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Proposed rate hikes bring more scrutiny to MNsure

Plus: the MOA is going to get even bigger (again); video of Duluth cop goes viral; more delays for Sandpiper pipeline; and more.

Nuance? You can’t handle nuance! Amid the meltdown over MNsure’s startling (proposed) rate increases, Christopher Snowbeck of the Strib reports, “Premium increases announced Thursday were justified by actuarial evidence showing that care costs are exceeding premium revenue, said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman during a news conference near the Capitol. Rothman said insurers pointed to sicker, more costly patients in the individual market, plus rising prices for health care services. … ‘The bottom line here is that premiums are expensive because health care is so expensive,’ said Jim Schowalter, chief executive of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, a trade group for insurers.” So take two $100 aspirins and chill out.

Tom Scheck of MPR follows his earlier story saying, “The Commerce Department acknowledged Thursday as it released the rate hikes that changes are needed. Rothman conceded that many Minnesotans won’t be able to afford coverage through MNsure given the coming hikes. Rothman also said he wants commerce officials to examine HMO reserves and look at creating a cap on HMO profits. He also called on the Legislature to create new state-based mechanisms to hold down rates including a new reinsurance program.”

But UCare is back … in one county. The AP says, “One Minnesota insurer that sued the state after losing most of its public program contracts is getting them all back. Another company in a similar situation isn’t so lucky. UCare and South Country Health Alliance filed lawsuits this summer after losing competitive bids for contracts to cover low-income residents … . The Department of Human Services announced Thursday it will restore South Country Health Alliance in all 10 southern Minnesota counties it sought to win back. But UCare will get just one county back after the mediation process — Olmsted County.”

Also in nuance, Josh Verges of the PiPress says, “Labor and social justice groups campaigning against Minnesota’s largest banks have taken their fight to St. Paul teacher contract negotiations. Minnesotans for a Fair Economy and their allies are blaming U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo for what they say is the state’s underinvestment in K-12 education. In a report titled ‘With Friends Like These,’ the group says the banks’ donations to schools represent a tiny fraction of what they’ve saved by lobbying for changes to state corporate tax law.”

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Did you see this two-point conversion in a middle-school football game down in southern Minnesota? Howard Sinker of the Strib posts it.

Bigger, brighter, ritzier. In the Strib, Kristen Leigh Painter says, “The Mall of America is about to get bigger, again. TripleFive Group of Cos. and Ryan Cos. submitted plans to the City of Bloomington for the mall’s next expansion phase, which will add more than 1 million square feet and be connected by a multi-story bridge across Lindau Lane. The move aims to keep the mega-mall’s consumers engaged by offering new destinations while also giving high-end retailers a chance to influence physical design. If approved, construction on the $500 million project would begin as early as April with a grand opening scheduled for the fall of 2018.”

Also in (body-cam) video. From the Duluth News-Tribune: The Duluth cop talking a guy out of a suicide leap. A dramatic body camera video released by Duluth police on Wednesday shows an officer rescuing a man who threatened to jump from the top of a downtown parking ramp. The video, recorded on Sept. 19, shows officer Joe DeJesus pulling the 32-year-old man to safety from his seat on the ledge of the Holiday Center ramp along Third Avenue West. Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay posted the video to Facebook, where it was being widely shared.”

You must wait longer, Sandpiper. Says Robb Jeffries of the Forum News Service, “The state Public Utilities Commission voted to suspend its approval of a key permit needed for the Sandpiper pipeline after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled the commission erred in not conducting an environmental impact statement before granting a certificate of need. Now, the commission and objecting parties are in a holding pattern to see if the proposers of the project, Enbridge Energy and its subsidiary North Dakota Pipeline Co., will file an appeal of the court ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court by the Oct. 14 deadline.”

Better than your average midwestern state. Karlee Weinmann at Finance & Commerce writes, “The state scored a region-leading 53.0 in the Mid-America Business Conditions Index, Creighton University’s monthly survey of supply managers that looks at the business climate across the Midwest. Values greater than 50 indicate economic expansion in the next six months. Lower scores suggest a shrinking economy. September’s upswing brings Minnesota closer to levels it hit over the summer, restoring confidence after a sluggish start to the year. The state lost some ground in August when its score dropped to 51.9 from 54.8 a month earlier – a high point driven by manufacturers’ success.”

The exoneration though is the tough part. The AP reports, “A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is moving to dramatically restructure compensation rules for people wrongly convicted in Wisconsin, introducing a bill Thursday that would raise the maximum payout from $25,000 to $1 million and remove the cases of those exonerated from the state’s public court database. Wisconsin currently offers the wrongly convicted $5,000 for every year of incarceration, up to $25,000. Under the bill, an exonerated person could collect $50,000 for every year behind bars with the total payout capped at $1 million with adjustments for inflation every five years.”

In neighborhood news, Eric Roper of the Strib reports, “A yearslong debate over the development of a Linden Hills corner that once housed a Famous Dave’s barbecue restaurant may soon come to a close. Despite objections from a crew of vocal neighbors, a key city panel on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a four-story, 29-unit apartment project for the site at 43rd Street and Upton Avenue. It’s the fourth proposal for the site in the last three years after others failed to materialize or were rejected by the city.”