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…


Health News Today – Nov. 14, 2014

Today’s health news headlines:

  • MNsure prepares for open enrollment
  • 95% of Minnesotans have health insurance
  • Howard Root, CEO of Vascular Solutions, indicted for conspiracy


MNsure officials, consumers hope for smooth open enrollment (

Minnesotans who are in the market for private health insurance can start shopping Saturday on MNsure, the state’s online insurance website.

The state exchange had a disastrous debut a year ago, but agency officials expect the process to go much more smoothly during the second open enrollment period.   Read More…


Minnesota health insurance exchange prepares to launch 2015 open enrollment (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Minnesotans can start shopping for coverage via the state-run health insurance exchange MNsure when its second open enrollment period launches at 8 a.m. Saturday.

MNsure’s main theme this time is: “95 percent of Minnesotans now have health insurance. 100 percent need it.” Here are some things consumers should know as they consider their options for 2015:



CEO charged with conspiring to sell varicose-vein treatment device for unapproved uses (

A federal grand jury in Texas indicted the CEO of Minnesota-based medical device maker Vascular Solutions Inc. Thursday on charges he conspired to sell a varicose-vein treatment device for unapproved uses.

Howard Root, 53, was indicted on nine counts of conspiracy and introducing an unapproved and adulterated medical device into interstate commerce, the Star Tribune reported. The company Root co-founded, Vascular Solutions, also was indicted.  Read More…

Health News Today – Nov. 11, 2014

In health news headlines today:

  • Teens smoking less. And more.
  • U of M/Mayo z-Lab device could screen diseases in minutes
  • MNsure to offer more health plan options in Steele County


Teens smoking fewer cigarettes, more e-cigs (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Teen smoking in Minnesota has dropped sharply since 2011, but state health officials expressed concern Monday that many young people are turning to e-cigarettes instead.

An estimated 15,000 students have tried e-cigarettes without having tried any traditional tobacco products before, according to results from the 2014 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey released Monday. Overall, 12.9 percent of high-schoolers said they had tried e-cigarettes in the 30 days prior to the survey.   Read More…

Cancer, HIV and heart disease detection in 15 minutes (

Screening for serious illnesses like cancer, HIV and heart disease could one day become part of routine checkups thanks to a handheld device called z-Lab, which can detect an array of ailments using only a single drop of urine or other bodily fluid.

The new, potentially lifesaving technology, which uses sensors on biochips to detect early signs of disease, was developed by the Golden Gopher Magnetic Biosensing Team — a collaboration between University of Minnesota researchers and engineers, Mayo Clinic doctors and industry partners.   Read More…


MNsure to offer more plans in Steele County; still faces challenges in rural Minnesota (Owatonna People’s Press)

Local residents looking to get health insurance through MNsure should not be in for a sticker shock, according to a state official.

Tim Vande Hey, deputy commissioner with the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s insurance division, said that any rate increases would be in the single digits at most.  Read More…


Health News Today – Nov. 6, 2014

Health news from around Minnesota:

  • Allina Health plans to cut $100 million in expenses
  • Travelers under health watch as Ebola precautions are implemented
  • Will MNsure work better when open enrollment begins?
  • Med-device tax under scrutiny once again following election


Allina Health cutting jobs; CFO leaving at end of year (Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal)

Allina Health will cut an undisclosed number of jobs as it tries to trim $100 million in expenses.

David Kanihan, a spokesman for Minneapolis-based health system, did not detail how many or what types of positions will be impacted, saying details are still being worked out. He also said hiring plans for 2015 will help offset losses.   Read More…



MN health officials monitoring 48 travelers as Ebola precaution (

Minnesota health officials said Wednesday they are tracking 48 travelers from West Africa for signs of Ebola, a precautionary move taken as part of the state’s new monitoring system.

The travelers arrived in Minnesota from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Minnesota Department of Health considers them low-risk because they did not have a known exposure to Ebola during their time in those countries.   Read More…


MNsure take two: Will it be any better? (Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal)

A year after its disastrous debut and with just days to go before a relaunch, MNsure, the Minnesota’s health exchange, still has technical problems.

The Star Tribune reports on the latest report from state technology workers, who told MNsure’s board of directors of remaining glitches but also said that they have “a reasonable level of confidence” that they’ll be able to stamp out problems by the time open enrollment starts Nov. 15.   Read More…


With Republican Senate, many eye device-tax repeal (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Tuesday’s Republican victories in Washington inspired strong optimism among medical device companies in Minnesota and nationwide for a repeal of the 2.3 percent sales tax on their products.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., singled out the medical device tax as one of two deeply unpopular provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would be immediate targets for the new GOP-controlled Senate, along with the mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance.   Read More…




Health News Today – Oct. 29, 2014

In health news headlines today:

  • Medical research funding at U hits walls
  • New Ebola restrictions are “scientifically based” says Governor Dayton
  • Southern Minnesota gets holiday grief support from Mayo Clinic
  • MNsure mishandles marketing spend, audit finds


Medical research hits walls ( 

Tay Netoff has spent about two decades researching epilepsy. Now, the associate biomedical engineering professor has to shift his research’s focus to Parkinson’s disease, as it’s more likely to secure government funding.

The University of Minnesota’s support from the National Institutes of Health — the world’s largest funder of medical research — has dropped by about 6 percent over the past five fiscal years.   Read More…



Dayton announces new Ebola restrictions (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Medical workers potentially exposed to Ebola while treating patients in West Africa will be confined to their homes for 21 days on returning to Minnesota, state officials said Monday as authorities across the nation continued to seek appropriate safeguards against the deadly virus.   Read More…


Mayo Clinic Health System offers holiday grief support (Janesville Argus)

Dealing with grief is a challenge at any time of the year, but it can be increasingly difficult during the holiday season. To help those who have lost a loved one deal with grief during the holidays, Mayo Clinic Health System offers Grief and the Holidays, a free, 90-minute support program.   Read More…


MNsure mishandled marketing money, audit finds (Bemidji Pioneer)

MNsure’s marketing department approved more than $925,000 in contract work without first obtaining required authorization, according to a financial audit released Tuesday by the state legislative auditor’s office.   Read More…

Health News Today – Oct. 23, 2014

Today’s health news headlines include:

  • Minneapolis No. 2 among top 10 healthiest U.S. cities
  • PreferredOne asked to lower MNsure rates
  • Medical startups raise millions in Minnesota
  • Judge says Minnesota may negotiate with home care worker union


America’s top 10 healthiest cities (Redwood Falls Gazette)

Every day, it seems, the media brings us dire new tidings of the obesity crisis in America. But forget all the gloom and doom: It’s about time we celebrated some of the American cities that are doing their part to eradicate obesity and make healthy amenities more accessible and affordable for all citizens. Below, we list the 10 healthiest cities in America, based on aggregated data from the American College of Sports Medicine and its American Fitness Index and other research studies.   Read More…


Minnesota asked PreferredOne to lower rates (Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal)

PreferredOne’s debut on the MNsure health exchange last year had a “how low can you go” quality to it, underpricing everybody else. What we didn’t know then was that state officials were whispering to the insurer, “Go lower!”

The Star Tribune reports that regulators asked Golden Valley-based PreferredOne to cut its initial estimates of premiums on MNsure, arguing that its risk assessment was too high.   Read More…



Medical startups raise $300 million so far in 2014 (

New numbers from St. Louis Park-based LifeScience Alley show that Minnesota medical startup companies are on pace to set a record for fundraising in 2014.

LifeScience Alley, a trade association for medical and life science companies, reported last week that 18 companies raised a total of $113.6 million during the third quarter. Through the end of September, a total of 79 Minnesota medical companies have raised $300 million.   Read More…


Judge won’t stop Minnesota from negotiating with home care workers union (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

The state’s chief federal judge refused Wednesday to stop the state of Minnesota from negotiating a contract with newly unionized home health care workers, saying it was unlikely union opponents will win their case in court.

In his 25-page ruling, District Judge Michael Davis denied a request for an expedited injunction sought by the National Right to Work Foundation. The injunction, he said, would delay implementation of a state law that was passed by the Legislature “after full debate” and would constitute “an unwarranted intrusion” by the federal government and judiciary into the state’s affairs.   Read More…


Health News Today – Oct. 16, 2014

Health news headlines:

  • Get to know Minnesota’s new medical marijuana director
  • State health experts speak out about Ebola
  • MNsure gets technology ready to handle open enrollment
  • St. Jude Medical shares fall


Minnesota’s new medical pot chief eyes patient health, public safety (

Michelle Larson has already been called a lot of things: Captain Cannabis. Mary Jane. The pot czar.

Minnesota’s director of the office of medical cannabis has spent the last six weeks creating the job she was hired to do. She’s endured a lot of interesting jokes since then. But to her, marijuana is serious business. People’s lives are at stake.   Read More…


As Ebola surprises, Minnesota health experts step up (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

For schools, it’s tips on screening students who may have traveled to infected countries. For hospitals, it’s instructions on “donning and doffing” protective gear. For funeral directors, it’s guidelines for handling bodies of Ebola victims.

There are no signs the deadly Ebola virus has made its way to Minnesota and no reason for the public to panic, said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases at the state Department of Health.   Read More…


MNsure races to ready exchange for open enrollment (

Officials racing to ready Minnesota’s health insurance exchange for open enrollment one month from now said Wednesday it’s a high-risk project because of tight timelines but they expect consumers will have a better experience than last year.

Managers from the state’s information technologyagency MN.IT told MNsure’s board Wednesday that extensive testing is underway to make sure the website and related systems are as ready as possible by Nov. 15…   Read More…


Shares in St. Jude Medical fall after outlook darkens (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

St. Jude Medical Inc. reported an 8 percent jump in its adjusted profit for the third quarter, but the company lowered its revenue guidance for the fourth quarter.

The medical device maker said Wednesday it saw sales gains across the board during the July-to-September period. Its biggest business, in implantable defibrillators and pacemakers, experienced a 1 percent jump.   Read More…





Health News Today – Oct. 8, 2014

Today’s health news headlines:

  • Medica-Mayo health plans an option for residents in SE Minnesota
  • Medicare fines 36 Minnesota hospitals
  • Live Well At Home app wins award


SE Minn to see Medica-Mayo health plan options through MNsure (

Southeast Minnesota residents will now have Medica plans that include Mayo Clinic as an in-network option on MNSure, the state’s online health insurance marketplace.

Medica on Monday said it will begin offering a new health plan for individuals and families in 18 southern Minnesota counties. It will include access to Rochester’s Mayo Clinic as well as Mayo Clinic Health System, Northfield Hospitals and Clinics, and Winona Health, said Medica Vice President of Individual Business Dannette Coleman.   Read More…


Medicare fines 36 Minnesota hospitals for readmission rates (

Medicare is fining a record number of hospitals – 2,610 – for having too many patients return within a month for additional treatments, federal records show. Even though the nation’s readmission rate is dropping, Medicare’s average fines will be higher, with 39 hospitals receiving the largest penalty allowed, including the nation’s oldest hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.   Read More…


Live Well At Home app takes home award (Hibbing Daily Tribune)

A mobile app launched to help seniors prepare for aging took home some national recognition recently by winning a senior educational award.

The Minnesota Board on Aging debuted the Live Well at Home app in June 2013 as a first-step tool for seniors just starting to think about their living arrangements as they get older.

The app’s ease of use certainly factored into winning the award, which is part of the National Mature Media Awards Program, said Jean Wood, executive director of the board on aging.   Read More…




Health News Today – Oct. 3, 2014

Friday’s health news headlines include:

  • Drug OD deaths exceed traffic fatalities in Minn.
  • MNsure 2015 health exchange premiums increase, on average, 4.5%
  • Post ACA study from U of M shows ER psychiatric visits for young adults declined
  • Are marathons bad for you?
  • Ecumen and MnSCU team to train nurses for growing senior population


Drug overdose deaths in Minnesota exceed traffic fatalities for first time (

Traffic accidents are so 2013. The Strib’s Kevin Giles says, “Overdose deaths in Minnesota from prescription painkillers and heroin have soared to a level that now exceeds deaths from motor vehicle accidents, new numbers from the state Department of Health show. … In 2013, the Health Department reported, 507 Minnesotans died of all types of drug overdoses including 329 in the 11-county metro area. Deaths from prescribed pain relievers — and illegal heroin, a close cousin in the opiate family — accounted for many of them. By comparison, 374 Minnesotans died in motor vehicle accidents.”    Read More…


4.5% average hike in 2014 MNsure health plan rates (

Costs for health plans offered through MNsure are expected to rise an average 4.5 percent for 2015, officials with the health exchange said Wednesday.

Premiums will be the lowest of any in the nation and there will be more choices when the new enrollment period launches Nov. 15, the Commerce Department said.   Read More…



University of Minnesota Study: After Affordable Care Act, inpatient psychiatric care rose and emergency psychiatric care dropped for young adults (

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded health care coverage to several million previously uninsured young adults. Research out today from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota finds that the ACA’s young adult insurance expansion coincided with modest increases to inpatient mental health and inpatient substance abuse care utilization, while emergency department use for these disorders declined. Young adults were also less likely to be uninsured when they did use these hospital-based services.

The findings were published online today in the American Journal of Psychiatry.   Read More…



Good Question: Are marathons bad for your health? (

This coming Monday, you might see a few of your co-workers limping around the office after almost 12,000 people lace up for this Sunday’s Twin Cities Marathon — 26.2 miles that circle around Minneapolis and St. Paul.

As one marathoner who’s competed in the past put it, “My muscles, my legs, my calves … felt like crap.”   Read More…


Ecumen, MnSCU launch workforce development initiative (Mankato Free Press)

A local senior services organization hopes to become “ground zero” for senior health care by launching a new workforce development initiative that would address a looming shortage in the number of nurses trained to serve the state’s rapidly aging population.

Ecumen, which operates in several rural Minnesota communities, is teaming up with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to implement the new program, to be called Ecumen Scholars.   Read More…