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The New Economy

Andy Griffith: You'll like Washington's health care reform

Andy Griffith TV ad is targeted at seniors skeptical about the cuts that health care reform made to Medicare.

By / July 31, 2010

This undated handout video image provided by Medicare.gov shows actor Andy Griffith in a new role: pitching President Obama's health care reform to seniors, in a cable television ad paid for by Medicare.

Medicare.gov/AP

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Does the money spent on political issue ads really work?

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Business Editor

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Sometimes.

Sixteen years ago, a fictional couple called Harry and Louise bashed the Clinton health care plan so memorably in TV ads that they were credited with helping to bring down health care reform.

Now, Medicare has recruited actor Andy Griffith in hopes that he can do just the opposite: talk it up. "With the new health care law, more good things are coming," says the former TV star of "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock." " I think you're going to like it."

The Harry and Louise ads, backed by the health-insurance industry, reflected the Reagan-inspired concern about big government and political interference. "If we let the government choose, we lose," ran the tag line of one ad.

Mr. Griffith, by contrast, harks back to the Great Society-era of 1965. "A lot of good things came out that year," he says in the ad, "like Medicare."

Part of this is generational: Harry and Louise appealed to families in their 30s and 40s; Griffith is talking to his contemporaries, seniors who remember the Great Society and Roosevelt's New Deal before it.

Part of it is strategic: Medicare is reportedly spending an initial $700,000 to air the ad on Lifetime, The Weather Channel, and other senior-friendly channels in hopes of winning over seniors. Is it a coincidence that the midterm elections are only three months away?

The message and the messenger should be a slam-dunk. But many seniors are worried that Washington's plan cuts funding for Medicare in order to extend coverage to the uninsured.

So who made the most sense on health care: Harry and Louise or Andy? Watch the clips below and decide for yourself. Better yet, let us know.

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