Health care and the art of empathy (5×8 – 3/8/13)

Another step for a health exchange, when the ice gives way, the lure of the sled dog race, the reward for loyalty in Rochester, and budget cuts and bad weather.


The Minnesota Senate passed the health insurance exchange bill late last night. That’s the state-run website that invites selected companies to make their pitches to people who will be required to buy health insurance.

Earlier this week, it passed the House, which added a provision that none of the companies on the site can offer abortion services coverage. The Senate bill does not have such a provision, so it will now go to a conference committee.

Republicans tried to get rid of the provision that gives the site’s board control of what companies are listed on the site. Republicans suggested the board could damage the finances of local health insurance companies by restricting carriers’ access to the marketplace, the Pioneer Press said.

MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki focused on the question over whether representatives of companies selling their wares on the website can serve on the board that oversees it.

“UnitedHealth Group, they’re into the millions of people, they are the largest in this nation. And that we would not use that level of expertise, that level of knowledge leverage our health system to be the best that it is, is an abomination,” Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, said. He works for UnitedHealth Group.

The restriction stayed in the bill.

The St. Cloud Times says a Becker legislator added an amendment requiring lawmakers to buy their own insurance through the exchange instead of using the same plan other state workers use. It may not survive a conference committee.

The debate went for more than 11 hours, the Star Tribune captured the stakeholders with this image of insurance lobbyists and executives crowding the Senate’s front door.

This is, of course, the insurance side of health care. Does any of this affect the care part of health care?

On his Facebook page, Dr. Jon Hallberg shared this video from Cleveland Clinic. It’s a reminder that there’s a lot of humanity going on away from the politics of health care.

Related: How Arizona Reconciled Government-Run Health Care With Its Conservative Ethos (The Atlantic)


I don’t care how many experts are around to help you if something goes wrong, intentionally driving a car into a hole in the ice to show us how to get out when it happens to us takes a fair amount of guts.

Related: Coast Guard warns Lake Superior ice starting to thin, shift (Duluth News Tribune)


There are a few days to go yet in Alaska’s Iditarod sled dog race. It’s a 1,000-mile trek. The winner gets a new truck and $50,000.

But not everyone is racing for the wheels and the cash. A few years ago, MPR producer Annie Feidt decided Alaska fit her style more than Saint Paul. In her video with a couple of racers who are doing it for the love of doing it, we can see why.

According to NPR, two women mushers are testing out “pee pants” along the way. I don’t really need to know more, but if you do, go here.

Sunday is the 29th running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. The Duluth News Tribune profiles another flyover-country native who fled to the delights of Alaska, but with some pretty impressive stops in between.

For the record, we’ve had more snow this year than Anchorage.


Jordan Holt, a Pine Island High School basketball player had never suited up for a varsity game until last week. So, of course, he’d never played, never stepped on the court during a game, never scored a basket. He was a student manager and his role was mostly filling water bottles and running the practice clock.

In Lourdes High School’s Alumni Hall last week, the Pine Island fans started chanting, “We want Holt! We want Holt!”

The Rochester Post Bulletin says they got Holt.

As the clock ticked down, Holt’s Pine Island teammates worked to feed him the ball as Lourdes players cleared a space beneath the basket for Holt to shoot.

Holt missed on his first three tries. But on his fourth attempt, Holt scored, causing the jubilant Alumni Hall crowd to erupt as if they had witnessed the winning basket of a championship game. And in a sense, they had seen history in the making. Holt’s only basket as a Pine Island varsity player was also the last to be scored at Alumni Hall, which is making way for a new facility at the new Lourdes High School.

“It was something that I’ll definitely never forget,” said Pine Island coach Raabe. “It was a proud moment for me to be a part of it.”

“It’s not just about a sport. It’s about people and their dreams,” his coach told the PB “There’s deeper lessons in the game of basketball than just putting a ball through a hoop.”


Maybe the feds have finally figured out how to get our attention amid the dire warnings of the effect of the sequester: bad weather forecasts.

“Weather Service could be less accurate under sequestration,” the Winona Daily News’ headline says today.


Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t meteorologists usually attribute things to “the computer model”? Are they getting furloughed too? There are some old-school techniques getting cut. Weather balloon launches for data would be cut from two to one per day in the Twin Cities.

Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, says the weather forecasts could be “30 percent less accurate.”

Related: Since end of last ice age, rates of global warming “amazing and atypical.” (NPR)


The U.N. Security Council agreed to tighten sanctions against North Korea on Thursday as punishment for its recent nuclear test. The Council’s unanimous agreement came after three weeks of negotiation between the U.S. and China, which has opposed such measures in the past. North Korea was furious at the U.N. action, issuing a threat to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons as the sanctions came up for a vote. Today’s Question: How should the U.S. respond to North Korea’s threat of a nuclear attack?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: A panel of local doctors discusses health care.

Second hour: Does the future belong to the old?

Third hour: Home inspector John Trostle and general contractor and designer Samantha Strong answer your questions about upcoming spring home repair projects.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Minnesota author Louise Erdrich, speaking at Concordia University in St. Paul about her National Book Award-winning book, “The Roundhouse.”

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – Is red wine the secret antidote to aging?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – NPR will look at the possibility of PTSD in military dogs, the latest jobs report, the Hugo Chavez funeral, and preview the new Oz film.

Minnesota is home to two of the biggest snowmobile manufacturers in the world. So it should be no surprise Minnesota is also home to some of the best snowmobile racers in the world. Snocross racing — where racers fly over big jumps and jockey for position around a twisting course — is the most popular snowmobile sport. Minnesotan Tucker Hibbert is king of the sport. He won six golds at the recent XGames in Aspen and is training for another national competition near Fargo this weekend. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will have the story.

Lorna Benson says the Office of the Legislative Auditor will release a report today on Minnesota’s Medical Assistance payment rates to dentists. She’ll find out if the rates are considered adequate, and whether they help or hinder Medical Assistance clients’ access to dental services.

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler releases a report on administrative costs. The Legislature requested the study following a December report in the Wall Street Journal citing the U’s admin costs as some of the highest in the nation. Gov. Dayton has made increased funding for the U contingent on how the U responds. MPR’s Alex Friedrich will have the story.