Health News Today – 5/19/15

In today’s health news headlines:

  • MN Legislature: Easy ending for health funding bill
  • Knee surgery robot eases procedure
  • U proposes more research program oversight


Easy ending for health funding bill (Duluth News Tribune)

Health funding legislation that caused some of the most controversy in recent months ended up passing relatively easily.

House and Senate members late Sunday and early Monday passed a $12 billion measure funding health programs. It retained the existing MNsure health insurance exchange structure, which both parties wanted to change. It also maintained the MinnesotaCare state-subsidized insurance program for the poor, which Republicans wanted to eliminate.  Read More…


New surgery robot shortens recovery times in knee replacements (

A new medical robot is designed to make knee replacement surgery a less painful experience with a much quicker recovery.

Knee replacement is the most sought-after orthopedic procedure nationwide, and doctors the new technology could be a breakthrough for a lot of patients.   Read More…


U of M proposes better oversight of clinic research programs (

The University of Minnesota on Monday released a preliminary plan for changing how it conducts research using human test subjects.

The plan, which was prepared by a committee of faculty members and outside health care professionals, calls for the university to overhaul its procedures for reviewing and monitoring studies that involve humans and to double the annual budget of its Human Research Protection Program to increase oversight and training.   Read More…

Health News Today – 5/7/15

In today’s health news headlines:

  • Breast cancer screening: Vital for all
  • Mental health help to go
  • Medical marijuana goes on sale July 1
  • Some medical devices are approved in Europe, not in the U.S.


Cancer screening for all is vital (

One of the most common reasons women don’t get screened for breast cancer is because there are no convenient places to do so near them. With more than 17 million  American women living in rural areas, it’s time we bring the screening centers to them.
Breast cancer is the second leading fatal cancer in women, according to the American Association of Cancer Research. Early mammograms and screening are the keys to catching this disease before it is too late.
Hennepin County Medical Center has established a mobile mammography unit to cater to the needs of women in rural areas. The unit utilizes full field digital mammography, which is the same technology used in typical screening facilities. Read More…


Iron Range mobile team offers mental health help to go (

Rick Goodman waits for the phone to ring, sitting in a squat former hospital in this Iron Range town of 3,700, a mental-health problem solver ready to dash for the black Denali 4×4 pickup truck parked outside.

He’s part of a new first line of defense in this rocky, forested part of the state for people dealing with depression or bipolar and anxiety disorders that sometimes can be tangled with disabilities and addictions to alcohol, meth or heroin.   Read More…


Behind-the-scenes at Otsego medical cannabis facility (

On Tuesday, WCCO got an early look inside one of the places where cannabis plants are now legally grown in Minnesota.

Minnesota Medical Solutions in Otsego is one of two registered manufacturers responsible for growing, processing and distributing medical cannabis products in our state.   Read More…


FDA rips Europe’s system for medical device reviews (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

CorCap was a mesh bag that fit over the bottom of the human heart to treat congestive heart failure. Nobody questioned whether surgeons could safely install it. It sold in Europe for years.

But CorCap never got on the U.S. market for one reason: Its maker, Acorn Cardiovascular of New Brighton, could not convince the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that CorCap worked better than drug therapy.

Today, Acorn Cardiovascular is out of business, despite $100 million in development capital. CorCap is no more.   Read More…

Health News Today – 5/5/15

Today’s health news headlines include:

  • Allina CEO joins board of data warehouser Health Catalyst
  • Top man at MNsure resigns
  • Senators introduce transgender health equity bill


Allina Health President and CEO Penny Wheeler Joins Health Catalyst Board (News Release)

Health Catalyst, a leader in healthcare data warehousing and analytics, announced today that Penny Wheeler, MD, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Allina Health, has accepted an appointment to the company’s Board of Directors, and will officially join the Board of Directors in July.

Dr. Wheeler was named CEO of Allina Health in January after serving for nine years as the health system’s Chief Clinical Officer.  Allina Health is a $3.7 billion not-for-profit organization whose more than 90 clinics, 12 hospitals and related healthcare services provide care for nearly 1 million people across Minnesota and western Wisconsin.  Read More…


MNsure chief Leitz stepping down (

MNsure’s chief executive is quitting the health insurance exchange.

Scott Leitz announced his resignation Monday to MNsure’s board of directors. Allison O’Toole, the agency’s deputy director of external affairs, will take over as MNsure’s interim head starting May 22.   Read More…


MN Senators introduce bill for transgender health insurance equity (

On Friday, DFLers in the Minnesota Senate introduced a bill that would lift the ban on transgender-specific health care in state-funded health insurance plans.

Minnesota law specifically forbids the state’s Medicaid program from covering gender confirmation health care for transgender people. The state covered such procedures until 2005 when legislators passed, and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed, a health and human services omnibus bill that blocked the coverage.    Read More…



Health News Today – 5/4/15

Today’s health news headlines from Minnesota include:

  • Doctor’s financial interests/conflicts now public information
  • Dental providers say single-payer system would be a disaster
  • BBB and home health care industry establish best practice standards
  • State’s response to opioid ODs lead nation


Doctor’s financial interests, and potential conflicts, have become public information (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Dr. Hamid Abbasi performs a new kind of back surgery that he promotes as offering great results with minimal physical trauma.

The website for his busy neurosurgery practice in Alexandria, Minn., explains that the procedure requires only a small incision and leads to less blood loss than other approaches. Some patients go home the same day, Abbasi says in a video presentation.  Read More…


Single-payer system would be detrimental to Itasca County (Hibbing Daily Tribune)

This week, the Itasca County Board heard a unified concern from all area dental providers regarding a possible proposal from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) to move to a single-payer system for all DHS services.

“As we understand it, this single-payer system would eliminate Itasca Medical Care,” stated members of the Itasca Dental Society in a letter presented to county commissioners on Tuesday. “The Itasca Medical Care program has been providing excellent access to dental care to Itasca County patients of all ages for over 30 years.   Read More…


BBB, home health care industry team up to offer tips (

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) and representatives from the home health care industry convened a series of meetings recently designed to study complaints common to that industry and develop a list of agreed-upon best practices and self-regulatory standards. The group’s aim is to reduce complaints in the industry by helping business peers reach a consensus and by educating consumers. Industry review is a core service offered by BBB. Other industries which have worked with BBB include: carpet cleaning, used car sales, gold buyers, hearing aid, estate sales and many more.   Read More…


Minnesota’s medical response to opioid overdose ahead of nation (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

One of the first lives saved by Minnesota’s new strategy for heroin overdoses came last November, when a 24-year-old resumed breathing after Coon Rapids firefighters gave him naloxone.

The second publicly reported case came Feb. 22, in Corcoran. An unresponsive woman later walked to an ambulance after a Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputy came to her aid.   Read More…

Health News Today – 4/30/15

Today’s health news headlines include:

  • Labs approved to test medical marijuana
  • Infant deaths show racial gap in health care
  • Winona’s healthy habits include health and wellness programs


Minnesota approves labs to test state’s medical marijuana (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Minnesota is two months away from its first medical marijuana sales, and two laboratories will be responsible for monitoring the quality and purity of the newly-legalized drug.

The Minnesota Department of Health named the two testing facilities Wednesday: Aspen Research Corporation of Maple Grove, and Legend Technical Services. Inc., of St. Paul.   Read More…


Infant deaths show racial gap (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Unusually high rates of infant deaths among certain minority groups in Minnesota have state health officials searching for ways to better support mothers before, during and after their pregnancies.

A Minnesota Department of Health report released Thursday revealed that babies born to black mothers are more than twice as likely to die in infancy as babies born to white mothers — giving Minnesota one of the widest infant mortality gaps in the nation.   Read More…

Winona’s healthy habits (Winona Post)

As the days grow longer and the weather warms throughout the state, Winona, in particular, comes alive as residents, students and visitors flock to the natural landscape rife with outdoor activities that the area has to offer.

“Winona is such a great area for outdoor activities,” enthused Anna Hudson, Winona Health dietician and the wellness program specialist. Although known for their active lifestyles, Winonans are not the only ones in the state with a healthy frame of mind; a recent Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Minnesota stands alone in the region as the only state to bring its obesity rate below 26 percent.   Read More…

Health News Today – 4/29/15

In today’s health headlines:

  • House Republicans send $1 billion in cuts to health, human services
  • Will Minnesota’s government shut down over health care?
  • House Republicans seek to ban taxpayer funded abortions
  • Tips to help select a home healthcare provider


Minn. House sends $1 billion in cuts to health, human services to Senate (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

House Republicans moved ahead early Wednesday in their efforts to cut about $1 billion in state spending on health and human services, setting up a clash with the DFL-led Senate and Gov. Mark Dayton, who have decried the cuts as draconian.

After seven hours of debate that started on Tuesday, the House approved the measure on a vote of 72-60.   Read More…

A government shutdown over health care? (

There are only a few weeks left in the Minnesota legislative session, and this would be a good time to ask a question: Is eliminating health care for working Minnesotans worth shutting down state government?

Politicians are about to play a game of chicken, now that the GOP-controlled Minnesota House passed its version of a budget early this morning (see bill), including eliminating the MinnesotaCare program, which allows lower-income Minnesotans who make too much money for Medical Assistance to buy health insurance.  Read More…


Health care debate wades into abortion restrictions (

House Republicans are moving to license Minnesota abortion providers and ban taxpayer dollars for paying for the procedure.

The Republican-controlled House added both provisions to a health care budget bill on the floor Tuesday night. A handful of Democrats joined Republicans to approve the changes.   Read More…


BBB provides tips on picking home health care provider (St. Cloud Times)

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota and representatives from the home health care industry recently convened a series of meetings to study complaints and develop a list of best practices and self-regulatory standards. The aim is to reduce complaints in home health care.

All Minnesota and North Dakota businesses in the home care industry were invited to participate and the meetings began last November and concluded in January.   Read More…




Health News Today – 4/10/2015

Today’s health news headlines from around Minnesota:

  • Making case for health equity a tough sell
  • PrairieCare to open mental health clinic this fall
  • Biosciences and manufacturing among top 4 industries in Minnesota
  • Study examines health of 400,000 MN kids who qualify for public health programs


Making the case for health equity a tough sell (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Dr. Ed Ehlinger challenged state health care leaders this week to stop “admiring the problem” of health inequity — the troubling gap between the excellent health of Minnesota’s white majority and the poor health of minorities.

It’s easier said than done. The problems are well-defined. Minnesota’s low infant mortality rate is belied by the largest gap in the nation between the death rate for white infants (4.4 deaths per 1,000 live births) and for black infants (9 per 1,000).   Read More…

Progress MN: PrairieCare (Finance & Commerce)

PrairieCare continues its expansion of mental health services in Minnesota, becoming one of the largest and fastest-growing providers of behavioral health care in the state. From five locations in the Twin Cities and Rochester, PrairieCare treats youth and adults with comprehensive services that aim to heal patients close to home.

The for-profit provider started out with a focus on youth mental illness, finding high demand and not enough services for children in crisis.   Read More…


Top 4 industries in Minnesota: Which parts of the economy are strongest? (

Minnesota’s geographic location may prevent it from having easy access to major shipping ports or trade routes that easily link it to Asia, but the North Star State still has a thriving economy, and several industries in Minnesota are doing well.

According to, Minnesota has the 16th-best economy in the nation and is a “consistently solid performer with a diverse economy and an unemployment rate that has typically remained well below the national average,” according to a report by Wells Fargo.   Read More…


DHS study examines health of Minn. kids living in poverty (

A first-time study by the Minnesota Department of Human Services is looking at the health of children living in poverty and how they can be better served.

According to DHS, the share of children living in poverty has increased by more than 50 percent in the past decade, and more than 70,000 Minnesota children are in “deep poverty,” meaning the families’ incomes are less than half of the federal poverty limit.   Read More…

Health News Today – 4/06/15

In today’s health news headlines:

  • MN GOP pushing health and human services budget cuts
  • Small businesses dropping health care coverage at faster clip
  • Minnesota VA wait times slightly less than national average


Health care advocates on edge as GOP pushes budget cuts (

Minnesota House Republicans recently unveiled a budget plan featuring a $2 billion tax cut and more education and transportation spending. To balance it, they proposed slashing health and human services.

Their plan will face scrutiny this week as the Legislature returns from its Easter/Passover break, but it’s already unnerved some health care advocates. They worry a $1.1 billion cut to human services could harm many needy Minnesotans at time when the state projects a $2 billion surplus.   Read More…


Small employers in Minnesota drop health coverage at faster clip (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

In 25 years running a flower shop, Steve McCulloch always felt like he should provide health insurance to his employees.

But finding affordable coverage was a struggle, and ultimately forced McCulloch to make a tough decision in late 2013.

Confronted with a more than 100 percent increase in premium costs, McCulloch decided to drop the small business health plan for 2014 — an easier option because all three workers at the flower shop had other ways to get coverage.   Read More…


Minnesota VA boasts slimmer wait times than nat’l average (Albert Lea Tribune)

Minnesota’s Veterans Affairs clinics and hospitals fare slightly better in delivering timely care to veterans than the national average.

The Associated Press analyzed six months of VA data and found that 1.9 percent of medical appointments completed at its clinics and hospitals in Minnesota failed to meet the VA’s timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days. That beats the national average of 2.8 percent.   Read More…

Health News Today – 4/3/2015

Today’s health news headlines include:

  • Health providers fall short on digital records requirement
  • MN Valley Health gets new mammography machine
  • Health insurance companies in Minnesota get earnings boost thanks to ACA


MN health providers fall short on digital records requirement (

Minnesota officials say thousands of health care providers are violating the state’s new rules requiring electronic patient health records — but there isn’t much they can do about it.

State regulations that took effect Jan. 1 call on all providers to use sharable electronic health records. But while all hospitals and nearly all primary care clinics are complying, the state Health Department says many dentists, mental health professionals and chiropractors are not.   Read More…


New mammography machine available at Minnesota Valley Health Center (Le Sueur News Herald)

Minnesota Valley Health Center (MVHC) is excited to announce the arrival of a new mammography machine. The new machine is a Hologic Brand Selenia Performance model that offers state of the art digital breast imaging. The new machine arrived at MVHC on Monday, March 16, and the radiology staff has been running the machine through various tests to ensure that it is ready for patients.   Read More…


Minnesota health insurers see earnings boost from Affordable Care Act (Park Rapids Enterprise)

Major changes with the federal Affordable Care Act boosted earnings for Minnesota’s nonprofit health insurers in 2014.

The health plans collectively posted operating income last year of about $229.4 million on $23.7 billion in revenue, for an operating margin of just under 1 percent, according to figures released Wednesday. Read More…

Health News Today – 3/17/15

In health news headlines today:

  • House panel votes to disband MNsure
  • Minn. legislators asked to boost nursing home pay
  • Essential Health turns to creativity in rural health care


House panel votes to disband MNsure after story of death (

The debate over MNsure’s future is taking an emotional turn.

A House panel voted Monday to abandon MNsure and move to the federal exchange by 2017. That decision came after one man blamed the exchange for his wife’s death from cancer earlier this year.   Read More…


Minnesota legislature asked to boost nursing home pay (Duluth News Tribune)

Filling staff vacancies is a constant challenge for Nathan J. Johnson.

“I’m sitting with 20 openings right now,” said Johnson, executive director of Ecumen North Branch, a long-term care facility.

Johnson and his counterpart Kyle Hedlund, director of senior services at Bigfork Valley, say they can’t pay their staffs enough to compensate for the hard work and difficult hours that are asked of them.   Read More…


Minnesota’s Essential discovers that in rural medicine, creativity is often the cure (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

To understand the latest challenges of rural medicine, meet Matt Smolen. He has multiple sclerosis, which has spread through his 6-foot-4 frame, stranding him in a wheelchair, slurring his speech and contorting his hands into claws.

Flare-ups of the disease and related bladder infections sent Smolen, 46, to the hospital 17 times between April 2012 and March 2014. Then he enrolled in a research project run by Essentia Health, where nurse Sandi Kari coordinates all his medical care and personal needs.   Read More…