Low rates = high deductibles. (And vice versa). Elizabeth Stawicki of MPR says: “The health plans offered on Minnesota’s online insurance marketplace have the highest deductibles of those in 15 states, according to a new study. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Breakaway Policy Strategies consultancy determined the average annual deductible for a MNsure plan — the amount consumers must pay before a plan pays for a medical expense — was $4,061. That’s more than twice the deductible for a comparable plan in Massachusetts or Maine. It is key reason why MNsure plans also have the lowest premium rates in the United States.” Just as long as I can keep my high-deductible, high-co-pay, no-real-coverage plan if I like it.
The Strib’s Dee DePass covered the robot fair in St. Paul. “At the Robotics Alley Conference, humanlike machines walked, talked and packed parts like factory workers. Some actually spy on people. Three robots built by Minnesota high school students shot basketballs, tossed Frisbees or performed chin-ups like star athletes. … In their number and variety, the robots offered proof that they are now big business in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. ‘Between 2010 and 2012, firms in Minnesota received $3 billion just in federal contracts for unmanned devices,’ said Eileen Manning, chief executive of Event Group, which owns and runs Robotics Alley. For private contracts, ‘it’s easily greater than a billion-a-year industry in Minnesota. It’s billions.’ ”
No harm in asking … Brett Neely of MPR reports: “At a hearing convened by U.S. Sen. Al Franken Wednesday, Obama Administration officials defended keeping secret the details of government electronic surveillance programs. The hearing examined the executive branch and industry’s response to a bill introduced by Franken that would require the government to issue more detailed reports about surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency and other government agencies. The bill would also allow companies such as Google and Facebook to reveal how many requests the government has made for their users’ data, information that currently is classified. ‘Americans don’t know the actual number of people whose information has been collected under those programs,’ said Franken, a Democrat.”
We’re No. 32! Says Jennifer Bjorhus in the Strib: “It cost an average of $693 to insure a car in Minnesota in 2010, well below the national average of $791. That ranks Minnesota No. 32 for auto insurance costs, according to a new report by the Consumer Federation of America. But the price tag has risen 51 percent since 1989, close to the median 56 percent increase among the 50 states. The report examines what’s happened to car insurance prices since California passed a 1988 proposition that broadened the state’s enforcement role over property and casualty insurers. The authors concluded that states with stronger regulatory systems requiring approval of rate hikes before insurers can use them, such as California, have kept costs down better than states with weaker systems, such as Minnesota.”
Nursing Board officials responded to the highly unflattering picture painted in recent Strib stories. Brandon Stahl was there: “The Minnesota Board of Nursing wants more authority to deny licenses to nurses who have committed crimes and more information about nurses who are stealing drugs from their workplaces, the board’s executive director said during a legislative hearing Wednesday. But Nursing Board staff members also defended the agency’s disciplinary record in the hearing, which was convened in response to a Star Tribune investigative series into the state’s handling of problem nurses. … Only government officials were invited to speak at Wednesday’s hearing.”
Yeah, not exactly Mormon-like tithing … Abby Simons of the Strib reports: “Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that he is embarrassed by the tax return he released Tuesday, showing that he gave only $1,000 to charity despite total 2012 earnings of $343,234 last year. ‘I pride myself on my charitable giving and I’m disappointed in myself,’ Dayton said at the end of a briefing with reporters on another issue. ‘I totaled it up and noticed I had fallen off, so I will remedy that.’ The drop was significant from 2009, when Dayton, then a gubernatorial candidate, earned $172,475 mostly from family trusts, and donated nearly $27,000 of that to charity.”
It’s gone … . Nick Ferraro of the PiPress reports (and has video) of “Old Blue,” Hasting’s signature bridge, biting the water. “Just before 4 a.m. Monday, the northern-most portion of the U.S. 61 Bridge was pushed off its concrete footings by the Lunda-Ames project team. It plunged into the Mississippi River in a big, loud splash. Resident Dave Youngren waited nearly three hours in snowy, windy weather to catch the moment on video. ‘That was pretty much the end,’ said Youngren, who for three years has taken pictures and video of the old and new bridges for his Facebook page, ‘Hastings Bridge Watch’. ‘I’m glad I was there.’ Youngren said his raw and updated videos of ‘the drop’ have generated more than 85,000 hits on his Facebook page. He also posted a version on YouTube under the title, ‘Hastings Bridge Drop.’ ”
And let this be the last we hear of that guy … Stephen Lee of the Forum News Service reports: “Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. was not insane when he deliberately killed Dru Sjodin 10 years ago after kidnapping her from a Grand Forks, N.D., mall, according to the prosecution’s medical experts, who interviewed him on death row over the summer. Federal prosecutors in Fargo on Wednesday released documents containing transcripts of the interviews as part of the government’s reply to Rodriguez’s last-stage appeal of his sentence. … Rodriguez’s appeals have been denied all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But under what is considered a death row prisoner’s last appeal, Rodriguez, with a new set of attorneys — one in Philadelphia, one in Chicago and two in the Twin Cities — is making a habeas corpus appeal.”