The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 8, 2013

Personal stories used as spin over new health law


"I want this to work, I think the country needs it to succeed and I felt a responsibility to be a part of that because of my own good experience," Grobe said in an interview, stressing that he found the MNsure website easy to use and unburdened by technical glitches.

MNsure officials happened upon Grobe in much the same way Republicans found Slafter: He praised the system in a letter to the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. MNsure executives saw it, and asked him to tell his story at the exchange's board of directors meeting. Satisfied customers rounded up by MNsure officials have frequently made their way into press coverage of the health care law rollout, including in stories by The Associated Press.

MNsure spokesman John Reich said success stories are important. But even as experiences both good and bad help shape perceptions of the law, Reich cautioned it's not the best way to draw broad conclusions.

"Certainly people will draw conclusions from their own experiences," Reich said. "In terms of whether or not the Affordable Care Act is a success or failure, that's a really broad question that will be answered in the years to come. We're going to be answering that question as we get a sense of what the trends look like over the next several years."

That hasn't politicians from wielding the stories for political advantage. Slafter mentioned in one story that she contacted the office of Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken with her concerns but had no response. The day after the story aired, the campaign of Republican Senate candidate Mike McFadden — seeking to run against Franken next year — circulated the story in a press release that accused the Democrat of "ignoring families hurt by Obamacare."

Slafter said Klobuchar's office contacted her after the KSTP-TV story aired. She said a representative of Franken's office finally got in touch Friday morning with apologies and offers of help.

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