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Use of Paul and Babe to sell health insurance has some in Bemidji sick

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Paul Bunyan and Babe have seen their profile get even higher this week. But as the legendary lumberman and his trusty blue ox embark on their new role as pitchmen for Minnesota's health insurance exchange, some of the folks in their hometown are not amused.

The Bemidji Pioneer reports the mayor and chamber of commerce president are both upset by the way the city's statues are used in the marketing campaign for MNsure.

The statues of Paul and Babe have stood on the shores of Lake Bemidji since 1937. Chamber President Lori Paris says Paul is identified with Bemidji. “But now," she tells the Pioneer, "when you see him running into a tree and falling over, it just looks foolish I think.”

MNsure's website, which becomes active on October first, will help Minnesotans choose and purchase a health insurance plan as required by the new federal health care law. On Sunday MNsure unveiled its new marketing campaign, which uses the tag line "Minnesota, land of 10,000 reasons to get health insurance." TV spots show Paul suffering accidents while water skiing, skating, or chopping trees.

The Paul and Babe statues were refurbished last year for their 75th birthday and figure prominently in Bemidji's tourism marketing. The Visit Bemidji website offers a page on the origins and history of the figures.

Roadside America alerts visitors to the chamber of commerce display featuring Paul's toothbrush, belt, boxer shorts, and other artifacts.

Here's the video MNsure released on its new marketing campaign:

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