Updated: 11/15/2013 4:37 PM
Created: 11/15/2013 2:34 PM KSTP.com
By: Scott Theisen
Paul and Babe are back in new TV ads from Minnesota's health insurance exchange.
MNsure, the state portal for delivering federal health insurance changes, has been employing mythical Minnesota icons Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in a series of spots that playfully describe the state as the "Land of 10,000 Reasons to Get Health Insurance."
MNsure debuted a new ad Friday, with plans for it to start airing on TV statewide next week. In it, the plaid-shirted Paul finds himself partially submerged in a freezing lake after an ice fishing mishap. Two other Paul Bunyan ads that previously only aired online have also started running on statewide television, both featuring the lumberjack in a pair of disastrous doctor visits.
MNsure is spending $3.5 million on advertising during its current open enrollment period, which started on Oct. 1. and runs through the end of March. Of that, $1.1 million is going to TV advertising with the rest directed toward ads running online, in newspapers and other venues.
MNsure officials have said the light-hearted ads are meant to reach audiences that might otherwise pay attention to matters regarding the health care law. Under the new federal law, anyone who doesn't have health insurance by the end of next March will face federal tax penalties.
The first coverage under the new law will be available starting Jan. 1. Anyone who wants to coverage to start then must be enrolled by Dec. 15. Many new insurance customers are eligible for federal tax subsidies to help pay for their coverage.
Friday also marked the start of a special open enrollment period for small businesses. Businesses with between two and 50 employees are eligible to offer coverage through MNsure.
Normally, those businesses would under state law be required to contribute 50 percent of premium costs for their plan; and get at least 75 percent of employees to participate. But those two requirements are being waived for those businesses that enroll between now and Dec. 15.
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