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…

In The News – Sept. 26, 2013

Today’s headlines:

  • State’s health insurance exchange premiums lowest in nation
  • Kline and Paulsen feel heat from tea party over Obamacare
  • Klobuchar, Hatch say repealing med device tax no longer an option
  • Tips to navigate MNsure


Minnesota health exchange premiums lowest in the nation, feds say (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Are premiums on Minnesota’s new health insurance exchange the lowest of any rates that will be offered across the country?

Yes, according to a new federal study.

Maybe, according to health care experts.

Absolutely! DFLers say.  Read More…


Kline, Paulsen feel tea party threat over ‘Obamacare’ (Minnesota Public Radio)

Two of Minnesota’s Republican congressmen are getting pressured as Congress struggles with a budget plan and the federal health care law.

Tea party conservatives want U.S. Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen to cut spending and kill the federal healthcare law, which they have long derided as “Obamacare.”   Read More…


Amy Klobuchar, Orrin Hatch warn of repealing medical device tax now (

The leading Senate backers of a push to repeal the medical device tax are warning that the government funding bill currently under consideration isn’t the right venue for this fight.

“Right now, it’s not part of the strategy,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the leading Democratic sponsor of legislation that would repeal the 2.3 percent levy on device manufacturers.   Read More…


Quick tips on navigating MNsure (

Minnesota is days away from launching its new health insurance program as Minnesotans will pay the lowest average monthly premiums in the country.

That’s according to new numbers from the Obama administration made public on Wednesday.   Read More…

In The News – Sept. 16, 2013

Today’s health news from around the state include two articles about (what else) the state’s health insurance exchange; and an interesting trend in the acceptance of medical device technology among baby boomers.


Getting personal with your health insurance exchange questions (Minnesota Public Radio)

With the launch of new health insurance exchanges just about two weeks away, many of the questions in this month’s mailbag focused less on the big picture and more on exactly how the law will operate for individuals.

We can’t answer every question we get. But here is a sampling of questions that were really popular, or that would apply to a lot of people.   Read More…


Minnesota needs young people to sign up for health care (Austin Daily Herald)

Robert Bauer is young, lean and healthy – just the kind of person the government wants to buy into its new health insurance exchanges.

Bauer though, doesn’t see the need. The 24-year-old works in organic farm fields three days a week, and prides himself on eating well. He’s uninsured now and doesn’t plan to buy coverage this fall in the exchanges, a key part of the federal overhaul of health programs in the Affordable Care Act. “I just don’t think it’s worth the money for me to get health insurance at this point.”   Read More…


Boomers’ embrace of devices gives rise to new med-tech age (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Jay Alva’s sneakers pounded the treadmill, set to the speed of a brisk walk. Sweat dripped off the 53-year-old as he hit a groove during a recent workout.

For almost two decades, the youth soccer and football coach from Eagan moved like a man who needed a walker. A degenerative hip condition prevented Alva from running with his players or even doing basic things like tying his shoes.  Read More…

In The News – Sept. 10, 2013

Health news headlines today include:

  • MPR looks at the Affordable Care Act and why resistance still exists
  • Boynton Health Services opens U of M mental health clinic on St. Paul campus
  • Scientists gather at U of M to map the connections of the human brain


Top 5 myths about ‘Obamacare’ that refuse to die (Minnesota Public Radio)

The Affordable Care Act has been on the books for almost three and a half years. But myths about the law persist.

Many people are confused about the law because it is big and complicated, said University of Minnesota political science professor Lawrence Jacobs, who has studied and written about Obamacare.   Read More…


Organizers trying to drum up support for Affordable Care Act (Minnesota Public Radio)

Anne Jones recently visited the Minneapolis Farmers Market to pass out fliers she hoped would debunk persistent myths about the federal health care overhaul.

“We’re trying to counter the notion that this is a government takeover of the health care system,” said Jones, of Minneapolis, a member of Organizing for Action. The non-profit group, an offshoot of President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, aims to support his national agenda.   Read More…


St. Paul mental health clinic opens (Minnesota Daily)

A new mental health clinic on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus opened Monday, the latest in a joint initiative among University departments and student groups to increase mental health services on campus.

The clinic, an expansion of an existing clinic in Coffey Hall, should help decrease wait times for students seeking mental health assistance, said Dave Golden, director of public health for Boynton Health Service.   Read More…


The most complex map ever drawn (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Some of the nation’s top scientists got together at the University of Minnesota recently as part of an effort to outline one of the most ambitious medical research projects in history: mapping the connections of the human brain.

The so-called BRAIN initiative made a splash when President Obama announced it earlier this year, but it’s impossible to overstate the difficulty of the challenge. An average 3-pound brain has about 86 billion neurons, each with some 10,000 connections. Those connections would produce “terabytes of data per patient,” said Dr. Sydney Cash, a Harvard University neurology professor. That’s the equivalent of several thousand copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica — for one patient.   Read More…

In The News – June 4, 2013

Today in health news, choice of health plans remain a question for MNSure program; special needs medical costs decline in recession; dentists in Walker to offer free care to patients in need; Minn. Department of Human Services says state is ahead of the game when it comes to meeting health reform payment model requirements.


Health care choices in Minnesota uncertain (

With just four months to go before Minnesota’s health insurance exchange goes live, it remains to be seen how many new choices consumers will get.

The companies that will offer competing plans via MNsure haven’t been announced. But three health insurance companies — including Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group — say they’ve decided not to compete in portions of the new marketplace, at least for policies that cover 2014, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Sunday.   Read More…


Medical costs for children with special needs declined in recession (Minnesota Public Radio)

A new University of Minnesota study shows parents spent less on out-of-pocket medical expenses during the recession, and that hit children with special needs the hardest.

The decline in out-of-pocket spending did not affect all families the same way, according Pinar Karaca-Mandic, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, and lead author of the study.   Read More…


Minnesota dentists bringing free dental care to patients in need June 14-16 (

The Minnesota Dental Association and the Minnesota Dental Foundation are bringing the Minnesota Mission of Mercy for the first time to northern Minnesota June 14 and 15 to provide free dental care to children and adults who face barriers to accessing dental care.

The Sanford Center in Bemidji was chosen as the site to accommodate the massive dental clinic which will treat as many as 2,000 patients from a wide geographic area. The signature sponsor of the event is Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation.     Read More…


Reform update: “We’re ahead of the game,” Minn. says about reform (

Minnesota leaders say their state is well positioned for healthcare reform’s focus on new payment models, ramped-up quality reporting and collaborative approaches to care.

“I think we’re ahead of the game,” said Lucinda Jesson, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Jesson was a panelist at the May 31 event, held at the University of Minnesota, which included a keynote address by Dr. Robert Berenson, senior fellow at the Urban Institute.   Read More…

In The News – May 17, 2013

Today’s health news headlines:

  • Michele Bachmann turns to TV ads to slam Obamacare…again
  • The untold benefits of MNsure
  • Medical pros talk prescription drug abuse


Bachmann sprints to TV with health care ad (Minnesota Public Radio)

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann quickly launched a campaign-style television ad Thursday in hopes of capitalizing on the latest U.S. House vote to undo President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The Republican critic of the Affordable Care Act — dubbed Obamacare by foes — was to begin airing the ad Thursday night in Twin Cities market. She spent about $85,000 for the TV spot.   Read More…


3 emerging benefits of the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange That Don’t Get Talked About (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

If you look at the bios of the new Minnesota Health Exchange Board members, you see common themes weaving among them.  They all appear to have plenty else going on in their lives.   They represent a diverse skill set.  And they each have taken on big responsibilities during their lives.  You don’t find such characteristics in people who want to waste time driving on a road to nowhere. Their collective success will be Minnesota’s success.  A successful MNSure will open the door to new positives that often get lost in “sky is falling” rhetoric.   Read More…


Waltzing in a mine field: Medical professionals discuss how to curtail prescription drug abuse (Duluth News Tribune)

The problem of prescription drug abuse is stark, Carol Falkowski said.

“We have a prescription opiate problem in this country and in this state, the likes of which we have never seen,” Falkowski told health professionals gathered for a Minnesota Medical Association-sponsored forum Thursday evening at the Holiday Inn.   Read More…

In The News – April 15, 2013

In addition to state and federal taxes, there are several health news stories trending today.

  • Rep. Jim Abeler asks peers in legislature to “think big”
  •  Many Minnesotans continue to grapple with health insurance until MNsure goes live
  • Minnesota considers intense autism therapy insurance mandate


GOP lawmaker urges colleagues to “think big” on Mayo, Fairview (

In a Strib commentary, GOP Rep. Jim Abeler urges his colleagues to “think big”: “We stand at a crossroads. One path settles us into the status quo. The other would make Minnesota a mecca for medical training, treatment and health care innovation. The path to greatness lies with two visionary proposals. First, the University of Minnesota has proposed expanding its relationship with (and perhaps even acquiring) Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services, which generates much of its revenue by coordinating with the University of Minnesota Medical Center. … Mayo is poised to grow. … The risks are real if we do not act on both of these proposals. If we fail to think big, we would merely retain the status quo. Yes, we would still have two very nice institutions. But‘nice’ means not being at the cutting edge, not pushing the limits nor competing at the top of our game, possibly losing our nation-leading health care status.” Do I hear echoes of the “we won’t be major league” Vikings stadium argument?   Read More…


For Minnesota, greatness lies in two visionary health care proposals (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

It’s time to think big about Minnesota’s health care destiny. We stand at a crossroads. One path settles us into the status quo. The other would make Minnesota a mecca for medical training, treatment and health care innovation.

The path to greatness lies with two visionary proposals. First, the University of Minnesota has proposed expanding its relationship with (and perhaps even acquiring) Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services, which generates much of its revenue by coordinating with the University of Minnesota Medical Center. This is an incredibly important statewide asset that trains nearly 70 percent of Minnesota’s health care workforce and provides innovative care for tens of thousands of people.   Read More…


Until health law takes hold, many grapple with insurance limbo (Minnesota Public Radio)

For some people, big changes under the federal health care law cannot come soon enough.

The law takes full effect in January, and before then many people will enter health insurance limbo as they lose coverage, including some who will age out of their parents’ plans. The precise number of those losing coverage is unclear, but researchers indicate it could be in the hundreds of thousands nationwide.   Read More…


Minnesota considers insurance mandate for intense autism therapy (

Tisha Mette knew the autism therapy for her son, Ayden, would be expensive.

To pay for one month’s treatment, her husband sold his $15,000 Harley. Then they took out a home-equity loan.

Since 2007, her husband has changed jobs three times trying to find an insurance plan that would cover the boy’s treatment.   Read More…

In The News – April 4, 2013

In health news today:

  • Walgreen’s in-store clinics start treating more than minor illnesses
  • Star Tribune commentary: Health exchange received a full airing
  • MNsure means state’s small businesses can avoid federal health law glitch


Walgreen’s clinics expand beyond minor illnesses to treat diabetes, other chronic conditions (Duluth News Tribune)

Walgreen Co. has expanded the reach of its drugstore clinics beyond treating ankle sprains and sinus infections to handling chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.

The company, based in Deerfield, Ill., said Thursday that most of its 370 in-store Take Care Clinics now will diagnosis, treat and monitor patients with some chronic conditions that are typically handled by doctors.

Drugstore clinics, which are run by nurse practitioners or physician assistants, have grown popular in recent years as a convenient way for patients to get immunizations, physicals and treatment for relatively minor illnesses when their regular doctor is unavailable. But the clinics have been broadening their scope of care: Walgreen’s decision follows a move by CVS Caremark Corp. a few years ago to handle chronic conditions at most of its 640 MinuteClinics.   Read More…


Minnesota’s health exchanged received full airing (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Last month, after much debate, Gov. Mark Dayton signed legislation establishing a competitive online marketplace where Minnesotans will be able to choose the quality health insurance they need at a price they can afford.

The Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange, now known as “MNsure,” is the most significant health insurance reform Minnesota has seen in 50 years. For the first time in state history, consumers will be on the same level playing field as the insurance companies. Health insurers will have to compete for consumers’ business.   Read More…


Minnesota small businesses can avoid delay in federal health law features (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Minnesota’s decision to develop its own health insurance exchange means small businesses in the state won’t be affected by a glitch in federal health exchange marketplaces that will delay the full rollout in other states.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced plans to delay what it calls an “employee choice” option in health exchanges that the federal government is creating for 33 states, including Wisconsin.  Read More…

In The News – April 3, 2013

In today’s health news, web-based tools designed to help people figure out if the federal health care law impacts them are proliferating; death rates rise at geographically isolated hospitals; and lawmakers want a local focus for Mayo Clinic expansion plan.


Online tools aim to help Minnesotans with federal health law (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

A number of online tools are cropping up to help people figure out how the federal health care law will affect them in 2014, when the most significant provisions of the law kick in. Two of the biggest changes will require that all citizens have insurance and that insurers no longer reject those with pre-existing conditions.

The latest website launched Wednesday, and aims to help Minnesotans figure out how the law will change health insurance coverage. The site — — was funded by a coalition of the state’s major health insurance companies and is a collaboration with the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota, Citizens League, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and MN Community Measurement.   Read More…


Death rates rise at geographically isolated hospitals, study finds (

For 15 years, Congress has bestowed special privileges to some small remote hospitals, usually in rural areas, to help them stay afloat. Medicare pays them more than it pays most hospitals and exempts them from financial pressure to operate efficiently and requirements to reveal how their patients fare. Nearly one in four hospitals qualifies for the program.

The states with the most critical access hospitals are Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and Nebraska, all with between 65 and 83 such facilities, federal data showMinnesota has 79.   Read More…


Key lawmakers want greater local bent to Mayo plan (Duluth News Tribune)

Key Minnesota lawmakers on Tuesday signaled a coming makeover to the Mayo Clinic expansion plan that would reduce the state’s burden and increase the amount derived locally.

The bill was detoured Tuesday to give the House Capital Investment Committee a chance to examine it while the Taxes Committee figures out the critical financing piece. The proposal has been stalled in the tax panel for weeks, making supporters nervous as the session clock ticks down.   Read More…

In The News – March 28, 2013

Today’s health news from around the state includes more headlines from Mayo Clinic as Shriners hospitals get added to its Clinic Care Network; a study says health insurance claims costs may not increase as much as first estimated; and a report says the U of M’s psych research department should be investigated.


Mayo adds Shriners Hospitals to its network (Minnesota Public Radio)

The Mayo Clinic is adding Shriners Hospitals for Children-Twin Cities to its Clinic Care Network, the health care provider announced Wednesday.

The 90-year-old Shriners Hospitals for Children-Twin Cities specializes in orthopedic medicine for children. It’ll be the 15th member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, and the first standalone pediatric hospital in the group.

Mayo developed the network two years ago to bring together organizations that share values and a similar mission.   Read More…


Study: Health overhaul may not raise MN claims as much as projected (WXOW-TV)

A new study says medical claim costs for Minnesotans with individual health insurance policies won’t jump as much as the projected national average.

The study by the Society of Actuaries projects that medical claim costs will rise by a national average of 32 percent per person in the individual health insurance market by 2017 under President Barack Obama’s overhaul. For Minnesota, the projected increase is 18.9 percent.   Read More…


Why the U of M psychiatric research scandal must be investigated (

Three former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine have called for an investigation. So has the scholar who uncovered the Guatemala syphilis studies. The former Health and Disability Commissioner of New Zealand has called the conduct of the researchers “unethical,” pointing out the need to “put in safeguards in place to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.” A recent Medical Journal of Australia editorial compared it to the exploitation of poor black men with syphilis in Tuskegee, Ala. Yet the University of Minnesota, where the research scandal occurred, simply keeps repeating, “Nothing to see here, folks. Just move along.”   Read More…