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Pawlenty’s health plan diagnosed

Presidential candidate-in-training/Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty grabbed a few minutes of the spotlight away from the Senate Finance Committee health insurance reform vote Tuesday. He did it by offering Minnesota — that’s us — as an example of how the rest of the country should do things … with a couple of tweaks, like introducing a perennial GOP favorite — allowing for-profit competition in to compete with our current, pricey nonprofit providers. MPR’s Tim Pugmire finds DFL Sen. Linda Berglin, the go-to legislator on health care unimpressed: “[S]he doubts that out-of-state insurance companies would be eager to do business in Minnesota. And she says the people enrolled in state-subsidized health care can’t afford additional costs.” He then quotes Berglin on Pawlenty’s proposal to re-jigger MinnesotaCare: “When you have low-income people having higher out-of-pocket expenses, they tend to avoid seeking care. And the care ends up costing more, not less.”

Stribbers Bob Von Sternberg and Warren Wolfe note Pawlenty saying, ” ‘Rising costs are in many respects a runaway train. It’s clear we cannot continue on the trajectory we’re on.’ What’s that old line about a “stopped clock being right twice a day”?

John Vomhof Jr. in the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, noting Pawlenty’s caution for regulating the for-profit angle, reports that “Minnesota’s commerce commissioner will determine the 20 most-effective states in terms of regulating health insurance policies. Only policies that are approved in those states and meet Minnesota’s new standards could be sold to Minnesotans.” That apparently would be filed under “streamlining.”

Schwing! Medtronic has developed a stent for arteries leading to the penis that may act as a kind of permanent, internal Viagra for men with erectile dysfunction. The Strib’s Janet Moore reports the figure of “25 million” American men with ED who don’t respond to the little pills. Lord almighty! Discounting children, hormone-charged teenagers and the shuffleboard crowd what percentage of otherwise functioning men does 25 million make?

 Writes Moore, “[T]here’s room for an alternative, and Fridley-based Medtronic has what may be a solution: A tiny mesh stent coated with drugs inserted into arteries supplying blood to the penis. Normally, these stents are used to prop open clogged arteries leading to the heart.” Once the device is installed, the patient supplies the romantic dinner and flash of lingerie.

Republican legislator Jim Abeler of Anoka writes a commentary on health insurance reform for the Strib’s Op-Ed page today. Predictably, he’s light on specifics, points no fingers at the insurance industry and urges an end to “waste.” But he does encourage a place at the table for such so-called “alternative” treatments as acupuncture and chiropractic care, which long ago proved their effectiveness in certain situations yet are still frequently relegated to children’s table status when the discussion gets swamped by the titanic costs of Big Pharma, MRIs and all the other hi-tech gew gaws. “Proven research and bona fide results demand the use of all types of providers for the health benefits and cost-savings they have to offer.” More significantly, Abeler — a chiropractor, it must be noted — sounds a note of rationality in the opposition’s otherwise dense wall of hysteria and disinformation.

City Pages churns out one of those-meet-the-candidate features most people avoid reading because it looks like PR copy. And in this case, they’d be 90 percent right. The Bradley Campbell piece introduces the average reader to south Minneapolis DFL legislator Paul Thissen, generally regarded as one of the brainier pols currently operating on Capitol Hill. Thissen is also one of the herd running for governor and while Campbell never gets close to answering the headline question, “Is he ready to be governor?” he does capture the numbing grind of a candidate robo-calling hundreds of party regulars begging for time and money. While there isn’t much in the way of live quotes from Thissen, Campbell does grab this one from Margaret Anderson Kelliher as candidates sit through their competitors’ pitches for the umpteenth time. “As Matt Entenza addresses the group, Speaker Anderson Kelliher smiles from the back and leans in to whisper, ‘You’re going to have a lot of fun doing a fact-check on what he says.’ ” Ha!
 
The previously mentioned Mr. Vomhof at the Business Journal is also reporting on Thursday’s premiere of “Mall Cops: Mall of America” on cable channel TLC. Promo copy reads, “An action-packed day in the life of the Mall of America, as seen through the eyes of the men and women assigned to guard its stores and shoppers: the mall cops. From protecting celebs to busting shoplifters, there’s no job too big for the mall cops.” Those guys are great. They’ll even help you remember if you’re parked on P4 West or P37 East.

Political trivia buffs will want to devote a half hour
to memorizing factoids from research Smart Politics did on the geographical background of Minnesota governors. For example:  “Overall, four Minnesota governors were born outside of the United States — all from Scandinavia: Knute Nelson (1893-1895) from Norway, John Lind (1899-1901) and Adolph Eberhart (1909-1915) from Sweden, and Hjalmar Petersen (1936-1937) from Denmark.” (Talk about nerds at play.)

Don’t be drinking anything hot if you click into read Power Line today, because it’ll have stuff blowing out your nose. In a post titled “Taking the National Debt Seriously,” John Hinderaker tips his hat to a Wall Street Journal editorial rediscovering … after an eight-year hiatus … the mortal peril of deficits. WSJ writes, “Left unchecked, this destructive deficit-debt cycle will leave the White House and Congress with either having to default on the national debt or instruct the Treasury to run the printing presses into a policy of hyperinflation. It is against this background that Washington is now debating whether to create social programs it can’t afford.” To which Hinderaker adds, “It is hard to overestimate the danger to which the fecklessness of our current leaders in Washington exposes the nation.” You can search both pieces for any reference to starting and running a trillion-dollar war off the books, but you won’t find it.

The Associated Press (and everyone else) is out with news that the Nov. 1 Vikings game at Green Bay has been moved from noon to 3:15 p.m. to give it a bigger national audience. If I read the story right, apparently one of the Vikings used to play for the cheeseheads and someone thinks that’s a big deal.

And we now have a guilty plea in the case of the goat painted in Brett Favre’s new colors. It was found in the trunk of a St. Paul woman’s car last August. “Cruelty in transportation of an animal” is the charge, since the braying goat — painted purple and gold with a big No. 4 shaved into its side — was, uh, goat-roped, in the woman’s trunk. MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar’s story says, “[Winona] Assistant City Attorney Brian Glodosky said it might never be clear what the couple’s motive was. [The woman] has said they had planned to butcher the goat, and that it was already dyed purple and gold with a shaved No. 4 when they picked it up from a farm.” Riiiiight.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 10/14/2009 - 10:48 am.

    The comments on acupuncture and chiropractic care are misguided. The last I checked, the explanation for why the “worked” had something to do with redirecting the body’s chi. That’s not medicine; medicine is scientific. Medicine has both causal links to success AND a physiological explanation for its effectiveness. Until there is a complete understanding otherwise, it’s a much more likely bet that the seeming success that comes from these “alternative” treatments is mostly just a placebo effect from patients getting close, slow care – albeit bogus – from someone who seems to give a sh*t. Doctors are too harried and our health care system is too tragic to allow consultations of more than ten minutes in a real hospital by a real doctor. That’s the problem. The answer is not bogus non-scientific treatment.

  2. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 10/14/2009 - 12:48 pm.

    Mr. Klein, do you have a cite or link to this “body’s chi” hogwash you’re peddling?

    I’ve been to plenty of “real hospitals” with “real doctors”….color me unimpressed. I’ll take my chances with the occasional alternative treatment if it helps, as opposed to the wisdom I’ve gained from the “professionals”.

  3. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 10/14/2009 - 01:10 pm.

    Why yes, I do!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acupuncture#Acupuncture_points_and_meridians

    The AMA says the following:

    “There is little evidence to confirm the safety or efficacy of most alternative therapies. Much of the information currently known about these therapies makes it clear that many have not been shown to be efficacious. Well-designed, stringently controlled research should be done to evaluate the efficacy of alternative therapies.”

    There are problems with individual doctors and there are problems with our health system. Not every experience is a good one; not every disease is easily diagnosed or cured. That is NOT the fault of a scientific approach to medicine, and fact that medicine doesn’t know everything is NOT an excuse for made-up hooey. When “alternative” treatments pass the same standards as all other treatments – that we understand how they work and that we know they work – they will simply no longer be “alternative”, they’ll just be treatments. Until then, wishful thinking won’t help.

  4. Submitted by Clay Williams on 10/14/2009 - 11:00 pm.

    And from that same link:
    In 1997, the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a consensus statement on acupuncture that concluded that despite research on acupuncture being difficult to conduct, there is sufficient evidence to expand its use and encourage further studies of the phenomenon. The statement was not a policy statement of the NIH but is the considered assessment of a panel convened by the NIH. The consensus group also noted the relative safety of acupuncture compared to certain other medical interventions. They stated that deciding when to use it in clinical practice depends on multiple factors, including the experience of the clinician, the information available on the treatment, and the individual patient’s characteristics

    AMA has an ax to grind. They like the pool of practitioners to be constrained so as to increase the income of their members.

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