Health News Today – 2/23/15

Today’s headlines:

  • Dept. of Health continues monitoring for Ebola virus
  • Medical marijuana industry unionizes
  • Weight loss and nutrition treatments should be covered under ACA

 

As Ebola wanes, MN sticks with expensive monitoring program (MPRNews.org)

The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has slowed considerably, but Minnesota continues to vigorously monitor travelers from the region.

For four months, the Minnesota Department of Health has monitored all people arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea for signs of Ebola for 21 days.   Read More…

 

Minnesota’s medical marijuana industry unionizes, needs to expand (TheWeedBlog.com)

The United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union has been one of the strongest political forces working to end cannabis prohibition across the country. The UFCW has unionized medical cannabis workers in California and the union put its considerable political clout into the successful Oregon Measure 91 legalization measure. The UFCW has just announced that they have unionized one of Minnesota’s medical production facilities and is in talks to unionize the other facility.   Read More…

 

MN should help cover obesity treatments (MNDaily.com)

The Affordable Care Act, known better as “ObamaCare,” has implemented yet another measure of health care reform. As of the beginning of 2015, Americans will have the option to switch over to health care plans that cover obesity treatment. Among the services included are weight loss programs, bariatric surgery — used on the stomach to induce weight loss — and nutrition counseling.   Read More…

MNsure must defend itself against Legislative Auditor report

By Chuck Grothaus

MNsure, the Minnesota health insurance exchange, is now in its second year of enrolling Minnesotans in health plans so more residents have access to the health coverage they need. On Feb. 17, a state Legislative Auditor report was issued critiquing MNsure’s first year of operation. What’s wrong with the auditor’s report?

Let’s take a quick look at the summary of the state report (you can view the summary here):

  1. The report analyzes MNsure’s first year of operation (Oct. 2013 – Sept. 2014).
  2. The report fails to address the multitude of enhancements and improvements MNsure leadership has made since it launched the MNsure website in 2013.
  3. The report points the finger at federal government’s slow release of rules and guidelines for state exchanges as part of the issue MNsure faced in its roll out.
  4. The report states that MNsure failed to provide adequate customer service during its initial year of operation.

There are several more criticisms of MNsure’s roll out found in the Legislative Auditor’s report. But to better understand the actual creation of MNsure, here are a few important dates to consider:

  • March 2010: The Affordable Care Act is signed into law by President Obama.
  • September 2011: Gov. Dayton directs the Minnesota Department of Commerce to create the state’s health exchange.
  • August 2012: Vendors selected to build the state health exchange web platform.
  • April 2013: MNsure board formally appointed by Gov. Dayton.
  • September 2013: MNsure website approved to connect with federal data hub.
  • October 2013: MNsure public launch.

As evidenced by this brief timeline, MNsure faced a slew of management challenges by the mere fact that it had no governing board until just six months before its public launch! What’s more, the Legislative Auditor failed to note the operational adjustments MNsure made throughout its first few months of operation.

In a response to the report written by MNsure’s chief executive, Scott Leitz, the positive impact MNsure had on Minnesotans enrolling in health insurance are noted. Leitz writes:

Since October 1, 2013, the uninsured rate in Minnesota has dropped by 40 percent to less than five percent. Now, 95 percent of Minnesotans have comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage.

 

Second, MNsure has been instrumental in the enrollment of hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans in comprehensive, affordable health coverage. Many of those who enrolled had previously not had health insurance coverage. MNsure has added competition to the insurance market and transparency to price comparison which, combined, drive down costs for Minnesotans. This is evidence of success.

Furthermore, MNsure has made dramatic improvements to the consumer experience in less than 24 months of operation. MNsure has completed its second open enrollment period and in contrast to year one–

 

  • Consumers are enrolling through the website with relative ease.
  • Call volume is high and call wait times are on average less than five minutes.
  • A robust statewide network of navigators, brokers and other assisters is in place to helpconsumers enroll.
  • Consumers are saving money. Minnesotans who enrolled in qualified health plans saved over$30 million as a result of tax credits on health insurance plans sold through MNsure.
  • We have a stong, multi-agency project management team and decision-making process inplace to set priorities.
  • We have a deep commitment to transparency and accountability.
  • We are listening, and our partners and stakeholders are informed and engaged with us as wecontinue to grow and improve.

Interestingly, the vast majority of local media attention of this legislative auditor report is focused on criticisms of the launch of MNsure, which happened nearly 18 months ago – not the efforts MNsure staff made to improve and enhance the website, address customer issues and complaints, and smooth the enrollment process.

The bottom line: MNsure benefits Minnesotans by providing a health insurance exchange offering choice and price competition. Health insurance companies may be lobbying state representatives to make sweeping changes to MNsure, but when just 5% of Minnesotans are now “uninsured” it’s difficult to say MNsure’s plug should be pulled.

Health News Today – 2/10/15

Your health headlines:

  • It’s tax season – time to report your health insurance coverage
  • Battle over nurse staffing ratio continues
  • A simpler approach to health care

 

Health care law adds new wrinkle to tax season (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

This tax season offers a new wrinkle as individual filers must report to the IRS whether they had health insurance during 2014.

The requirement brings a new task for MNsure, too, since the state’s health insurance exchange must send more than 30,000 tax forms to people who bought private coverage last year.   Read More…

Battles over hospital-wide nurse staffing rations persist (HealthLeadersMedia.com)

State health policy analysts in Massachusetts and Minnesota are fighting new battles in the ongoing war between hospitals and organized nurses over staffing ratios.

A law requiring 1:1 and 1:2 nurse-to-patient ratio in intensive care units went into effect in Massachusetts in September. But health researchers in Minnesota were unable to complete a study looking at the relationship between nursing levels and patient outcomes in their state.   Read More…

 

A simpler approach to health care: Part 1 (MnDaily.com)

We are medical students who have devoted eight years of our lives to educating and training ourselves, along with three to seven more years of training left for our chosen specialty.

We don’t put ourselves through all of that because we have a penchant for staying in school, purchasing expensive textbooks and accruing student loans — we do it so we will be able to properly take care of our future patients.   Read More…

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 (MPR.org)

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 (MPR.org)

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 – July 25, 2014

Today’s health news headlines:

  • Michelle Larson hired to oversee new medical marijuana program
  • How does the ACA impact public school system health care costs?
  • MN Hospital Association says physician shortage in state is happening now
  • Child well-being in state is ranked fifth in the US

 

State hired top medical pot official (CBSLocal.com)

A health official who managed Minnesota’s efforts to reduce tobacco use and obesity will run the state’s new medical marijuana program.

The Minnesota Department of Health said Wednesday that Michelle Larson, a deputy director in the department’s Office of Statewide Health Improvement, would direct the new program.   Read More…

 

The Affordable Care Act and Faribault Public Schools (Faribault Daily News)

Turns out, President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act isn’t so affordable to every school district in the state of Minnesota.

Faribault Public School District administration can breathe easy, though, because ISD 656 isn’t going to make this list of struggling schools.   Read More…

 

Minn. doctors may be in short supply (PrairieBizMag.com)

Primary care doctors may soon be in short supply, a Minnesota Hospital Association report showed Monday.

“Many of our hospitals, especially those in greater Minnesota, already have difficulty attracting physicians,” association President Lawrence J. Massa said. “I hope this new information will provide an impetus to policy makers to make the urgent decisions needed on both the state and federal levels to give our health professional students access to the clinical training and residency experience they need to become licensed to practice.”   Read More…

 

Minnesota child well-being ranks fifth in nation (NorthlandNewsCenter.com)

When it comes to a child’s well-being Minnesota ranks 5th overall in the nation. The 25th annual kids Count Data Book examined 16 indicators across four areas. They include economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

The report found a steep increase in children living in single-parent families and in high poverty neighborhoods. It also found high disparity rates for some children in the minority.  Read More…

 

 

 

 

In The News – Nov. 21, 2013

In health news today, Gov. Dayton says “no” to health plan extension; an explanation about why people must pay for unwanted health coverage; and a MN delegation continues the medical device tax debate.

 

Minnesota goes against Obamacare fix; will not grant 1-year extension (HuffingtonPost.com)

Gov. Mark Dayton announced Monday that Minnesotans will not be able to keep existing insurance coverage under the federal health care law, despite saying last week that he supported President Barack Obama’s plan to allow it.

Dayton’s decision not to grant the one-year extension on existing plans followed harsh criticism of the proposal by major Minnesota insurance companies.   Read More…

 

Why are people required to pay for unwanted health coverage? (CBSLocal.com)

Under the new Affordable Care Act, the health plans of almost 140,000 Minnesotans don’t comply with the new law. That’s because many lower-premium plans don’t include benefits like maternity, mental health coverage or prescription drugs that will now be required.

Across the country, that means millions of people’s policies will be cancelled while others might have to pay higher premiums.   Read More…

 

Minnesota delegation continues fight against medical device tax (Minnesota Public Radio)

There aren’t many issues that unite the Minnesota congressional delegation, but the effort to get the medical device tax repealed is one of them.

The tax, part of the Affordable Care Act, went into effect in January. Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken say the 2.3 percent tax on companies like Medtronic and St. Jude Medical will cost jobs and stifle innovation.   Read More…

In The News – Nov. 14, 2013

In today’s health news headlines:

  • Docs and researchers give new statin guidelines a thumbs up
  • Rep. John Kline investigates impact of ACA on schools
  • Why drugs used to fight cancer cost so much
  • Law-breaking nurses pose risk to unsuspecting patients and families

 

Minn. MDs, researchers favor new statin guidelines (Minnesota Public Radio)

For nearly a decade, many physicians and patients have lived by the mantra of driving down so-called “bad” cholesterol.

But under new guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiologists, a patient’s low-density lipoprotein cholesterol doesn’t matter as much. Read More…

 

Latest health law hearing overseen by Rep. Kline who is studying impact on schools (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

There’s another congressional hearing into the launch of the nation’s new health law and this one is being overseen by a Minnesota congressman.

Republican Rep. John Kline was convening the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Thursday for a review of the law. He’s the committee’s chairman.   Read More…

 

Cancer drugs offer a little more life for a lot more money (Minnesota Public Radio)

In 2012, a new drug for treating colon cancer — Zaltrap — was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and hospitals across the country started prescribing it to patients. But in an unprecedented move, one of the country’s most prestigious cancer care centers, Memorial Sloan-Ketterling, refused to stock the drug.

The reason? The drug was expected to cost nearly $11,000 a month, and only extend life for about a month and a half.   Read More…

 

Patients, families are in the dark over risky Minnesota nurses (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Leslie Anderson had no reason to distrust the nurse she let into her home to care for her 4-year-old daughter, who requires around-the-clock medical attention for a rare disease that has left her a quadriplegic and unable to talk.

Five months later, Anderson caught the nurse, Kelli Ingalls, stealing her daughter’s pain medication.   Read More…

In The News – Nov. 13, 2013

Today’s health news includes articles about health care subsidies; Gov. Mark Dayton speaks out on existing health plan coverage; doctors voice concerns about physician shortage; and Northfield’s hospital gets a special award.

 

$0 credit subsidy confuses MNsure consumers (Minnesota Public Radio)

Yvonne Araiza, of St Louis Park, is eager for health insurance. Currently uninsured because she can’t afford the premiums, she jumped on MNsure’s website on day one in search of an affordable plan.

“I was very excited to see what there was to offer,” Araiza said of the state’s online insurance marketplace. “And the fact that the pre-existing conditions…wasn’t going to be a consideration on how much you would have to pay.”   Read More…

 

Dayton: Americans should be able to keep insurance (CBSLocal.com)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday he believes all Americans should be able to keep existing insurance plans under the new federal health care law, another prominent Democrat adding pressure to the White House as it tries to manage criticism of its federal health care law.

Dayton stressed that he has little influence as governor over the decision.   Read More…

 

Minnesota doctors search for cure to looming physician shortage (KSTP.com)

Dozens of Minnesota doctors are hoping to cure a problem that will impact all of us: a shortage of physicians. About 80 Minnesota M.D.s met in Minneapolis Tuesday evening to talk about solutions for the coming shortage.

The Minnesota Medical Association hosted the Primary Care Physician Workforce Summit after organizing a special task force to address the issue.   Read More…

 

Northfield hospital earns patient safety award (Southernminn.com)

Northfield Hospital was recently recognized by Minnesota Hospital Association for superior performance on improving patient safety.

The hospital received a “Partnership for Patients Excellence Award” from the MHA Hospital Engagement Network, a consortium of healthcare facilities dedicated to reducing preventable hospital acquired conditions and preventable hospital re-admissions.   Read More…

In The News – Oct. 18, 2013

Today’s health headlines:

  • MNsure reports 3,700 Minnesotans are signed up for insurance
  • Controversy still surrounds health insurance exchange
  • New health care firm hired for inmate care
  • ACA continues to present challenges and opportunities

Health news headlines from around the state to keep you informed. Follow us on Twitter @HealthInMinn

 

MNsure signs up 3,700 so far for health insurance (CBSLocal.com)

Minnesota’s health insurance exchange on Wednesday released its first data on enrollment, showing that two weeks into its launch more than 3,700 people have signed up for health insurance coverage.

It’s a relatively slow start to the state’s delivery system for increasing insurance coverage rates under the federal health overhaul. MNsure officials said 3,769 people have either finalized enrollment or are waiting for payments to be processed…   Read More…

 

National, local controversy greets opening of new state health exchange (Twin Cities Daily Planet)

MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange program, debuted the signup process on October 1. Officials during an October 4 conference call with reporters, including the MSR, estimated that 5,000 accounts were opened during the first week.

“We think it’s been going very well,” remarked MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov. She added that many people did “anonymous shopping” but did not disclose specific numbers.   Read More…

 

New medical provider chosen for Minnesota prisons (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

The Minnesota Department of Corrections has hired a new firm to oversee medical care in state prisons, severing a 15-year relationship with a corporation that became the target of lawsuits and staff complaints alleging substandard care.   Read More…

 

Affordable Care Act: changes, challenges and opportunities (Brainerd Dispatch)

On the insurance side of health care changes, insurance agents report confusion with changes, frustration in getting certified and an opportunity to insure people who previously were turned away.

Beginning with the new year, the Affordable Care Act requires all U.S. citizens and legal residents to obtain health insurance. States were able to create their own options and Minnesota created MNsure (MNsure.org).   Read More…

In The News – Oct. 1, 2013

Today is the day. MNsure officially becomes available to the public interested in purchasing health insurance plans. The topic dominates health news headlines around the state.

 

MNSure. Who is for? Not everyone. (Minnesota Public Radio)

As health insurance marketplaces go online in every state today as part of the Affordable Care Act, surveys indicate that confusion abounds over how the so-called exchanges will work and who should use them. The president’s health care overhaul relies heavily on the exchanges, like MNsure in Minnesota, to expand access to insurance. But MNsure isn’t for everyone.   Read More…

 

Minnesota’s homegrown health insurance exchange pays off (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Less than a year ago, we Minnesota leaders had a critical decision to make. We could either have a health insurance exchange imposed upon us by the federal government on Oct. 1, 2013 — as Gov. Scott Walker opted for in Wisconsin — or we could create our own exchange.

We chose to do it ourselves.

MNsure is Minnesota’s new online marketplace for health insurance, a place where people can comparison-shop and pick the insurance that’s right for them at affordable prices.   Read More…

 

MNsure won’t be ready to go Tuesday morning (The Republic)

Officials with Minnesota’s state-run health insurance exchange say they expect to know later in the morning when consumers can start using the system to shop for health care.

MNsure officials said Monday they want to make sure the system connects properly with federal computer systems and that it’s secure.   Read More…

 

Ramsey couple donate $1 million to local hospitals (Coon Rapids Herald)

The Mercy and Unity Hospitals Foundation got a big boost in its three-year “Legacy of Caring” capital campaign to raise $8.4 million for various projects thanks to a $1 million donation from a Ramsey couple.

The $1 million donation from Jim and Pam Deal that kicked off a capital campaign that runs through 2015 is the largest gift ever made to the foundation and it will help in its quest to improve care for cardiovascular and cancer patients, and women giving birth at the Allina Health facilities, according to an Allina Health press release.   Read More…