Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Health care: A blitz from both sides in Minnesota

star health insurance

In TV ads, e-mail blasts and nightly door-knocking campaigns, from the grass roots to legislative circles, the ground war over a health care overhaul is raging in Minnesota.

And the battle seems destined to grow hotter in the coming weeks as the bill just passed by the House and a different bill set for debate in the Senate merge into some kind of compromise -- or not.

Neither side in the debate will provide specific numbers for the money they're spending to educate and influence Minnesotans. Both sides have run TV ads in the state. Nationally, ad buys appear to have grown to many millions of dollars.

But the ground war for health care change often revolves around zeal as much as money.

The fight surfaces in commercials such as one aired during the Alabama-LSU football game Saturday afternoon. The first part of the ad, which was generic, ran across most of the country. It called the health care bill about to be voted on by the U.S. House ruinously expensive.

But the back end of the ad that Minnesotans saw had a specific message: Call Congressman Collin Peterson and tell him to oppose the bill.

"He had expressed some concerns about the bill, and we were just kind of reminding him how important it was that he vote against it," said Blair Latoff, communications manager of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, some of whose members paid for the commercial.

Peterson, a self-described Blue Dog Democrat, bucked his party and voted against the bill late Saturday. It passed anyway, but by Monday morning, Doug Loon, who runs the chamber's six-state Midwest region, had traveled 100 miles from the Twin Cities to a radio station in Willmar, Minn., to personally thank Peterson for his vote.

As Loon headed for Willmar, Health Care for America Now (HCAN) hung a 50-foot banner from the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue Bridge between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The banner thanked U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison for their yes votes on the House bill.