Dueling messages about health care, insurance marketplace

Officials with MNsure, the state's new online health insurance marketplace, will announce their new marketing campaign at a news conference Sunday.

In doing so, they likely will start of a new round of efforts to sway public opinion about a cornerstone of the federal health care overhaul -- a national effort to enroll uninsured people in health plans to rein in the cost of healthcare.

Minnesotans can expect to see a flood of local and national ads as these insurance marketplaces prepare go live Oct. 1. Already, groups for and against the health care law are producing advertisements designed to sway public opinion. One YouTube video by Crossroads GPS, a group co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, superimposes the heads of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi over computer-generated funnel clouds that blow through a city.

Others are more serious like this one, also from a conservative group Americans for Prosperity, where a Virginia pediatrician tending a young patient voices her fears about Obamacare.

Pro-Obamacare pitches are also appearing, like this one from Organizing for Action, a group formed by members of President Obama's election campaign. It begins with photos of a baby girl connected to numerous tubes while sleeping in a hospital bed. Her mother talks about the cost of treating her daughter's heart defect.

While MNsure has cloaked the theme of its ad campaign in secrecy, other states launched mass media programs months ago.

In this Colorado ad, a woman chooses a plan on the new online site and when she pushes the enter key on her laptop, she is surrounded by celebrating baseball players in their locker room, complete with popping champagne corks.

MNsure and the other states' health insurance marketplaces will provide many consumers with their first major interaction with a law that for years now has been a hazy concept with all the appeal of the federal tax code. The marketplaces will be a major test of the law, and their success depends on how many consumers and small businesses use them to enroll in coverage.

Sarah Gollust
"We're going to see advertisements... pushing for people who lack health insurance to enroll in new programs," said Sarah Gollust, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health Division of Health Policy & Management. "On the other side though, we're gearing up for the mid-term elections in 2014, so political candidates also have incentives to...set the stage for how the public understands implementation as either successful or a failure."
MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki

"We're going to see advertisements... pushing for people who lack health insurance to enroll in new programs," University of Minnesota public health professor Sarah Gollust said. "On the other side though, we're gearing up for the mid-term elections in 2014, so political candidates also have incentives to...set the stage for how the public understands implementation as either successful or a failure."

Public opinion trends have remained fairly constant since the federal health care law passed in 2010, according to a Kaiser Health tracking poll.

The margin between those who support the law and those who oppose it has barely budged so just how much influence the ads will have in swaying people away from their current opinions is an open question.

Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney contributed to this report, part of a collaboration between Kaiser Health News, NPR and MPR News.

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