Who’s tracking state HMOs’ cash?

MORNING EDITION

A Strib editorial wants someone … to keep a close eye on cash flowing to HMOs via the 115,000 Minnesotans directed to them under the state’s new health reform: “There’s been no deep analysis of a pilot program begun almost two decades ago to see if managed care improved quality and held down costs for the healthier enrollees it already has. This is now a $3-billion-a-year business in Minnesota, and recent financial results suggest that public managed-care plans often are more profitable for insurers than are their commercial plans for private consumers. The state should monitor results more carefully now that it’s steering about 57,000 new high-health-needs patients into managed care, and doing so with vague expectations instead of specific requirements for improved care.”

The AP’s Patrick Condon plays with the GOP possibilities for facing off against Amy Klobuchar. “Despite her popularity in polls and her strong fundraising, Republicans insist Klobuchar is beatable. They say she’s avoided controversy by focusing on consumer-oriented legislation, largely steering clear of more polarizing issues like taxes and spending, the national debt and foreign policy. And they point to voter displeasure nationwide with incumbents. ‘Her support is a mile wide but an inch deep,’ said state GOP Chairman Tony Sutton. ‘She’s been a lapdog for the administration, the economy is flailing and what has she done? She’s talking about regulating video games.’ The confident talk hasn’t translated to any marquee names for Sutton’s party, with former Gov. Pawlenty ruling out a run shortly after pulling the plug on his presidential bid.” Dang, but The Chairman gives good quote.

Another moose-in-peril story. This one from Dave Orrick of the PiPress: “ A new draft plan released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources last week spells out not only the doom possibilities but also the practical ones: Taxpayers will need to spend money to figure it out; tourists, resort operators, cabin owners and hunters will have to cease feeding deer; and hunters might have to give up moose hunts. In fact, according to the Minnesota Moose Research and Management Plan, moose hunting will close in 2013 if things don’t change. The plan, which is open for public comment but mostly destined to become official policy, proposes that hunting will close if any of three scenarios come to pass. One scenario — three years in a row of surveys finding fewer than two bulls for every three cows already became the reality with this year’s survey.” Three cows to every two bulls … still good odds, if you’re a bull.

When it comes to writing the history of Our Favorite Congresswoman, The Strib and the rest of our “mainstream” media have some catching up to do with bloggers like Karl Bremer at Ripple in Stillwater, the kids at Dump Bachmann and freelancer G.R. Anderson. But Stribber Tony Kennedy got his paper back in the conversation with his Sunday piece on her career with the IRS. Every mainstream Bachmann piece includes a graph like this: “Bachmann did not respond to interview requests or written questions about her IRS career for this story. But she has repeatedly cast herself as a former tax litigator without mentioning that her job was to represent the IRS against taxpayers.”

Brian Bakst and Jim Davenport of the AP follow Ms. Bachmann to South Carolina and write: “She opened her remarks to conservative South Carolina audiences with a quick rundown of her stances on cultural issues. But she quickly pivoted to jobs, filling a whiteboard with numbers about tax collections and the nation’s swelling deficit. ‘You cannot spend more money than what you take in. It’s a simple fact of life, right?’ Bachmann told a receptive crowd at the Greenville convention center. She promised to submit only balanced budgets as president even though critics say that’s impossible. To national security conservatives, she said: ‘I won’t step one toe out of this country and apologize for the United States of America,’ the rap that Obama’s foreign policy approach gets from conservatives. She also plays up her role on the House Intelligence Committee, stressing how she’s trusted with the nation’s secrets and apprised of the most pressing threats.” Now that is reassuring.

The Los Angeles Times’ James Oliphant can’t resist Ms. Bachmann’s resurrection of … the Soviet Union: “[She] said during a radio interview Thursday that Americans today are mindful of the threat posed by a rising U.S.S.R., which, like Elvis, left the building a long, long time ago. ‘What people recognize is that there’s a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward,’ Bachmann said on conservative activist Jay Sekulow’s show. ‘And especially with this very bad debt ceiling bill, what we have done is given a favor to President Obama, and the first thing he’ll whack is 500 billion out of the military defense at a time when we’re fighting three wars. People recognize that.’ ”

Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune files Part 1 of a story on the dismaying saga of Excelsior Energy and what it hasn’t done with a gob of public money: “But after nearly a decade and receiving more than $40 million in public money, Excelsior has little to show. While significant work has gone into developing site plans and engineering work and garnering permits, the company has yet to move a shovelful of dirt to build its would-be 2,000-megawatt, $2.1 billion power plant. And despite receiving virtually all of its backing from the public trough, the company’s spending records, including its officers’ paychecks, remain under wraps.

Our child poverty numbers are nothing to brag about. But the picture is marginally worse in Wisconsin. Guy Boulton of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, “The percentage of children living in poverty in Wisconsin increased by 42% from 2000 through 2009, according to a new report, with much of the increase coming since the start of the economic downturn. The increase means that an estimated 59,000 more children in Wisconsin were living in poverty in 2009 than in 2000, according to the 2011 Kids Count Data Book released last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which funds advocacy groups and does research on policy issues affecting vulnerable children. According to the report, 17% of the state’s children were living in poverty in 2009, up from 12% in 2000.”

Apologies to Mike Mullen at City Pages’ “The Blotter” for not citing this one earlier. On the money T-Paw made … off of running for president: “Reports of the lack of success for [“Courage to Stand”], which came out in mid-January, seem to have driven Pawlenty to try to bolster its success a bit with political money. On January 31, Pawlenty’s Freedom First political action committee spent $28,549 at Barnes & Noble for something labeled ‘Publications,’ according to Federal Election Commission Reports. The expense is not fully explained, but Pawlenty might have been following a trick from Sarah Palin, who used $47,000 in SarahPAC money to buy copies of her own book. Pawlenty also got his travel in January, February and March reimbursed by [his publisher] Tyndale House. Freedom First received more than $32,000 from Tyndale for ‘Travel,’ according to FEC records. T-Paw’s $342,000 from Tyndale is described as ‘royalty payments,’ but is undated, so it’s unclear how much it was an advance and how much was tithed to book sales, which have remained stagnant. On the Amazon.com bestseller list, ‘Courage to Stand’ is ranked No. 231,049 — not only well behind books from Sarah Palin, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, but also trailing ‘To Save America,’ by the hugely unpopular Newt Gingrich (ranked 129,131) and No. 168,842, ‘It Takes a Family,’ by Rick Santorum, who can hardly even read.”

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Ken Wedding on 08/22/2011 - 07:31 am.

    About Excelsior Energy, you wrote (or quoted someone as writing), “has yet to move a shovelful of dirt to build its would-be 2,000-megawatt, $2.1 billion power plant. And despite receiving virtually all of its backing from the public trough, the company’s spending records, including its officers’ paychecks, remain under wraps.”

    Sounds like they’ve been taking lessons from the Nigerian companies with government contracts. For 20 years they’ve collected money up front and produced nothing but plans and foundations. Everyone in Nigeria who wants power has to have a generator. The noise, I’ve heard, is awful as is the pollution. Maybe we could ship a few hundred thousand Honda generators to the north shore.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/22/2011 - 08:33 am.

    I suspect this self buying of books is a common ploy amongst right wingers. For years I’ve noticed on the NYT’s best seller list that little symbol that indicates large bulk orders frequently accompanies right wing polemics, in fact it’s almost the only time you see it. Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly looks like a frequent self buyers, that symbol is next to their books for weeks. I did a quick google once and found out that buying a few a 1,000 books can be enough to keep you in the top ten if the circumstances are right.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/22/2011 - 08:55 am.

    I suspect that if and when the truth is revealed about the carefully-masked financial dealings of Excelsior Energy and it’s continuous and well-hidden feeding at the State of Minnesota’s public trough,…

    It will become clear that, rather than get rid of “waste, fraud, and abuse” in government spending, former Gov. Pawlenty and his cronies used the State Treasury as a piggy bank from which they could freely draw funds to hand to and further enrich their already wealthy friends,…

    while providing ZERO public benefit.

    Once again, it becomes clear, that you can always tell what dysfonic “conservatives” will do in the dark when given sufficient power to accomplish it by listening to what they’re continuously accusing their favorite scapegoats of doing.

    Of course the same is true of the Defense Department under Bushco (among other ways Bush/Cheney used the public treasury to reward their cronies at massive public expense).

  4. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/22/2011 - 09:11 am.

    “They say she’s avoided controversy by focusing on consumer-oriented legislation, largely steering clear of more polarizing issues like taxes and spending, the national debt and foreign policy.”

    To be fair, this is true. And I find it frustrating. You’re one of the 100 most powerful people in the country. Do something that matters.

  5. Submitted by Charlotte Neigh on 08/22/2011 - 10:32 am.

    Peter Passi reported that Excelsior Energy’s spending records after 2006 were made secret by the IRRRB, but he did ascertain that in 2006 co-presidents Tom Micheletti and Julie Jorgensen paid themselves $1.2 million based on salaries of $300,000/year each. If they paid themselves for the entire $2.5 million accrued on the books at the end of 2005, and if they continued paying themselves $300,000/year through 2010, their household (they are a married couple) could have taken in more than $5 million from public funds for this “clean-coal” boondoggle.

    Charlotte Neigh, Co-Chair
    Citizens Against the Mesaba Project (CAMP)

  6. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 08/22/2011 - 11:21 am.

    By leveling these criticisms, don’t you people realize you’re going to make the “job creators” very angry?

  7. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/22/2011 - 12:23 pm.

    Re: klobuchar should ‘do something that matters’.

    Yes, she should. Given the nature of the Senate, she’s probably accomplished more than most freshman. A Rand Paul is on TV more, nut I wouldn’t necessarily describe that as being more productive.

  8. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/22/2011 - 01:02 pm.

    @7:

    All I’ve ever heard about her “accomplishments” is things like writing a new bill for every specific instance in which someone is tragically harmed in some very unlikely way. It’s not wrong to write such bills, which is why she’s so popular: nobody is “against” a bill to protect children from pool drains.

    But a U.S. senator has to have a bigger picture. We need serious energy legislation, twenty years ago. We have major education and budgetary issues to deal with. Our military spending should be cut drastically. Some of them require taking stands that are unpopular among part of the populace. These are things that will effect all 300 million of us instead of one unlucky child. I know it sounds callous, but there are bigger fish to fry. If she can do both, all the better.

  9. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/22/2011 - 06:56 pm.

    Shortly after taking office, Dick Cheney invited Enron and the other Energy Giants to a secret meeting at which they planned a national energy policy that would benefit — you guess who. Their wishes became law with the energy policy act of 2005.

    According to Public Citizen in 2007, that law included billions of dollars in loan guarantees for companies developing methods of gasifying coal so its pollutants could be “sequestered” underground.

    The companies, included one called DKRW of Texas (with a Wyoming subsidiary called Medicine Bow Fuel & Power) started by four former Enron executives, and our very own Excelsior Energy. Which, Public Citizen said, “was created by lobbyists and executives with ties to NRG Energy, a company that filed for a $9.2 billion bankruptcy in May [2003] and whose subsidiaries and affiliates have been fined $25 million for manipulating energy markets.”

    Excelsior’s owners (at least in part) are a married couple who came from NRG. Why the state or the feds are giving them a penny for any reason is a mystery to me. (Unless it could POSSIBLY have anything to do with Dick Cheney, of course.)

  10. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/23/2011 - 04:14 am.

    Re: HMOs. I just heard that Minnesota has engaged an Iowa company called IFMC (which changed its name effective August 22 to Telligen) to manage Medicaid services in Minnesota for two years beginning in July 2011.

    Its mission statement reads, “We optimize the quality of medical care and health through collaborative relationships, education, and health education management.” (What????)

    Were they hired to oversee the HMOs who were hired to manage the health care of Minnesota’s poorest citizens? How much will it cost us? Or perhaps save us? Is this part of the right-wing desire to manage Medicaid spending “more efficiently?” (As in reducing aid to the vulnerable.)

    Why doesn’t the state force the HMOs to return the excess reserve funds they are holding and on which they are earning money? It is our money, after all, not theirs, but they refuse to return the substantial excess or even to open their books to audit.

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