WASHINGTON, July 8 (Reuters) - A coalition of unions, think tanks and other groups launched an advertising campaign on Tuesday saying they want to ensure that health-care reform tops the U.S. political agenda after the November elections.
The group, Health Care for America Now, said it had the backing of 100 labor groups, community organizations, medical groups and activists.
The non-profit group is headquartered on Washington’s K Street, known for its high-powered lobbyists, and said it was immediately starting a $1.5 million advertising campaign on television, newspapers and online, with an eventual spending goal of $40 million.
"This is the human rights movement of our time," said Jeff Blum, executive director of USAction, a non-profit that campaigns for strengthening of Medicare, Social Security and other entitlements.
"If there is one thing that our government should be guaranteeing each one of us, it is the basic, fundamental right to affordable and quality health care. This must be the birthright of every American."
Some of the groups backing the organization include the National Education Association, the National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Service Employees International Union, which represents health-care workers among others.
By any measure, health-care reform is among the top issues concerning American voters.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois say they are putting together health-care reform plans.
Other groups have too, including retailers, employers and labor unions. The United States has no single health-care system but relies on a patchwork of private, public and employer-sponsored insurance plans — and 47 million Americans lack any coverage.
The new group says it wants to keep the best of what already exists, without moving to a fully nationalized system.
"Americans can keep the private insurance they have, join a new private insurance plan, or choose a public health insurance plan," the group said in a statement.
"The campaign also calls for a government role in setting and enforcing rules on the insurance industry which consistently charges whatever it wants, sets high deductibles, denies coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and drops coverage when people get sick."
(Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Will Dunham and Eric Beech)