Behind the scenes: How the Ihle family became a face of health reform

WASHINGTON — Earlier today, Vice President Joe Biden sent an e-mail to Democratic supporters holding up the Ihly family of Brooklyn Park as examples of people the health-reform law has helped as the law turns 1 year old.

But how did Justin, Kari and their son William become Biden’s feature example? Well, it all started in 2009.

Organizing for America, the Democratic National Committee-run offshoot of what was the Obama campaign’s voter outreach effort, posted a note about two years ago asking for stories about how health-reform efforts under way would affect people. Kari Ihle, a registered Democrat who describes herself as politically informed but not especially politically active, sent in the story of her middle child William, who was diagnosed as an infant with tuberous sclerosis complex.

A month or so ago, Kari said, she got contacted by OFA to see if her family would be willing to tell their story, though nothing was guaranteed about if or how that would happen.

Eventually, a video was shot for OFA — they did a similar one for the Minnesota state DFL party as well — where Justin and Kari spoke about a provision in the law that bans insurance companies from refusing to cover children with pre-existing conditions. They have health coverage through Justin’s employer, but said they worried about what might happen if he ever changes jobs.

And then today, their message was sent out to OFA’s mailing list, accompanied by a note from Biden. A excerpt of that letter:

What Justin and Kari want for William is a future. And because of health reform, that’s what he’ll have.

Today, insurance companies are no longer able to discriminate against William because of the condition he’s dealt with since birth. Now, Justin and Kari know they’ll be able to get the kind of care that William needs — today and into the future.

Their story isn’t unique, but it’s one of many that need to be told. We all know people whose lives have been changed because of the Affordable Care Act, even if we don’t realize it. So we’ve found a way to show exactly how reform is working for all of us — for our parents, our siblings, our kids, us.

While Kari Ihle hasn’t spoken to Biden, she said it’s an “honor to have him tell our story.” And while she and her family are now faces of the Democratic Party’s signature legislative accomplishment in the 111th Congress, Ihle says her family’s story isn’t a political one.

“This is really about making things better for our son and not about politics.”

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/25/2011 - 06:37 am.

    This report does not state what employer or union is providing the family’s health insurance. It could be or it could be come one of the growing number (1000+) who have received waivers exempting them from compliance with the law.

    The Department of Health and Human Services has been inundated with waiver requests, including one which they granted to the New York Teachers Union. These teachers are members of the American Federation of Teachers, who in 2008, spent $1,900,000 on the election of Barack Obama.

    Millions of Americans have already been exempted from the requirements of Obamacare. How good could this law be?

  2. Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/25/2011 - 04:56 pm.

    It turns out that Justin Ihle is employed by a local medical device manufacturer, whose CEO Bill Hawkins was quoted by the WSJ as saying that the the Affordable Health Car Act’s excise tax on medical device manufacturers would lead to the loss of 1,000 jobs.

    Maybe, this wasn’t the best feature example to pick.

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