Health beat: MNsure ad no Harry and Louise

  • Article by: JEREMY OLSON HEALTH
  • Updated: March 15, 2014 - 2:00 PM

MNsure, the state’s new health insurance website, has replaced its comical TV ads featuring an accident-prone Paul Bunyan with an everyman campaign in which real Minnesotans extol the virtues of expanded coverage.

The campaign evokes memories of “Harry and Louise,” the plain-spoken TV couple who discussed their concerns about President Clinton’s universal health care plan — and turned public sentiment against it in the mid-1990s.

Of course, Harry and Louise were fictional, whereas the people featured by MNsure are real and explain how expanded coverage really helps them.

But MNsure made an interesting first pick for its “real people” when it launched an ad two weeks ago featuring Becky and Mike, who are identified only as “small-business owners.” Mike says in the ad that MNsure is the “right fit” for his workforce: “It’s affordable health care that we can sustain that gives us a peace of mind for our employees.”

As far as viewers can tell, Becky and Mike own a shop that makes cookies or tractors.

Only Mike is Dr. J. Michael Gonzalez-Campoy, executive director of the Minnesota Center for Obesity, Metabolism and Endocrinology. As a former president of the Minnesota Medical Association, he also advocated for years for state expansions of health insurance coverage.

Like any clinic, his stands to benefit from any reform that expands the number of insured and potentially paying customers.

That’s not to suggest deceit by the doctor. Far from it — his center’s website proudly displays the Becky and Mike ad. And as a small business that employs a high number of nurses and patient educators, it no doubt needs affordable health coverage options.

Explaining Mike’s occupation would have cluttered up a 30-second ad, said Jenni Bowring-McDonough, MNsure spokeswoman. “The message is that all small businesses can benefit from MNsure, the type of business notwithstanding.”

Still, couldn’t they have found an everyman with a little more “every” to him?

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