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Star Tribune covers the Medicaid-cuts story that KSTP broke

Monday, I asked if any Minnesota media outlet would follow up on KSTP’s Jan.

Monday, I asked if any Minnesota media outlet would follow up on KSTP’s Jan. 19 scoop that seven Minnesota health companies were spelling out potential service cuts and tax hikes to cope with Minnesota’s $6.2 billion budget deficit.

Thursday, the Star Tribune’s Warren Wolfe did. While the story wasn’t quite as hair-on-fire as KSTP’s, the headline was an attention-getter: “Minnesota health CEOs taking a whack at Medicaid.”

One of the nice details that Wolfe, computer-assisted reporting editor Glenn Howatt and reporter Brad Schrade add to the discussion is this:

Together, the state’s 12 HMOs earned $103.1 million in net income in 2009 from the three Minnesota health care programs. Historically, Medicaid has been profitable for HMOs, with those earnings typically offset by losses from the MinnesotaCare and General Assistance Medical Care.

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State government business is often more profitable than earnings from private insurance. In 2009, the average HMO profit margin for state health plans was 4.1 percent, compared with 1.6 percent for commercial business, according to a Star Tribune analysis.

The health companies hid behind a statement for KSTP’s story; at the time, the report was still a draft. Company leaders talked to Wolfe; he references objections that more health care advocates should’ve been consulted when drawing up the report.

I should note that the Minnesota Nurses Association — continuing its higher-profile public posture from last year’s strike — loudly questions the health companies on accountability, transparency and cost-effectiveness.