New mission for Harry and Louise

Their concerns have changed too. Before they were worried about costs. Now they're worried about coverage.

Harry and Louise, from their 2006 appearance for stem cell researchHarry and Louise, the kitchen-table ad campaign credited with sinking the 1994 Clinton health reform plan, are back.

But this time they want a deal.

The characters, owned by Goddard Clausen, an issues ad agency, are now older. Harry's gone completely bald. And their kitchen table now features orange juice instead of a pad and pencils.

But while their previous bosses were the nation's big health insurers, now they're working for a coalition of advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society, Families USA, and the National Federation of Independent Business.

Their concerns have changed too. Before they were worried about costs. Now they're worried about coverage.

Somewhere Hillary Clinton is going "I told you so."

It's the NFIB's participation that is key to me. They may be the only one of the couple's sponsors that agreed with both ads. Their views for years have been reliably conservative, stressing low taxes, regulation flexibility, and limits on government mandates.

Their Web site currently advocates for Health Savings Accounts, but also offers links to eHealthInsurance as well as a variety of supplemental plans

Still the NFIB must have known that, with this alliance they are switching sides.

That switch is important. Big businesses subsidize small ones by offering comprehensive health plans, which cost-shift to care for small business employees who don't have them. Yet here are the small guys, saying, in essence, get 'r done.

Why? It may be because, in the face of rising premiums, many small business owners are now going without insurance themselves. A deal that is affordable for employees is something they can take advantage of.

Whatever the reason, the switch is an important political signal that, whoever wins the November elections, they will face a new political reality on health care next year.

Who knows? Maybe they'll split the difference, with expanded health savings accounts and universal coverage.

I'm sure Paris Hilton would approve.