less state regulation of individual and small group health insurance. States often mandate that insurers cover certain screenings, such as mammograms, or diseases, such as diabetes. But NFIB says mandates for treatment for other, non-life threatening conditions can make insurance unaffordable for small business owners and their workers. Families USA, however, views such requirements as a necessary consumer protection.

The latest Harry and Louise ads talk of bringing everyone to the table is also a reference to the Clinton effort. The Clinton plan was unveiled after months of behind-the-scenes meetings by a task force that Hillary Rodham Clinton led. This time, the interest groups are calling for a chance to have more of a say before the official unveiling.

The organizations would not put a specific price tag on the ad buy, describing it as at least a $1 million effort. The groups said the ads would run during the Sunday news shows as well as during cable news programming on CNN, FOX and MSNBC, as well as on Comedy Central. The ads also will air on local stations in Denver and St. Paul, Minn., during the conventions.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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