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Ad focuses on health care


Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley began running the fifth television advertisement of his gubernatorial campaign yesterday, focusing on a health care platform he has rolled out over the past several weeks. Without mentioning his opponent by name, the 30-second spot suggests Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has "sided with the big insurance companies," a reference to this year's debate over employee health care costs at Wal-Mart, the campaign said.

What the ad says: The ad starts with white text on a black background that reads, "healthcare we can afford." It features O'Malley speaking directly to the camera from inside a home and from a hospital setting about a "detailed" plan he says will expand health insurance coverage for small business owners, make medicine more affordable, improve quality of care and help lower costs overall.

"Because strengthening middle-class families starts with healthcare we can afford," O'Malley says.

The facts: Debate over health insurance this year had more to do with Wal-Mart than with insurance companies. The Maryland Fair Share Health Care Fund Act required the retailer to spend at least 8 percent of its payroll for employee health care or make up the difference in an equivalent payment to the state.

But a federal court largely agreed with Ehrlich - who vetoed the law - and a judge struck it down as overreaching.

O'Malley's campaign said its administration would allow the re- importing of prescription drugs from Canada and the use of "purchasing pools" to allow pharmacies to buy drugs in bulk at lower prices, but it has offered virtually no specific information on how many of those programs would be administered or funded.

As mayor, O'Malley raised the price of health insurance for city employees.

Analysis: The direct-to-the-camera approach in this ad builds on the O'Malley campaign's recent "kitchen table" strategy, in which the mayor has met with residents in their homes to discuss issues. In fact, the advertisement begins in a kitchen - though the campaign will not say whose kitchen - as O'Malley summarizes the health care ideas he has been pushing for weeks at events around the state.

This is the mayor's second ad to focus on a specific public policy issue - others have taken a more broad, introductory tone. In health care, the campaign has found a topic that many believe will resonate with the aging baby boomer generation. Still, only 5 percent of state voters identified health care as the most important challenge facing the state in a poll conducted recently for The Sun.

To view this commercial, other campaign ads and Sun analysis, go to baltimoresun .com/campaignads.

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