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Lawsuit says UnitedHealth tied to scheme to overbill Medicare

Plus: police arrest student for anti-Semitic graffiti at U; lawmakers move to approve new Xcel Energy plant in Becker; Real ID bill also advances; and more.

Mary Williams Walsh of the [failing] New York Times reports: “UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, is accused in a scheme that allowed its subsidiaries and other insurers to improperly overcharge Medicare by ‘hundreds of millions — and likely billions — of dollars’, according to a lawsuit made public on Thursday at the Justice Department’s request. … Instead of slowing Medicare costs, UnitedHealth may have improperly added excess costs in the billions of dollars over more than a decade, according to the lawsuit, which was unsealed in Federal District Court in Los Angeles.” 

One fair suggestion is this: Mexico will pay for “the wall” if we agree to pay for the full cost of their war on all the drugs we use up here in the States. In the Strib, Stephen Montemayor writes, “ … the cases underscore the persistent reach of Mexican cartels into Minnesota, where they continue to dispatch alleged associates to distribute large volumes of meth and cocaine around the state. … ‘Minnesota is unique in that we’re both a destination market and a transit market to other regions,’ said Paul Kunze, assistant special agent in charge for HSI in St. Paul. In addition to selling drugs for consumption here, he said, cartels ‘are also using the region as a transportation point for drugs moving up into Canada and further east in the United States.’”

A month of fodder for talk radio. Todd Richmond of the AP says, “Black students should be offered free tuition and housing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison because blacks were legally barred from education during slavery and university remains out of reach for black students today, the student government said Wednesday. The Associated Students of Madison said in a resolution that students from suburban high schools are overrepresented. The group said consideration of ACT and SAT scores in applications restricts opportunities for the poor and thus upholds ‘white supremacy.’” That sound you hear? Rush Limbaugh drooling.

Busted. Haley Hansen of the Strib reports, “University of Minnesota police arrested a student Thursday for allegedly vandalizing a public area of a residence hall with anti-Semitic graffiti. The 18-year-old student from St. Cloud faces a charge of criminal damage to property, according to a police report, and university officials called the case a bias crime. The student allegedly drew a swastika on a desk in a public part of the 17th Avenue Residence Hall, where he lives.” Any comment from mom and dad?

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Well, if planting season is going to start in mid-March, it’s good they got this done now. Don Davis of the Forum News Service writes, “Unseasonably warm weather is making Minnesota farmers itchy to get into the fields, but some have not ordered seeds while they wait to know their financial standing. Soon, they should have that answer if Gov. Mark Dayton does as expected and signs legislation to pump $35 million into a farmer loan program. Minnesota senators voted 62-0 in favor of the bill Thursday, Feb. 16, following House members’ action a week earlier.”

Gas, baby. The AP says, “The Legislature moved Thursday to sidestep utility regulators and approve a new Xcel Energy power plant in central Minnesota. The natural gas-fired plant in Becker is meant to offset losses from two coal-fired generators when they close in 2023 and 2026. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission sidelined Xcel’s proposal in October. However, bills passed in both chambers of the Legislature mean the plant can move forward without fulfilling the regulator’s request to research renewable energy options.”

Well, now there’s a bill that says they have to. So there. At MPR, Tim Pugmire says, “Legislation mandating the permanent display of all portraits of former governors inside the renovated state Capitol is on its way to a vote in the Minnesota Senate. Members of the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections committee approved the bill Thursday on a voice vote. The proposed requirement surfaced after an advisory panel on Capitol art discussed the possibility of displaying only some of the portraits. Stephen Elliott, director of the Minnesota Historical Society, told lawmakers that he was ‘gratified’ by the interest in Capitol art. But he said the society board already decided to reinstall all the portraits.” Hey, it keeps ‘em away from another Voter ID bill.

Oh, wait. Speaking of IDs. Pugmire, again, reports, “A Minnesota Senate panel has advanced the Real ID compliance bill after a discussion of its potential impact on future drivers’ licenses for unauthorized immigrants. Such immigrants don’t currently have access to state licenses, but their advocates contend that the bill’s rule-making language would effectively close the door on that possibility.”