Health News Today – 1/20/15

In today’s health news headlines from around Minnesota:

  • Health care contributes mightily to busting state’s budget
  • Analysis shows health care law is working
  • Med device tax repeal might benefit companies in more ways than one
  • Study sheds little light on nurse staffing numbers


Minnesota’s budget busters include K-12, health care (Duluth News Tribune)

When Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton proposes a budget later this month, he’s likely to talk a lot about transportation, workforce development and child care tax credits.

But the shape of his budget already will have been determined by a long, slow process: the gradual, inexorable domination of Minnesota’s spending by K-12 education and health care programs.  Read More…


Four charts that show the health care law is working (

The Affordable Care Act appears to be doing what it was supposed to do, a new report says.

The Commonwealth Fund’s health care annual report says fewer Americans are reporting being burdened by the cost of accessing health care.   Read More…


Tax repeal could give medical firms double windfall (

Republicans and many Democrats in Congress want to repeal the roughly $3 billion-a-year tax on medical devices that’s part of the Affordable Care Act. Undoing the tax will mean a big boost in profits for the industry.

But there’s another business windfall buried in the bills that Congress is considering. Not only would the future tax be repealed, but the taxes already collected would be refunded. Any company that had paid the tax would get its money back.   Read More…


For Minnesota nurses, staffing study provides few answers (Rochester Post-Bulletin) 

A long-awaited study on nurse staffing levels at Minnesota hospitals has prompted fresh division between nurses and their employers.

The Minnesota Nurses Association had hoped the state’s study would help nail down firm patient-to-nurse ratios. But the research didn’t find cause and effect in staffing levels and patient outcomes.   Read More…

Health News Today – 1/15/15

In today’s health news:

  • DFL bill eliminates MNsure board; creates state department to manage exchange
  • Spread of Ebola still a concern for MN’s infectious disease director
  • A pacemaker for the stomach; St. Paul-based EnteroMedicss obesity device approved by FDA


MNsure board would be eliminated under DFL proposal (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Senate DFLers have introduced a bill that would eliminate the MNsure board, and create a new state department to manage Minnesota’s health insurance exchange.

Coupled with MNsure legislation last week from leaders of the new Republican majority in the House, the bill from top Senate Democrats helps establish the terms of debate over reforming the health exchange during this year’s legislative session.   Read More…

As anxiety wanes, Minnesota keeps eyes out for Ebola spread (

The nation’s anxiety about Ebola may have subsided since its early-fall peak, but Minnesota health officials told lawmakers Wednesday they’re “not out of the woods yet” when it comes to tracking the possible spread of the deadly virus.

The state has cleared 216 travelers returning from the West African countries that have been most affected by the virus, and another 47 travelers were being watched for symptoms as of Sunday. That work will continue until the disease has been wiped out in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said. It could be another year or more.   Read More…


FDA approves EnteroMedics’ novel device to treat obesity (Reuters)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday it has approved a new device to treat obesity, the first since 2007, sending shares of its maker, (St. Paul-based) EnteroMedics Inc, up as much as 74 percent.

Known as the Maestro Rechargeable System, the device controls hunger and feelings of fullness by targeting the nerve pathway between the brain and the stomach.   Read More…

Health News Today – 1/13/15

In today’s health news from around Minnesota:

  • Otter Tail County receives $370k as an Accountable Community for Health
  • MNsure struggles (again) with website hiccup


County named one of 12 Accountable Communities for Health (Fergus Falls Daily Journal)

Otter Tail County is one of a dozen communities in Minnesota which are getting a unique opportunity to participate in a new state program intended to bolster community education initiatives.

Minnesota’s State Innovation Model selected Fergus Falls and the surrounding area as the recipient of a $370,000 grant as part of being one of 12 Accountable Communities for Health, or ACH. The grant funds will support local efforts to promote health and improve health care by strengthening clinical and community partnerships.   Read More…

MNsure website flaw keeps 7,500 people from enrolling (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

A prob­lem with the MNsure sys­tem has pre­vent­ed about 7,500 peo­ple from en­rol­ling in public health in­sur­ance programs, state of­fi­cials said Mon­day, as they de­scribed what ap­pears to be the larg­est tech­nol­o­gy glitch of the cur­rent open en­roll­ment pe­riod.

The state Department of Hu­man Services has dedi­cat­ed 30 employees to help peo­ple af­fect­ed by the snag and ex­pects to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion in about 10 days.   Read More…

Health News Today – 1/08/15

Today’s health news headlines include:

  • MNsure gets extra $34M from Feds to spiff up website
  • Norovirus hits 30 people who ate at Woodbury Chuck E. Cheese
  • Rep. Paulsen tackles medical device tax repeal…again
  • MN Supreme Court upholds medical staff autonomy


MNsure gets extra $34M from Feds for upgrades (

Minnesota’s health insurance exchange is getting some extra cash from the federal government.

MNsure CEO Scott Leitz says they’ll use an additional $34 million to make website improvements and smooth the transfer of data to insurance companies. MNsure has now received almost $190 million from the federal government.   Read More...


Norovirus illnesses traced to Chuck E. Cheese in Woodbury (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

At least 30 stomach illnesses have been traced to an outbreak of norovirus that occurred last weekend at a Woodbury Chuck E. Cheese’s theme restaurant.

Minnesota health officials learned on Monday of a suspected norovirus infection in a person who had been at the restaurant, and passed the tip along to the Washington County Public Health Department.   Read More…

Paulsen tries again to repeal medical device tax (Minnesota Public Radio)

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. That’s clearly Erik Paulsen’s approach to undoing the medical device tax that’s part of the Affordable Care Act.

Paulsen, a Republican who was sworn in for his fourth term on Tuesday, has made repealing the tax that affects Minnesota companies such as Medtronic one of his top priorities this term. While he’s succeeded in getting the bill through the Republican-controlled House twice with Democratic votes since 2012, the effort has stalled in the Senate, controlled by Democrats until this week.   Read More…


Minnesota high court upholds medical staff autonomy (

In a decision that the American Medical Association (AMA) praised as a victory for medical staff autonomy, the Minnesota Supreme Court recently ruled that a hospital’s medical staff had the right to sue the institution and that the staff bylaws constitute a legally enforceable contract with the hospital.

Reversing decisions by district and appellate courts, the state’s top judicial body remanded the case to the district court, which will reconsider the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction against the hospital that repealed the medical staff bylaws and enforced revised bylaws.   Read More…

Health News Today – 1/06/15

After a brief hiatus, Health in Minnesota is back with today’s health news headlines.

  • MNsure ends 2014 with >31,000 private health plan enrollees, 67,000 total
  • U of M study finds middle-agers are unrealistic about future health care needs
  • A nursing win for rural Minnesota


MNsure touts health plan sign ups (Minnesota Public Radio)

MNsure ended 2014 with 31,159 people enrolling in private health insurance and officials with the insurance exchange say they’re on track to meet their goal of enrolling at least 67,000 people in commercial plans this year.

The agency needs to reach that goal to balance its budget. Several weeks remain to sign up people through MNsure ahead of the final Feb. 15 deadline to sign up for coverage or face a tax penalty.   Read More…


Middle-aged Americans unrealistic about future health care needs, says U of M Study (

Middle-aged Americans significantly — and unrealistically — underestimate their own future need for long-term health care, according to a University of Minnesota study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.

The study, based on almost 12,000 responses to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, found that only 40 percent of Americans aged 40 to 65 think it’s likely that they will need long-term health-care services.   Read More…


A nursing win for rural Minnesota (Worthington Daily Globe)

Rural Minnesota communities have clearly struggled during the past 25 years to slow the migration of their promising young talent to urban centers. Changing agricultural policies, shifting economies and aging demographics have all worked to destabilize our small towns. Shrinking access to essential health care in rural Minnesota has been, for some rural residents, the final affront.

It takes just one family member with a chronic or serious illness — requiring long drives to appointments in unfamiliar cities through unpredictable Minnesota weather — to throw an entire family off balance.   Read More…

Health News Today – Dec. 16, 2014

Today’s health news headlines:

  • MNsure extends deadline for enrollment
  • Pathways holds unusual niche in Minn. health
  • New law gives nurses more power
  • Fight against flu has just begun


MNsure extends enrollment deadline to Dec. 20; website vexes some (Minnesota Public Radio)

MNsure officials say Minnesotans now have until 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 20 to enroll in a health plan through the exchange for coverage starting Jan. 1. The enrollment period was set to close at midnight tonight.

Although calls coming into the contact center are running at a historically high rate of 1,600 per hour, MNsure officials say the system is stable, with average wait times of 20 minutes for service. They say the vast majority of users are not encountering problems.   Read More…


Pathways holds unusual niche in Minnesota health care (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Amid the bustle of Uptown Minneapolis lies a quiet sanctuary for people struggling with life-threatening illnesses.

Called Pathways, it fits an unusual health service niche in Minnesota — and the nation.

During any given month, it offers 50 “complementary therapies” in a serene setting to people more accustomed to hospitals and clinics. Swedish massage. Adaptive yoga. Drumming. Writers’ circles. And it’s all free — thanks to the more than 160 care providers who volunteer their services.   Read More…


New law gives some nurses more power (KARE11-TV)

Minnesota has more patients and fewer doctors. With thousands of people getting MnSure and Medicaid, the state faces a physician shortage, one health experts say is especially bad in rural clinics.

“We really believe it’s an all hands on deck moment in Minnesota,” said Mary Chesney, director of the University of Minnesota Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.   Read More…


Minnesota’s flu fight has only just begun (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

This flu season is likely going to get worse before it gets better.

While it’s too early to tell when the number of infections might peak this season, it’s been an early start to widespread influenza, Kris Ehresmann, director for infectious disease at the Minnesota Department of Health, said Monday.   Read More…

Health News Today – Dec. 8, 2014

Health headlines today include:

  • Lame-duck congress needs to approve Community Health Centers Fund
  • MNsure strives to get new enrollees
  • Sen. Franken meets with health care experts to assess gaps in care
  • Assisted-living center staffer caught stealing Fentanyl pain patches
  • First flu death in Minnesota reported


Lame-duck Congress should fix primary care cliff (

With the 2014 elections behind us, political pundits have launched into an optimistic refrain that Washington will transform into a political environment with compromises and deal-making between the president and the new Congress.

But before we reach 2015, the current Congress is in a lame-duck session. Expectations are low, given the fact that the 113th Congress is one of the least productive of all time — enacting only 185 bills into law. (For perspective, the “Do Nothing” Congress of 1947-48 enacted 906 laws.)   Read More…


MNsure under pressure to get enrollees through the door (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Last year, MNsure ads featured a comical Paul Bunyan stumbling his way into injuries to show the importance of health insurance.

This year, it’s bye-bye Bunyan as the health exchange has launched a much more sober ad campaign — a shift that fits the sense of urgency around boosting commercial enrollment at MNsure.   Read More…

Franken meets with rural health experts to assess gaps in care (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Perhaps some rural hospitals could just provide emergency room services, and drop full hospital services.

Maybe medical schools could recruit more rural students and government could increase money available to forgive student loans to people who practice in rural areas.

And it may be a good idea to stop paying medical providers just for performing medical procedures and, instead, pay them based on their success with patients.   Read More…


Twin Cities health care provider caught stealing potent narcotic patch (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

State investigators say a Twin Cities health care provider met police at the door and denied stealing from a client a potent painkilling patch that the officer could see on the suspect’s body.

In the second case in recent weeks that the Health Department has ruled on involving theft of Fentanyl pain patches by care providers, the agency said last week that the staff member at Birchwood Arbors assisted-living center in Forest Lake not only stole the patch but likely was responsible for medication that was missing from two other clients as well.   Read More…

State’s first flu death reported (Brainerd Dispatch)

Influenza cases are on the rise in Minnesota, the state Department of Health said as it reported the season’s first flu death this week.

Influenza activity has increased in Minnesota over the last couple of weeks, the department said in a news release. Flu-related hospitalizations, positive influenza tests and the number of influenza-like illness outbreaks have all increased.   Read More…

Health News Today – Dec. 4, 2014

Overdue for a health news headline update? Here’s the latest from around Minnesota:

  • Two companies get OK to start growing medical marijuana
  • Mayo CEO John Noseworthy interviewed on Charlie Rose
  • Unsure cuts enrollment projections
  • Minn. hospitals see improvement in patient care, decline in readmission rates
  • At-risk Minnesotans go unchecked for diabetes


Start growing: Minnesota’s first medical pot companies get the OK (Brainerd Dispatch)

Six months after Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Minnesota, makers are poised to start growing.

State officials on Monday announced the two companies that will grow, process and sell medical cannabis to Minnesotans next year under the state’s new law.   Read More…


Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy featured on Charlie Rose (

On “Charlie Rose,” a conversation with John Noseworthy. He is the President and CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. U.S. News & World Report named Mayo Clinic the best hospital in the nation this year.   Watch Here…


MNsure cuts 2015 health plan enrollment projections by one-third (Minnesota Public Radio)

MNsure on Wednesday said it was cutting by about one-third the number of people it expects will enroll in private health plans through the exchange for 2015.

That means MNsure will also see a drop in revenue, although officials say they expect to end the fiscal year next June with no red ink.  Read More…


Minnesota hospitals prevent patient harms, save $93 million in health spending (

Minnesota hospitals and health systems have prevented more than 12,000 patients from being harmed and saved more than $93 million as a result of a reduction in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010-13. Nationwide, hospitals prevented 1.3 million patient harms and saved more than $12 billion in health spending, according to a report issued today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   Read More…


Minnesotans at-risk go unchecked for diabetes (Hibbing Daily Tribune)

A new analysis released in late November found hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans with high blood pressure go unchecked for diabetes.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) study asked adults in Minnesota whether they’d been tested for diabetes in the last three years, and found 345,000 lacked diabetes tests. Read More…


Health News Today – Nov. 20, 2014

Health news headlines today, include:

  • Minnesota health exchange sees spike in visits
  • Nine northern Minnesota health care providers form collaborative
  • Cambridge Medical Center and Allina search for answers


MNsure enrollment process better but not perfect (

Minnesota’s health insurance exchange has seen a spike in consumer visits in its first workweek since open enrollment began last weekend but is handling the load well, officials said Wednesday.

MNsure CEO Scott Leitz told the board of directors there had been no major technical issues and no unplanned downtime since the system went live Saturday morning for its second open enrollment season.   Read More…


Health Collaborative: Hospital to stay independent, but will share services more (Mesabi Daily News)

Fairview Range in Hibbing is among nine northern Minnesota health care providers forming a new collaborative for improving area patient care.

The formation of Wilderness Health was announced Monday in Duluth at a press conference attended by representatives of each of the hospitals, which apart from Fairview includes St. Luke’s in Duluth and smaller hospitals in Bigfork, Cook, Cloquet, International Falls, Moose Lake, Two Harbors and Grand Marais. All of the hospitals will remain independent, but channels will be opened to share information, resources and best practices among each other.   Read More…



Cambridge Medical Center, hospital look toward the future (Isanti County News)

Cambridge Medical Center, and Allina Health overall, are facing a challenging time economically due to how health care reform is changing the way clinics and hospitals must operate.

The Minnesota Nurses Association-CMC contract expired Sept. 30. The MNA and CMC administration have held three negotiation sessions, with the next meeting scheduled in early December with a mediator.   Read More…

Health News Today – Nov. 18, 2014

Today’s health news headlines include:

  • Unsure says it signs up 518 people in first two days of open enrollment
  • Health care workers make plans to travel to Liberia; fight Ebola
  • New Vermillion Clinic opens on reservation


Executive: MNsure signs up more than 500 (

Minnesota’s health exchange MNsure is reporting a generally “glitch free” launch of its open enrollment period. MNsure says it enrolled 518 people over the weekend.

That’s a lot different from a year ago, when the new MNsure site could not handle the volume of consumers during the sign up period.   Read More…


Group of Minnesota health care plan to deploy to Liberia to help in Ebola fight (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

A group of medical responders from Minnesota is planning to go to Liberia to help fight Ebola.

The group includes nurses, doctors, public health experts and others with medical expertise. Some group members include Liberian Americans from the Twin Cities who say they feel compelled to provide health care in their homeland.  Read More…


$7.6 million new clinic opens on reservation (Mesabi Daily News)

A new $7.6 million health and dental clinic in Vermilion will provide convenience and expanded medial services for Bois Forte band members.

The new 11,000-square-foot Vermilion Clinic, which replaces the community’s smaller clinic, has both medical and dental service wings.   Read More…