The Medicare system spends something like $40 billion a year in “overpayments” made to companies and individuals. Elizabeth Stawicki of MPR reports on one example: “A federal audit found Duluth-based Essentia Health received more than $865,000 in Medicare overpayments. The Medicare program provides health insurance for people aged 65 and over and those who are disabled or have permanent kidney disease. In reviewing $1.2 million of Medicare’s payments to Essentia Health, the Office of Inspector General found Essentia overbilled Medicare by $865,000. The findings indicate Essentia billed Medicare $3.18 for every dollar the hospital system was owed. In a letter included with the federal report, Essentia attributes the overpayments to billing system and clerical errors.” … In which case there must also have been a fairly high number of under-billings, too … right?
DFL Rep. Kerry Gauthier is off the ballot. Don Davis of the Forum papers says: “The Minnesota Supreme Court late Tuesday ordered that Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s name be replaced on Duluth-area ballots. The order written by Chief Justice Lori S. Gildea said that Erik Simonson’s name can replace Gauthier’s. The ruling grants a request filed by Simonson and the DFL Party after Gauthier announced he would end his re-election campaign after a rest-stop sex encounter with a 17-year-old male earlier this summer was revealed. House District 7B Democrats revoked their earlier endorsement of Gauthier, replacing it with a Simonson endorsement.”
In the Duluth News Tribune, John Myers reports on the new … long … list of polluted water in Minnesota: “Minnesota will take 13 lakes off its list of polluted or impaired waters this year, waterways that have been cleaned of major problems, but the state is adding another 511 lakes and river segments to the troubled list. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials … said they have finalized their every-other-year update to the state’s Impaired Waters List as required by the federal Clean Water Act. Adding 511 waterways and removing 13 this year leaves the total at 3,643 impaired waters — lakes and stretches of rivers that don’t meet minimum federal standards for drinking, fishing or swimming.” Isn’t there a “reduce government regulation” facet to this?
What’s five yards, really? Even USA Today’s Chris Chase got in on the jabs at U of M Crookston’s paint job. “[T]he school’s logo looks like it was assessed a five-yard penalty for encroachment. Instead of having the maroon and gold “M” at midfield, it was accidentally painted on the 45-yard line. The team’s quarterback, Chase Vogler, tweeted a picture of the error, which was then posted by Larry Brown Sports. Shawn Smith, the school’s sports information director, tells Dr. Saturday that the logo was painted before the yard lines and yardage numbers, which caused an obvious problem. The painting was done by students before last week’s homecoming game against Southwest Minnesota State.” And to improve the offense, they painted the end zone at the 20.
Minnesota’s business owners are cautiously optimistic about the economy. At Finance and Commerce, Chris Newmarker writes: “High taxes, health care costs and hiring and retaining trained workers are the three biggest barriers standing in the way of Minnesota companies, according to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Himle Rapp and Co.’s ninth annual Business Barometer. The survey, which involved owners and managers of 350 Minnesota businesses, found 31 percent saying the state’s economy is improving, up from 13 percent last year. But nearly half think it’s the same, and less than a fourth reported improved profits. … Business owners are a traditional Republican constituency. But in a bad sign for Minnesota’s GOP-led state Legislature, which is up for re-election this November, the business owners and managers were pretty much tied when it came to the question of whether they were satisfied or frustrated with the Legislature. It was 40 percent to 39 percent respectively.” You mean the voting amendment and opposing gay marriage aren’t big economic drivers?
The Strib’s Jeremy Olson wades through U.S. Census data about the size of Minnesota families: “I asked Steven Ruggles, director of the Minnesota Population Center at the U of M, to explain why the average family of seven or more makes so much less than the average family of four. He said there has long been a stastical correlation between larger family sizes and lower incomes:
‘There are a lot of theories as to why this is true. Mostly, I expect it operates through maternal education — all over the world, the more education women have, the fewer the children. But the more education, the higher the income (amplified because women with lots of education tend to marry men with lots of education). Other factors in recent years may be immigration of low-income people with more traditional views about desired family size, and possibly higher fertility among fundamentalist groups that also have comparatively low income (and low education).’
… Interestingly, Minnesota has one of the widest gaps in the nation between the median income levels of its 4-person families and the median income levels of its 7-or-more person families. There were only two states in 2011 in which 7-or-more person families had median income levels that were significantly higher than median income levels of 4-person families.”
In a Strib commentary, 40-something Will Nagle of Apple Valley sees some merit in Mitt Romney’s concerns about “the 47%”: “Having nearly half of American households receiving some type of government check is simply not sustainable. Yet that number will continue to rise. More and more baby boomers are entering retirement. I am in my early 40s, and my generation is the smallest out there and will be depended on, along with Gen Y behind us, to carry a big burden. Where is the money going to come from? … Today, when someone is 88 and their knee starts giving out, we give them surgery — often expensive, major surgery and aftercare. I remember, growing up, seeing many elderly walking with canes; today, those canes have all but disappeared. Please do not misunderstand me, I want our seniors to be comfortable and live well. But I also want to make sure we can pay for it and do not bankrupt ourselves in the process. Ask yourselves a hard question: Would you rather see a few more canes, or would you rather see America bankrupt and a situation like Greece’s or Spain’s emerging?” Mr. Nagle manages to ignore the revenue side of the issue.
Brett Neely of MPR looks at Norm Coleman’s lucrative post-Senate career: “Coleman is chairman of the nonprofit American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund, two political groups that are heavily involved in defending the Republican majority in the U.S. House. … Coleman works for the Washington lobbying firm Hogan Lovells, whose clients include Nissan, Occidental Petroleum and Xcel Energy. He serves as a foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign and often speaks for Romney on cable TV shows. Coleman also is co-chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which is trying hard this election year to woo Jewish voters. … the American Action Network has drawn fire from critics who accuse the group of abusing federal election and tax laws by using its nonprofit status to allow donors to anonymously contribute unlimited amounts. ‘By our calculation, it spent over 65 percent of its funds on political activities,’ said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal-leaning watchdog group. ‘By any math that has been its primary purpose then, engaging in political activities.’ ” I know you are as shocked as I am.
So there is some value in unions then, Governor? The AP’s Scott Bauer reports: “Following a controversial game-ending call by replacement referees that cost Green Bay a win over the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, Wisconsin officials from across the political divide united behind the Packers. Even Gov. Scott Walker and a Democratic state senator who were bitter opponents in the 2011 battle over Wisconsin public workers’ collective bargaining rights found themselves on the same side Tuesday. Walker, whose union-busting efforts have made him the darling of fiscal conservatives, posted a message on Twitter calling for the return of the NFL’s locked-out unionized officials. ‘After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs,’ Walker tweeted early Tuesday.” Ironically, the key issue is pensions.