Supreme Court ruling could mean the end of MNsure

REUTERS
U.S. Supreme Court

With yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, Obamacare seems set in granite (despite Congress’s next 40 votes to repeal it). But here in Minnesota, the Strib’s Christopher Snowbeck says: “The health care act’s big win at the U.S. Supreme Court could mean the eventual end of MNsure. Republicans at the Legislature this year called for switching to healthcare.gov, the exchange operated by the federal government for 34 states, because of technical problems at MNsure and questions about its finances. DFLers countered that any such move would be unwise before Thursday’s ruling, since the high court could have blocked tax credits issued through the federal exchange. Now, the federal option is back on the table, said Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood … .”

At MPR, Mark Zdechlik writes, “HealthPartners CEO Mary Brainerd said she welcomes the Supreme Court’s ruling. But she said it does not mean all is well with the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota. ‘The individual market in Minnesota definitely has some problems,’ she said. (Brainerd is an MPR board member.) Minnesotans with expensive conditions figure heavily in those problems, Brainerd said. Before last year, 26,000 high-risk Minnesotans were only able to buy coverage through a subsidized state-sponsored program. Those subsidies came from charges spread across a broad sector of the health insurance market. Today, people with expensive medical problems are in an insurance pool with a scant 6 percent of all covered Minnesotans … .”

Adds Pat Kessler at WCCO-TV, “And state Republican leaders are calling for an immediate halt to any more spending on MNsure, the state’s health care exchange. ‘There’s no reason to continue throwing good money after bad at this point,’ Minnesota State Rep. Tara Mack said. Top Minnesota Republicans, like Mack — chair of the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee — say they are pushing to stop an imminent infusion of up to $90 million more into the once-troubled website.”

In her collection of comments from local politicians, Allison Sherry of the Strib has these: “Rep. John Kline, Republican: ‘Today’s decision does not change the fact that the law is fundamentally flawed, and it doesn’t change our resolve to repeal it. Our nation desperately needs a patient-centered health care system, one that provides working families and employers more choices, greater flexibility and affordable coverage’. … “Rep. Erik Paulsen, Republican: ‘We still need better patient-centered solutions to help families that face barriers in accessing affordable, quality care’.” I believe that echo you hear is called “caucus speak”.

At Barron’s, Johanna Bennett says, “If struck down, many feared that millions of Americans would lose their insurance policies, causing an income drop for health insurers. Yet the hospital stocks are the ones flying today. Tenet (THC), Community Health Systems (CYH), HCA (HCA) and Universal Health Services (UHS) are climbing 11.5%, 10%, 8.3% and 7% respectably, while Aetna (AET), UnitedHealth (UNH), Cigna (CI) and Anthem (ANTM) are up 1.6%, 2.4%, 0.5% and 0.3% respectively.” I think that means we can stop worrying about them.

Speaking of billion-dollar fortunes, Kyle McCarthy at FoxSoccer writes, “MLS commissioner Don Garber reinforced his desire to see the expansion group in Minnesota present a stadium plan before a proposed July 1 deadline on Thursday. Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire and his partners are in the midst of searching for the right deal to build a soccer-specific stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Their efforts to build a privately financed, $120 million stadium in the West Loop neighborhood took a hit when the Minnesota Legislature adjourned in May without reaching an agreement on the club’s bid for tax relief and economic development tools.”

Until Lynyrd Skynyrd plays here again, this may be our most prominent Confederate battle flag. Buoa Xiong of KARE-TV files a story, saying, “While the nation debates the symbolism of the confederate flag, the significance of the one housed at the Minnesota Historical Society lies in its century old story. ‘It really does resonate with a lot of our visitors,’ senior curator Adam Scher said of the battle flag. The flag was obtained at the turning point of the civil war. Private Marshall Sherman of the First Minnesota Infantry captured the flag during Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. He turned the flag into the war department in Washington and it was marked for inventory, according to Scher. Little did Sherman know he would soon get it back.” Freebird!

Speaking of worrying, Xcel doesn’t care for the competition. Says Dave Shaffer in the Strib, “Minnesota utility regulators on Thursday set limits on a new consumer-driven solar energy program in response to Xcel Energy Inc.’s complaint that it had ballooned beyond what a state law intended. In a contentious, retroactive clarification of the rules, the state Public Utilities Commission restricted independent energy companies to clusters of five community solar gardens, each with a maximum output of one megawatt. A megawatt is 1 million watts of electricity. The decision, after two days of hearings, removes a major uncertainty for the solar industry, but it undercuts some companies’ plans for cost-saving clusters of 10 or more projects.”

Meanwhile, Savers is beginning to make good. MPR’s Tim Nelson reports, “The Savers thrift chain has agreed to pay $1.8 million to several Minnesota charities and make its operations more transparent to settle a dispute with Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. The attorney general sued Savers in May, alleging that the company was misleading donors and that proceeds from only clothing donations were going to charities like the Disabled American Veterans, the Epilepsy Foundation and others. Household items and other donations were simply being sold for a profit, the attorney general reported. The deal also requires Savers to better disclose who will benefit from donations, among other things.”

Enjoyin’ my Second Amendment rights with the family. Emily Welker of the Forum News Service reports, “A Felton, Minn., man is accused of shooting his 22-month-old daughter in the leg after handling his gun in dim lighting after drinking 12 beers. … At the hospital, Rocha told detectives he’d been sitting on the floor near the bed cleaning his handgun by the light of a portable lamp at about 4:30 a.m. when it went off as he was putting it away, hitting the child, who was asleep in the bed with his wife.”

There are now almost 5.5 million of us. Marino Eccher’s PiPress story says, “The census figures, estimated as of July 2014, put the state at about 5,457,000 people overall — up 2.9 percent since the 2010 census. All race groups counted saw growth, but the state added four times as many people of color as whites, said Andi Egbert, assistant director of the State Demographic Center. That puts Minnesota at more than 1 million people of color — just shy of 20 percent of the population. Ramsey County (30 percent people of color) and Hennepin County (24 percent) are among the most diverse in the state. But suburban counties in the seven-county metro area are rapidly changing. Black residents are still a small sliver of the population in Dakota and Washington counties, for instance, but were up 21 percent and 24 percent respectively.”

Walker Watch. The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff takes another looking at the Gov. Scott Walker’s claim that, “It’s working.” “In 2011, newly elected Governor Walker replaced the Wisconsin Department of Commerce with a public-private partnership called (you guessed it!) the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC. Walker had won the gubernatorial race a few months prior by campaigning on a promise to create 250,000 jobs in the state over the course of his first term. WEDC (commonly pronounced ‘weed-ick’) was supposed to help the state reach that goal and to trim some of the bureaucratic fat that existed in the commerce department. But Wisconsin only got about 147,000 of those 250,000 promised jobs. And WEDC had serious growing pains, to say the least. A May 2013 audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau had troublesome findings, including that between 2011 and 2013, WEDC gave out $124.4 million in awards without formal staff reviews. … Mark Maley, WEDC’s public information manager, said that campaign contributions don’t impact award disbursement. ‘Regarding the recipients of WEDC awards, there is no way to make this any clearer: Political affiliation and campaign contributions absolutely play no role in determining which companies receive awards from WEDC,’ he told the Beast.” What cynical SOB would even think of such a thing?

Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/26/2015 - 06:08 am.

    MnSure

    I really have not gotten the word from DFL central on the continuation of MnSure. For myself, I don’t see the problem with nationalizing health care. I am a Democrat after all. It’s the enthusiasm for nationalization among Republicans that somewhat surprises me. Where’s all this state’s rights laboratory of democracy stuff we always hear from them?

    The irony of the politics of Obamacare is that because of the reflexive opposition to anything Republicans do, Republicans find themselves adopting traditional Democratic positions.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/26/2015 - 12:17 pm.

      “Where’s all this state’s rights laboratory of democracy stuff?”

      SCOTUS just killed it. And it won’t be just republicans lamenting it.

      • Submitted by richard owens on 06/26/2015 - 05:08 pm.

        The Full Faith and Credit clause

        makes a unified ruling on marriage essential to the equal treatment of Americans who move from state to state.

        “Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, addresses the duties that states within the United States have to respect the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

        Anybody who thinks about it as a practical matter will agree- marriage rights are not a fair subject for the “laboratory of democracy”.

        It is rather “equal protection under the law” that requires all states to conform to a citizen’s rights in every state.

  2. Submitted by Pat Berg on 06/26/2015 - 07:57 am.

    Republican crocodile tears

    Rep. John Kline said “Our nation desperately needs a patient-centered health care system”.

    Where was all that concern BEFORE 2009? Anyone care to provide cites for all the feverish Republican efforts to get an effective health care system into place in the years leading up to the ACA?

    What’s that I hear? Oh yeah . . . . . . . crickets . . . . . . .

  3. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 06/26/2015 - 11:44 am.

    Even if

    If Kline and Paulsen were right, and they aren’t, they don’t have any credibility because of the political claptrap of the Republican noise machine. Nearly every fear the GOP claims to have gets proven out over time that they are WRONG. When the GOP only works for the 1% they will never be right for everyone.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/26/2015 - 08:43 am.

    “Our nation desperately needs a patient-centered health care system”.

    This has been standard Republican rhetoric for years if not decades. The problem is how universally we acknowledge that the nation desperately needs a patient-centered health care system, Republicans aren’t interested in providing one.

  5. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/26/2015 - 09:21 am.

    Empty rhetoric

    It’s easy to speechify about how much the “nation desperately needs a patient-centered health care system, . . . ” etc, etc. but Republicans like Kline and Paulsen have no intention about addressing the real problem, which is with the health insurance business. The ACA addressed some of the worst abuses of the health insurance business like denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and by forcing health insurers to reduce administrative overheads. But it adopted the idea of a “market” for health insurance accessible through exchanges. The “market” only offers more or less standardized coverages at extortionate prices with increasingly huge deductibles. Maintaining “choice” means maintaining an industry that can still afford to pay CEO’s like former United Health Care executive McGuire gluttonous executive compensation while gouging families $600-$1,000.00 per month for health coverage. The Republicans will only become credible about health care when they begin to recognize the real problem is with health insurance and offer some plan to replace it with social insurance like single payer or universal Medicare.

  6. Submitted by Barbara Skoglund on 06/26/2015 - 03:04 pm.

    MNsure

    There is NO cost savings moving to the Federal exchange. NONE – NOT 1 PENNY. The costs of moving to the Federal exchange far outweigh the costs of continuing a state exchange.

    Premiums and cost sharing won’t go down either by moving to the Federal exchange. Our “pool” would not be national moving to the Federal exchange. The same plans for sale on MNsure would be for sale on the Federal exchange.

    Customer service will not be improved moving to the Federal exchange. The Federal exchange only does eligibility determinations for tax credits and unassisted private health insurance. MNsure reviews applications for Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare, tax credits, cost sharing reductions and unassisted health insurance. Most applicants in Minnesota are eligible for public programs, not private insurance or tax credits. Look at the states using the Federal exchange and you’ll see a backlog of eligibility determinations for Medicaid. Clearly a “patient centered” approach would be universal health care. However, forcing people to apply to multiple places is clearly not patient centered.

    Also, the correct phrase is RomneyCare. The ACA IS the Republican plan. Continued privatization of health care with high costs and high profits and high salaries for doctors, administrators, insurance companies, drug companies and so on. Costs that are completely made up, and unlike other “products,” are not based on the real cost of the product. A truly democratic health care system would be a universal single payer. The US is the only industrialized country without one – since Apartheid fell 11 years ago.

  7. Submitted by Steve Roth on 06/26/2015 - 05:15 pm.

    “Patient-centered health care”

    Is really just single-payer health insurance.

    The GOP will NEVER go there.

    “Medicaid for all” – words that will never escape a conservative’s mouth.

  8. Submitted by Leon Webster on 06/26/2015 - 07:37 pm.

    The Republicans probably regret labelling the ACA “Obamacare”

    As Ms. Skoglund points out, “Also, the correct phrase is RomneyCare. The ACA IS the Republican plan.” Which is absolutely true. But the Republicans labeled it “Obamacare”, which they will regret as more and more Americans receive benefits under it. Suppose, for example, Social Security were called “Roosevelt Security”, or Medicare was called “JohnsonCare” . Not only is it bad PR for the Republican Party, but it makes it difficult to have any sort of substantive policy discussion about it. While the Republicans have voted to repeal the ACA close to 50 times, I have yet to hear any discussion of what a replacement might look like. “Patient Centered” is one of those phrases that sounds nice but has little or no meaning.

Leave a Reply