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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Yes, MNsure Was A Disaster - But People Still Got Healthcare

Category: Health Care
Posted: 04/08/14 20:15

by Dave Mindeman

I fully understand the frustration Governor Dayton must feel. The plethora of Republican candidates looking to take his job are falling all over themselves to find an issue against him.

After all, the economy is great. The budget is in surplus. Minimum wage is going up. Property taxes are going down. Business is getting more tax breaks. The school shift has been repaid. On and on and on. What's a Republican to do? Well, they think they have a winner in MNsure.

And yes, this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

It is noted that the legislative committees involved want to press on for hearings to find out what the problems were....especially after the Star Tribune published a time line of problems prior to the exchange going live.

Now, it's not like Gov. Dayton hasn't taken responsibility for the problems. He is ultimately in charge and he has said so. But I think he has gotten frustrated by the unrelenting discussions about what happened. Especially in light of the fact that nobody is talking about the solutions or the fact that 175,000 people DID get insurance.

So, I think Dayton is allowed a moment of venting...

During a news conference Tuesday, Dayton said Republicans are "making a mockery of the word oversight" and engaging in a "propaganda campaign" aimed at destroying MNsure.

"It is really irresponsible," Dayton said. "The fact that they can pretend this is part of the oversight process is just ludicrous. They want to trash MNsure. ... They want MNsure to fail."

I think that after thinking about all of this for a bit of reflection, Governor Dayton will reassess and give the committee access to his staff and let the testimony go forward.

We do need to understand what happened at MNsure. It was a huge problem and the citizens of Minnesota deserve to know why they were left on hold for hours and why applications were bungled - especially in the early going.

I think it is also time that April Todd-Malmlov starts talking....

Legislative Auditor James Nobles, who is conducting a review of MNsure, said Todd-Malmlov has so far declined to discuss her stewardship of the agency. Nobles said he will take the unusual step of issuing a subpoena and using the courts to compel her testimony if she does not come in voluntarily for an interview. Nobles will ask legislators today to to approve his request to broaden the scope of his MNsure investigation.

The Star Tribune article seems to come back to Todd-Malmlov often. She withheld vital information. Did not keep the board informed. She did not understand or look into here alternatives. From the Tribune article, I think it is fair to say that she botched it. Maybe leaving the post was enough at the time, but with all the new information, she needs to explain. Really explain.

Nobles and the legislative committees need to subpoena her and compel her to testify. All information leads to her and she cannot wash her hands of the responsibility.

But let's also remember the other side of this:

The problems were in the technology. The law itself was fine. The law itself did its job. People got healthcare. They got affordable health care. Now that this initial phase is over and the crush of people have gotten through to make the applications and select their plans - we can safely say that MNsure, the law - worked.

People were frustrated but they do have health care. People were annoyed but they do have health care. People deserved better in the implementation but they do have health care.

So - if our Republican ideologues can look at this with some perspective, then by all means - hold your hearings and find out what the problems were.

And then let's move on and let the Governor get back to the excellent job he is doing for the state of Minnesota.
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The Moral Hypocrisy Of Hobby Lobby

Category: Health Care
Posted: 04/02/14 14:53, Edited: 04/02/14 14:54

by Dave Mindeman

In the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case about contraceptive in health care plans, it is somewhat a foregone conclusion that the Majority Five will strike down the Obamacare contraceptive initiative.

But it looks like Hobby Lobby itself is standing on moral ground made of quick sand.

Documents filed with the Department of Labor in December of 2012 show that the company's 401(k) employee retirement fund is invested in firms that manufacture the very drugs that Hobby Lobby's founding family, the Greens, are trying to keep out of their employees' hands.

So Hobby Lobby feels a moral obligation to keep contraceptives away from their employees in health care.....while investing their retirement money in the companies that make actual abortion inducing products. It is an interesting list:

These companies include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which makes Plan B and ParaGard, a copper IUD, and Actavis, which makes a generic version of Plan B and distributes Ella. Other holdings in the mutual funds selected by Hobby Lobby include Pfizer, the maker of Cytotec and Prostin E2, which are used to induce abortions; Bayer, which manufactures the hormonal IUDs Skyla and Mirena; AstraZeneca, which has an Indian subsidiary that manufactures Prostodin, Cerviprime, and Partocin, three drugs commonly used in abortions; and Forest Laboratories, which makes Cervidil, a drug used to induce abortions. Several funds in the Hobby Lobby retirement plan also invested in Aetna and Humana, two health insurance companies that cover surgical abortions, abortion drugs, and emergency contraception in many of the health care policies they sell.

Some of the listed products above ARE actually used in abortions. And none of these would be involved in a contraception mandate. The Hobby Lobby investments are far closer to supporting abortion than any kind of contraception mandate could ever come.

Women would use birth control pills so that they can prevent the use of the listed investment products. Now, I certainly wouldn't accuse Hobby Lobby of that sort of conflict of interest - but if they are going to be so careful to follow their religious beliefs in their health care plan, how can they justify that kind of monetary support.

The hypocrisy reeks - and the Supreme Court ignores the contradictions.
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Are We Ready to Own This Yet?

Category: Health Care
Posted: 04/02/14 13:11

by Roxanne Mindeman

We're way past time to stop apologizing for problems with the roll out of the ACA.

ACA facts carried by various media yesterday and this morning....

--It took about 3 weeks for signups to go from 5 million to 6 million - last Wednesday. It took less than 5 days to go from 6 million to 7 million. Signups have accelerated steadily since last Wed.

--Monday alone, 4.8 million people visited HealthCare.gov, and more than 1 million people phoned the call center for the exchange.

--At midnight on Monday right after the exchange closed open enrollment, the White House Chief Technology Officer reported that the federal exchange alone had enrolled 217,000 people on Monday, far in excess of any other single day.

--Most, if not all State exchanges have made a commitment to process everyone who was "in line" by midnight on Monday. Most states have had a form on line the last 2 or 3 days, for people to sign up for a place in line.

--Yesterday's 7.1 million estimate may not include as much as 2 -3 days of signups on some of the state exchanges.

Bottom line....what the media has been calling a "surge" turned into a stampede!

By unofficial counts there are many hundreds of thousands in the pipeline. We may not know how full the pipeline is for several weeks. But we do know that the 7 million total from yesterday does not yet include....

1. People who were "in line" and filled out the required form on the federal exchange before midnight 3/31.

2. The people "in line" at midnight in every state with a state exchange.

3. People who went "off exchange" and bought their ACA policy directly from an insurer.

4. Small business owners, nationwide, who decided not use the one year "extension" of the small business deadline, and signed up all of their employees "off exchange".

5. Kids age 18-26 who now have coverage on their parents policies (routinely estimated at 3 to 3.5 million)

6. People who were bumping up against their million dollar lifetime limit, who decided to stay with the coverage they had - now that the limit is gone.

7. Expanded Medicaid signups in states without an exchange.

Those who are watching ACASignups.net - a very accurate (but conservative) monitoring site, saw the following banner this morning, regarding the real numbers when everyone is counted......

Grand Total as of March 31, 2014: (14.6 M - 22.1 M)

The tables have turned! Republicans trashing the ACA have gotten fairly quiet. They intended to run against the ACA - with no "Plan B". They boxed themselves into a corner and the ACA is delivering for America! If we have the courage to own this, it will mean more Democratic victories in the fall than we can even dare to imagine!
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