State health insurance rebate program coming in under budget

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Minnesota State Capitol

David Montgomery of the PiPress reports. “Minnesota taxpayers are getting a happy surprise: an expensive new state program is coming in massively under budget. The program in question is a $310 million plan to give 25 percent rebates to eligible Minnesotans’ health insurance premiums. It was passed in January amid estimates that more than 120,000 people might get state-funded discounts. Through the end of April, however, only around 95,000 Minnesotans per month had received the discounts. The total bill through the first third of the year: $46.9 million. If that rate continues for the rest of 2017, the state would only spend $140 million, less than half the projected $310 million cost.”

Shutting down: The Star Tribune’s Chris Serres writes: “A widely used hot line for Minnesotans suffering from mental health crises will shut down this Friday because of financial difficulties, ending a service that operated for nearly 50 years and helped about 20,000 people annually. Canvas Health, the Oakdale-based nonprofit that operates the Crisis Connection hot line, announced Monday it is closing the service because of losses totaling more than $1 million over the past several years, as well as a lack of state funding.

For the AP, Kyle Potter checks out 2018 races in our more interesting congressional districts. A sampling, from the second congressional district: “Rosemount teacher and football coach Jeff Erdmann launched his Democratic campaign to unseat Lewis this spring. Angie Craig, the former medical device executive who narrowly lost to Lewis in 2016, hasn’t said whether she’ll run again in 2018.” Those Jason Lewis town halls should get even more raucous. Oh, wait.

Before taxes. Amy Forliti of the AP says, “The Minnesota police officer who was acquitted in last year’s fatal shooting of black motorist Philando Castile will receive $48,500 as he leaves the suburban department that employed him at the time of the killing, according to a separation agreement announced Monday. Jeronimo Yanez will be paid the money in a lump sum, minus applicable deductions and withholdings for state and federal taxes. Under the five-page agreement released to The Associated Press through a  public records request, the Minneapolis suburb of St. Anthony also will pay Yanez for up to 600 hours of accrued and unused personal leave pay.”

Speaking of fearing for his life, Bob Collins at MPR follows the second day of news about the Minneapolis cop who shot up two therapy dogs curious about the guy in their backyard. “After the shooting, the officers told the family animal control would arrive to assess the dog’s medical needs so they didn’t take the dogs to the vet immediately. Nobody ever showed up. [Jennifer] LeMay has paid $900 in vet costs for Ciroc, who has returned home, but she says he’ll still need $5,000 to $7,000 worth of surgery.

David Montgomery of the PiPress says: “Minnesota collected an estimated $260 million less in income taxes the past fiscal year than state experts predicted in February, according to a new estimate from the state Department of Revenue. Other sources of revenue are ahead of target, putting the total estimated shortfall at $104 million for the fiscal year, which began on July 1, 2016, and ended June 30, 2017. The reason for the shortfall may have little to do with Minnesota — and a lot to do with Washington, D.C.” Next year I’m paying exactly what His Orangeness pays.

Today in muskie news. Aimee Blanchette of the Strib says, “Two kayakers on a lake in northern Minnesota encountered an impressive sight over the weekend when they paddled up to a large muskie with a northern pike in its jaws. ‘Geez look at that. That’s a huge northern, too, look at that! ‘said Cody Wolters who caught it on camera. ‘He does not want to let go’. Wolters, who is from Fargo, N.D., was kayaking with his dad when he started filming the fish. The video on Facebook has been viewed more than 10 million times.”

Don’t tell us what not to freak out about! Says Allie Shah of the Strib, “An early spring this year caused ticks to emerge ahead of schedule. But has the early start led to a bumper crop of the bloodsucking parasites this year? Not in Minnesota, says Elizabeth Schiffman, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health who specializes in tick and mosquito-transmitted diseases. ‘With that early spring and warm weather that came early and stayed, we definitely had ticks out earlier than we have in previous years’, she said. ‘What we didn’t necessarily see is a lot more ticks. Here in Minnesota, we saw what we expected.’”  But we’re still all going to die, am I right?

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