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…



In The News – March 27, 2013

In health news today, a study from the Society of Actuaries predicts medical claims costs will increase; the proposed Sanford Health acquisition of Fairview Health System is raising eyebrows; and the Department of Health asks, “are you at risk for diabetes?” Find out.


Study: Health overhaul to raise Minn. claims costs (

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…


Possible Fairview Health takeover raises alarms (Minnesota Public Radio)

University of Minnesota officials are raising concerns over a possible merger between Fairview Health Services and South Dakota-based Sanford Health.

Sanford, which has facilities in eight states, has expanded into parts of Minnesota in recent years. Fairview controls the University of Minnesota’s hospital.   Read More…


Minnesota Department of Health urges people to check for risk of diabetes (Northfield News)

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that about 80,000 adults in Minnesota may have diabetes without knowing it.

Given the seriousness of the disease, the Minnesota Department of Health — along with Northfield area doctors — are encouraging Minnesotans to ask themselves whether they are at risk for diabetes and to take steps to improve their health.   Read More…

In The News – March 20, 2013

In health news today, a Mayo Clinic panel says the health system in the U.S. needs to be simplified; an op/ed in the Star Tribune says Minnesota’s new health exchange bill has been one-sided;  and the CDC says fewer kids are getting the HPV vaccination.


Panel: Minnesota health care system needs to be simpler (Rochester Post-Bulletin)

With major health-care system changes looming, the entire system needs to be simpler, local providers told a state official Tuesday.

“People really worry about costs of health care, and they worry about its complexity,” said Dr. Doug Wood, director for strategy and policy for Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation.   Read More…


Minnesota health insurance exchange done wrong (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Minnesota is about to get a health insurance exchange. It is supposed to help more people get insurance, improve quality and reduce costs. It probably will not.

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, was passed in Washington, it was done with the members of one party taking over and doing it all their way. In Minnesota, we said we could do better.   Read More…


Dr. John Hallberg: Too few kids getting HPV vaccine (Minnesota Public Radio)

Despite recommendations by doctors, fewer parents are actually getting their children vaccinated against human papillomavirus.

According to new date from the Centers for Disease Control… just over one-third of girls who are eligible for the HPV vaccine are actually getting the shot. The CDC has been recommending the vaccine for since 2007 against the virus that causes cervical cancer.   Read More…

In The News – March 18, 2013

Day-after St. Patrick’s Day health news includes:

  • Minn. lawmakers work out final plan for health insurance marketplace
  • Senate takes turn at nurse staffing requirements
  • Health department says enough radiation treatments centers exist


Proponents see healthful step forward (Red Wing Republican Eagle)

Minnesota is just a few steps away from some of the biggest health insurance reforms in recent history.

Lawmakers have worked out a final plan from House and Senate proposals to run a health insurance marketplace required under the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. It is close to approval after passing the House early Friday.   Read More…


Minn. Senate takes turn at nurse staffing dilemma (

With a compromise emerging in the Minnesota House, the state Senate is beginning to look at nursing regulations covering hospitals.

A Senate health committee planned to debate a bill Monday that would impose minimum unit-by-unit staffing requirements. It’s not yet clear if senators will modify the bill to match one advancing through the state House.   Read More…


State Health Department: Minnesota has enough radiation treatment centers (

Minnesota has enough radiation treatment facilities for patients, even though cancer cases are expected to grow by almost 24 percent in the next decade, according to a report released Friday by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The report, which was requested by the Legislature, is expected to fuel efforts to extend a hotly debated moratorium on new radiation treatment centers.   Read More… 

In The News – March 8, 2013

Minnesota will get its healthcare marketplace following Senate approval, which came late on Thursday evening. In other health news, the state may face a physician shortage as 300,000 Minnesotans gain access to health care through the exchange. And, Essentia Health (based in Duluth) continues to expand across the region.

Get all your health news with one click at Health In Minnesota and on Twitter @HealthInMinn


Minnesota Senate gives state health exchange final approval (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Minnesota lawmakers took another step toward creating a state health insurance exchange as the Senate voted late Thursday, March 7, to create the new marketplace this year.

Similar legislation passed the House on Monday, although there are differences that must now be negotiated in a conference committee.

The federal health care overhaul law of 2010 calls for state-level insurance exchanges to be operating by October.    Read More…


Expected doctor shortage could impact health care access (KSTP-TV)

Doctors are getting older in Minnesota. In the next 10 years one in three will retire, and there aren’t enough future physicians to replace them. That could threaten your access to health care. It’s supply versus demand.

The Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange will give access to health care to an estimated 300,000 currently un-insured Minnesotans, meaning more patients, more overtime, and fewer doctors to treat them.   Read More (with video)…


Essentia: Duluth-based provider reaches out across the region (Mesabi Daily News)

The St. Mary’s Hospital and Duluth Clinic in the Port City were always well-known facilities to Iron Rangers. They provided a lot of health care services for area residents, even though they were an hour or more away.

But the Duluth health care provider — now known as Essentia — has done a lot of reaching out and expanding across the region in the last 15-20 years. And it has not always been a smooth process.   Read More…