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Accountable Care rules ‘lighter’ than feared, providers say

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Residential fires dropping; court hammers Denny Hecker; an unusual stadium plan; LWV targets Wisconsin Voter ID law; and more.
Read Thur. Afternoon Edition


The feds released their rules on the new health care laws, and Elizabeth Stawicki of MPR gets a few local reactions: “When the feds released proposed rules last spring, major health systems in Minnesota and around the nation balked at what they considered red tape and micro-management. A number of major medical systems in the Midwest, including Duluth-based Essentia Health, were initially excited about participating in the Medicare shared savings program. When the proposed regulations came out last April there was a strong backlash. A survey of large, multi-specialty health systems, the major clinics most likely to form ACOs [Accountable Care Organizations], found 90 percent saying they wouldn’t participate because the rules were too onerous and the investment costs were too high. Essentia said the new rules were too voluminous to offer immediate comment. Mayo Clinic, which also objected to the proposed rules earlier this year, released a statement that said it looked forward to doing a thorough analysis of the regulations. But it appears the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid heard the avalanche of comments it received and lightened up on some of those regulations. ‘Our initial impression is that they did a pretty good job here,’ said Karen Ferguson, associate director of regulatory affairs at the American Medical Group Association, a group that represents nearly 400 health systems best suited to become ACOs.”

Related … Tom Scheck of MPR files a story on the state’s belief it will save $240,000 by bidding out health contracts: “The state Human Services commissioner said Thursday that competitive bidding for health care services will save Minnesota $240 million over the next two years. Gov. Mark Dayton and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said that the initiative is part of a broader plan to save the state money by streamlining services. The state required HMOs to competitively bid for state contracts in the seven-county metro area. Jesson said the bids will reduce the money taxpayers spend for health care without cutting any services.”

The number of residential fires in Minnesota is dropping. The Lake County News-Chronicle says: “A newly-published summary of fire statistics, “Fire in Minnesota 2010,” reports a three-percent drop in the number of residential fires last year and a 15 percent increase in fire-related deaths compared to 2009. As in previous years, cooking was the number one cause of residential fires and the majority of fire victims were 60 years of age or older. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division compiles the annual report based on numbers provided by Minnesota fire departments. The 39 fire deaths in 2010 compare to Minnesota’s record low of 34 in 2009, but nonetheless reflect a continuing downward trend in Minnesota.”

Denny Hecker and “indicative of bad faith”? Even in the slammer, Denny is getting hammered in court. Dee DePass’s Strib story says: “A U.S. district judge Thursday dismissed an appeal by former auto dealer Denny Hecker that sought to give him access to part of a $4.1 million consulting fee and settlement agreement. Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that Hecker, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for fraud, is not entitled to the funds because he waited too long to alter bankruptcy schedules needed for his claim. Magnuson called Hecker’s timing in attempting to make the funds exempt from bankruptcy proceedings “indicative of bad faith.” Hecker filed for bankruptcy in June 2009 and gave up his battle for protection from creditors last year after being sued for hiding assets from the court.”

John Marty, stadium booster? If Zygi Wilf will buy one, slightly used, for $1. Mike Kaszuba of the Strib writes: “There may be growing legislative support for one more Minnesota Vikings stadium idea: Selling the Metrodome to the team for $1. Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, have scheduled a press conference for Friday to ‘present an alternative Minnesota Vikings football stadium plan.’ Although details were not known, Marty had recently told a reporter that he and Runbeck were considering a proposal to sell the Metrodome to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf for $1 and simply have Wilf remodel or build a new stadium on the downtown Minneapolis property.  The Vikings have played at the Metrodome since 1982. ‘If we give [the Vikings] the Metrodome for a buck, they can make that into a very good facility that they can make a lot of revenue on,’ he added.”

The GOP’s environmental ethos takes a ripping from Charles Dayton in a Strib commentary this morning: “Republicans claim that the corporations who will avoid some of the costs of cleaning up their emissions will hire more workers as a result of the savings. Well, the stimulus package that saved the financial industry didn’t result in much financing of new businesses. A lot of that money just stayed in the bank. Corporations that cut costs by avoiding pollution regulations will have a better bottom line to pass on to shareholders, but there’s no guarantee of job increases. It is a sure bet, however, that thousands of people will become ill or die as a result of the dirty emissions.”

That’d be “No” to the Runaway Dad. Maricella Miranda of the PiPress reports: “A Dakota County judge rejected an effort by a Lakeville father accused of abandoning his son that sought to stop child protection services for the boy. The father, Steven Alexander Cross, 60, argued that the county didn’t meet ‘its burden of proof’ showing that his son, Sebastian, was abandoned and needed help when he left the boy with neighbors and ran off to California.”

The Voter ID laws pushed through in so many states are taking heat. In Wisconsin, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Patrick Marley: “The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin sued the state Thursday in an attempt to block a new requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls. The suit argues the state constitution allows the Legislature to exclude felons and the incompetent from voting, but cannot restrict others from voting. The new photo ID law creates a new class of people who cannot vote — those without ID — and thus violates the state constitution, the suit argues. … The league said in August it would sue over the photo ID law, and has spent the weeks since then raising money for it. The suit seeks a declaration that the photo ID law violates the state constitution, as well as legal costs. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s photo ID law in 2008, but the League of Women Voters contends its case is different because it is based on the state constitution. The lawsuit comes just as groups prepare to launch petition drives to recall Walker and senators from both parties.”

Hey! Great news! For another $198 round trip, you can have a seat with, you know, actual room for the lower half of your body. Gita Sitamariah of the PiPress reports: “For up to $99 one-way, Delta Air Lines will begin offering a limited number of economy seats with more legroom on many flights next year. Atlanta-based Delta, the Twin Cities dominant airline, has announced plans to introduce ‘Economy Comfort’ to its entire mainline fleet of more than 550 aircraft, in addition to more than 250 two-class regional jets. The seats were launched on long-haul international flights earlier this year. Customers who have purchased an economy ticket on Delta will be able to choose economy comfort seats for an additional fee of $19 to $99 each one-way flight.” It’s always all about the customer.

Today in Bachmannia: You really know it’s over when Our Gal goes to San Francisco and no one bothers to show up to protest. Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times writes: “[T]he Republican presidential contender’s visit to the Commonwealth Club was perhaps most remarkable for what it wasn’t. In a sign of the diminished threat that Bachmann poses to President Barack Obama, there were no protesters to greet her as she arrived in downtown San Francisco, and police officers stationed at the event turned out to be an unnecessary precaution. No one heckled her (with the exception of some hissing — mixed with applause — when she said the difference between the ‘tea party’ and the Occupy Wall Street protesters was that the tea party ‘picks up its trash’). … Psychologist Stephen Sabin, a 36-year old Democrat, was there entirely out of curiosity. ‘Her views are so far off from the center,’ he said, ‘it just kind of fascinates me.’ ” I know the feeling. You can’t help yourself.