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Mark Dayton to HMOs: Bid for $3 billion in state business

MORNING EDITION

“Compete?” That’s practically un-American. But Gov. Mark Dayton wants the state’s Big Four HMOs to bid for state contracts. Jackie Crosby and Warren Wolfe of the Strib write: “In a strategy that could save taxpayers millions of dollars and harness the power of market forces, Gov. Mark Dayton has begun rolling out a plan that forces HMOs to bid competitively for $3 billion in annual state business providing health care to low-income families. The four biggest insurers — Medica, UCare, HealthPartners, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota — are reacting cautiously. Millions of dollars are at stake, as well as the health care of 500,000 poor and disadvantaged patients. Some warn of a ‘race to the bottom’’ as plans jockey for state business. ‘This isn’t like competing on building a bridge,’ said Ghita Worcester, a senior vice president at UCare. But the plans recognize that dealing with Dayton might be better than the alternative — a suspicious Legislature where both Republicans and Democrats think the nonprofits make too much money off the gigantic state insurance programs.” Good god! What next? Public audits?

For the first time in 47 years, an early childhood teacher has been named Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year. The Strib story, by Mike Hughlett, says: “Katy Smith of Winona won Minnesota Teacher of the Year honors Sunday, the first time the 47-year-old award has been bestowed on a teacher who specializes in Early Childhood Family Education. … For Smith, a typical morning would include a session in which children and parents together help build relationships through play. Then, children older than infants are separated from parents to attend pre-kindergarten early-childhood classes. The parents, meanwhile, are educated on milestones in children’s cognitive development and educational methods that will allow their kids to best be prepared for school, among other things.”

If there were ever an example of how not to respond when a giant deadly Brazilian spider drops out of your product onto a customers’ table, this is it. Front page in the Duluth News Tribune Saturday was Brandon Stahl’s tale of one scary beast: “Sheila Terry says she got more than just a bunch of bananas from her shopping trip to the Superior Walmart on Tuesday. After taking them to her home in Hayward, her husband, Dan, went to pick one when a spider about 4 inches long fell out from the stem, she said. ‘He yelled, “Oh my god!?” ’ Sheila Terry said. ‘And then he killed it’. … Terry wanted Walmart to know about what she found in order to protect other shoppers. She called on Tuesday to report the problem, but said the store manager never called her back. When she called the manager again, Terry said she was told there was nothing they could do. ‘I told them I’m not looking for anything,’ she said. ‘I’m looking for public awareness.’ The manager hung up on her, Terry said. She went to the Duluth NBC news station, Northland’s News Center, which aired a story about the spider on Wednesday. That got Walmart’s attention, which called Terry on Wednesday and took her statement about what happened.” I think a lifetime supply of bananas might be in order.

Today in Bachmannia: In a semi-Al Campanis moment, FoxNews’ Chris Wallace tried to correct our favorite congresswoman’s math in an assertion that … well, here’s Evan Gastaldo’s report in Newser:Michele Bachmann got a little mixed up today, claiming on Fox News Sunday that NATO airstrikes have killed as many as 30,000 civilians in Libya. She was railing against the ‘foolishness’ of President Obama’s decision to get involved in Libya at the time … Obama ‘said he wanted to go in for humanitarian purposes and overnight we are hearing that potentially 10 to 30,000 people could have been killed in the strike,’ she said. Chris Wallace quickly questioned her numbers, but Bachmann stood her ground, citing ‘the Tripoli ambassador.’ ‘You mean the Libyans? You think Moammar Gadhafi is a reliable person?’ he responded. ‘I don’t think anyone thinks that,’ she said. ‘The point of what I’m saying is that we are seeing many, many lives lost. Including innocent civilians’ lives.’ Wallace later corrected her, explaining that she was apparently referring to a statement by the US Ambassador to Libya that put the total number killed in Libya at 10,000 to 30,000, which includes those killed by fighting between the rebels and Gadhafi’s forces.” It’d be so nice if all the lamestream media were so helpful and supportive.

T-Paw and Bachmann got their names called at the White House Correspondents’ bash Saturday night. Of our former governor, Seth Meyers of “Saturday Night Live” said, “If you looked up boring in the dictionary, that’d be more exciting than listening to Tim Pawlenty. Tim Pawlenty makes Al Gore look like Ru Paul.Earlier, President Obama, riffing on potential citizenship issues for his GOP adversaries, passed on the rumor that Bachmann had in fact been born in Canada.

Never put it in writing, Example No. 4,041. Will Ashenmacher of the PiPress reports on an assistant to Council Member David Thune: “A St. Paul businessman is calling for the resignation of an executive assistant to St. Paul City Council member Dave Thune after a deprecating email she wrote was leaked out of council chambers. In the email, Barb Benson referred to Bill Hosko, a political opponent of Thune’s, as ‘the gay guy that always runs (against) Dave for City Council.’ In reference to Hosko’s suggestion to add a statue of the late riverboat captain Bill Bowell to Harriet Island, Benson wrote: ‘Gag. Barf.’ Hosko, who is gay, said he was concerned the email reflects an attitude of prejudice around Thune’s office. Hosko said he has never met Benson. ‘Why would she identify me as ‘that gay guy’? That is derogatory,’ Hosko said. ‘What if she had said ‘the black guy’? That would have been derogatory. ‘The gay guy’ — what does that have to do with anything’? he added.”

Good story from the Strib’s Tony Kennedy on another consequence of lavish spending followed by budget-cramping at the U of M: “At the University of Minnesota’s Medical School, there’s no national search in the works for a crucial position in the Department of Medicine, nor will there be soon. Money is too tight. Big plans for a research park in the shadows of TCF Bank Stadium have been scaled back, and a nationally acclaimed professor is leaving because his pay was slashed. Inside the dean’s office, a discretionary fund for hiring and innovative projects is tapped out and U President Bob Bruininks is subsidizing the Med School budget with a recurring allocation of $2.85 million.
Those are only some of the signs of financial stress gripping one of Minnesota’s most vital academic and research institutions following an ill-fated arms race in recent years for prestigious faculty — a push that sent costs soaring just as some of its key revenue sources declined.”

And once we get past the big gay marriage, ”Castle Doctrine,” Voter ID and various anti-abortion bills, maybe the Legislature will look into the $11 billion in tax exemptions that include some ridiculous ones. Baird Helgeson of the Strib writes: “Minnesotans pay an extra $100,000 a year so state legislators don’t have to pay taxes on their daily living allowances. Buying a horse? For reasons no one at the State Capitol can fully explain, Minnesotans also pick up the 6.8 percent sales tax on that, too. Worried that your cow has tuberculosis? Taxpayers help offset the cost of getting it tested. Even notorious local Ponzi scheme felon Tom Petters has received special tax treatment from the state. Minnesota has nearly 220 tax exemptions that total more than $11 billion a year. Now, with time running out to solve the state’s $5 billion budget deficit, some lawmakers are taking a fresh look at this little-known part of the tax code and vowing to rein it in.” Good luck with that, since under the GOP’s Grover Norquist-mandated “no new taxes” pledge, eliminating exemptions is verboten.

Finally, one more T-Paw item, with Mr. Norquist in mind. Our guy is on record calling the president’s proposal to cut oil and gas subsidies “ludicrous.” Danny Yadron of the Wall Street Journal writes: “ ‘I think we should have a discussion about all subsidies,” Mr. Pawlenty told Washington Wire at a forum for 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls. ‘But the Obama proposal is ludicrous. I mean the worst thing we could do is raise the cost burden on costs on energy and oil … What he’s proposing is a tax increase on energy at a time when the gas is $4 a gallon. It’s preposterous.’ ” Loss of taxpayer subsidy = tax increase. It’s really quite simple.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/02/2011 - 08:27 am.

    Hmmm. Insisting that HMOs engaging in actual competition for business? Taxing the legislative per diem, as well as ending some other tax exemptions to fix the budget shortfall?

    Rhetoric vs. reality.

    This might get interesting…

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/02/2011 - 11:59 am.

    Re Bachmann:

    How impervious to facts and reality do we need our next President?

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/02/2011 - 01:59 pm.

    Regarding the HMO’s and competitive bidding…

    I always assumed that, under “free market” ideals, and the Republican’s long standing claims about how much they could save by “cutting fraud and waste” and “making the government more efficient”…

    That such competitive bidding on public contracts would ALWAYS have been the order of the day?

    SILLY ME!

    WHO COULD POSSIBLY HAVE THOUGHT that former Gov. Pawlenty had been awarding these contracts strictly based on CRONY CAPITALISM, “you scratch MY (political contribution) back, I’ll scratch yours” basis?

    If we start looking under the rocks left behind by the Pawlenty administration (or should we call it the Pawlenty “regime?”) is there ANYTHING that was actually clean and above board?

    How much of our current state deficit is the result of our former Gov. quietly (and quite invisibly) just handing state money to his buddies?

    Regarding oil subsidies, if our “conservative” (translation: you HAVE to KEEP giving BIG government money to OUR friends and cutting their, AND OUR, taxes, even if you have to run the country into bankruptcy to do it

    which we’ll shriek about even as we refuse to allow you to do ANYTHING ELSE) “friends,”…

    are SO concerned that reducing the subsidies will harm SMALL businesses doing the actual drilling and exploration for oil, I have NO DOUBT that the IRS could sort out who those businesses are and protect them from harm,

    even as we kick up the public taxes on the oil company’s sense of entitlement in regards to the private taxes they extract from all of our pockets by kicking the price of gasoline up to whatever levels they want whenever they blessedly well feel like it.

    Of course those small companies only exist because the big oil companies weren’t interested in being involved in, or spun off their own divisions that were involved in the RISKIEST part of the oil industry.

    They’d dump the refineries, too, if they thought they could maintain control over all the various fuels those refineries produce.

    Personally, I don’t care HOW HIGH the futures market bids up the price of a barrel of oil…

    (which is NEVER the price anyone actually pays WHEN THEY TAKE POSSESSION OF THAT OIL),…

    the profits the big oil companies are making off shipping and refining that oil are ABSOLUTELY UNJUSTIFIED and should either be taxed in order to recover some of what they’re unjustifiably extracting from all of our pockets or controlled in some other way.

    Personally, I think taxing the nasal mucous out of them in order to pay for alternative energy research so that we can cut them out of the energy equation and have a reasonably-priced alternative to oil and coal before we run out of them…

    Would be absolutely FAIR and completely JUST (if anyone can pry off their “money goggles” long enough to care about such things, anymore).

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