In Minnesota, the secretary of Health and Human Services marked the anniversary of a law facing a constitutional challenge.
Bemoaning what she called a "drumbeat of misinformation" about health reform, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, came to a living room in Spring Lake Park on Friday to defend the Affordable Care Act on its second anniversary.
Sebelius met with half a dozen Minnesota women who said they or their children have benefited from the law, which is facing opening statements Monday in a Supreme Court challenge, as well as a campaign by congressional Republicans to repeal it.
"There's been a lot of intentional misinformation, and a lot of people were frightened by what they thought was going to happen," said Sebelius, who was accompanied by a trio of Democratic politicians: Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Betty McCollum.
In its first two years, she said, the law has already helped thousands of Minnesotans -- allowing more than 50,000 young adults to remain on their parents' insurance policies until age 26 and forbidding insurance companies from excluding children with pre-existing illnesses.
But Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., who spent Friday morning meeting with critics of the law, says that the law's most "onerous provisions" won't roll out until 2014, when people will be required to buy insurance or pay a fine.
Paulsen says he favors some of the consumer protections -- such as covering young adults and those with pre-existing conditions. But "you can do that without taking $500 million out of Medicare to fund a new entitlement program," he said. "This is going to be a very expensive endeavor. I think it's going to collapse of its own weight."
Sebelius, who's been traveling the country this week, says she's been hearing powerful stories from people on the front lines. "There are real people behind those statistics," she said.
Lisa Doyle, 54, of Plymouth, told Sebelius: "I truly believe my daughter is alive today as a result of it." Her daughter Julie, now 25, discovered she needed a heart pacemaker just weeks after her insurance was set to expire. Because of the law, Doyle said, "Julie was able to stay on my insurance."
Kate Day, 43, of Montrose, said her insurance company dropped one of her daughters, who has cystic fibrosis, when she was 10, just before she learned she needed a liver transplant. The company said the girl had reached her lifetime limit of $1 million. Now, because the health reform law bars such limits, "she's back on our family insurance," Day said.
Linda Hamilton, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, hosted the event at her home. She was told to expect eight guests, she said, but by 9:30 a.m., her split-level house was filled with legislative staffers, government officials and journalists covering the event. As a nurse, she said, she strongly supports the law because it will provide insurance to the many families who struggle without it.
McCollum said critics have tried everything they can to discredit the law. "We still have people who are being misinformed, deliberately misinformed," she said. "We're not taking it anymore. We're letting people know it's good for America, good for business, [and] most of all, it's great for families."
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384