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…


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…