The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 8, 2013

Personal stories used as spin over new health law

ST. PAUL — When Jennifer Slafter first ran the numbers, she thought the new federal health care law would cost her family an extra $171 a month for an insurance plan with a higher deductible. So the 40-year-old stay-home mom from southeastern Minnesota felt compelled to go public with her frustration.

Though she voted for Barack Obama twice, Slafter wrote a letter to her local weekly newspaper blasting the president's Affordable Care Act and Minnesota's health insurance exchange, known as MNsure. A local Republican lawmaker noticed her complaints, put her in touch with a GOP press aide and before long Slafter was explaining her beef on the TV news in the Twin Cities. The law's foes spread her story far and wide, although her situation has been looking up since then.

"I didn't necessarily mean to end up in the spotlight," Slafter said as she learned from a reporter last week that her experience was referenced on conservative and liberal blogs and even employed by Republican candidates. "But my concerns were legitimate."

When it comes to the health law, spin is in. But complexities of the insurance market and individual needs mean few experiences overlap perfectly. Nuance is often lost in the face of high political stakes around the law. Democrats are rooting for its success and Republicans are craving to see it undone. Both sides have latched on to personal stories, with critics trumpeting experiences like Slafter's while its backers brandish more positive angles.

MNsure officials have aggressively touted a series of "Customer Stories" of people who have had good experiences. John Grobe is one of them.

The Catholic church administrator from Minnetonka and his wife will save $315 a month on insurance premiums thanks to a plan they bought on MNsure. It'll come with a higher deductible than he has now, though.

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