The MNsure train wreck and newspaper columnists who don’t get Twitter (5×8 – 1/15/14)


For those who don’t want the government to help those who need medical help, MNsure — the clunky attempt to set up an online marketplace for health insurance — is proving to be a pal. The Star Tribune reports that families who qualify for Medical Assistance, the state’s Medicaid program, are being told they have to apply via the MNsure website instead of the traditional paper form. But the MNsure site doesn’t work.

Some counties saw this coming thanks to an attempt in 2002 to move Medical Assistance applications online. That was a train wreck, too, so they’re using paper applications to determine eligibility anyway.

“I’m in limbo,” says one woman who was laid off in October, has no health insurance, and runs out of insulin at the end of the month. “But I refuse to live on the street.”

A Fridley resident tried submitting her Medical Assistance application via MNsure, but just found out this week’s it’s held up. Her son is down to his last dose of insulin, the Star Tribune says.

Related: MNsure issuing refunds to overcharged consumers; website flaw blamed (Pioneer Press).


The arrogance of New York Times writer Bill Keller extends far beyond his disdain for the personal writing of a woman with cancer (I wrote about it on Monday), Linda Holmes at NPR’s Monkey See blog suggests today. It provides a glimpse into an aging media member uncomfortable with the reality of social networks.

Keller’s writing about Adams is full of little code words that downplay the significance of her writing, her readers, and her community, undoubtedly unconsciously. She has “blogged and tweeted,” rather than “she has written.” Her audience is “rapt,” rather than appreciative or respectful. Her criticisms of elements the breast-cancer lobby are “potshots.”

She is not an advocate for Sloan-Kettering, where she’s being treated, but a “proselytizer.” She “insists she is not dying,” a construct that implies she is dying, and he knows it, but she won’t admit it. She is “bedridden,” rather than hospitalized. She doesn’t type but “pecks.” She is living “onstage.” The expert he consulted has “perused” Adams’ blog, a wiggly term that could mean “read for a while,” but given the bad information that made it into the piece, might also mean “skim with skepticism.”

This continues in the statement Keller gave to Sullivan. He says he’s received negative responses on Twitter, which “encourages reflexes rather than reflection.” Those who come to the Times and comment are “thoughtful and valuable,” because newspaper comment sections provide so much “space for nuance.” (On behalf of everyone who reads newspaper comment sections, and in the language of my people, let me just say: OMG LOL!!!!!!!!!!) He makes it pretty clear that in his mind, he’s been criticized by people who either didn’t understand his point or didn’t care to “reflect.”

You can certainly interpret his piece as the reflections of a man uncomfortable with Adams’ way of having cancer. Or you can interpret it as the reflections of a man uncomfortable with her way of talking about having cancer. But you can also see in it the deep skepticism so many people with long histories in traditional publishing have about social media, in part because they want to comment on it from outside, not inside. (Keller has a Twitter account but doesn’t use it much; it dates to 2009 but contains only 325 tweets.)

The New York Times has now closed comments to Keller’s offensive article.

Bloggers, in particular, see this attitude from the Fourth Estate quite often. Last week, when referring to baseball bloggers who disagreed with the Hall of Fame voting, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe referred to them as “Basement Nation.”

A couple walked into a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Nebraska and asked for the grumpiest waitress. Told there wasn’t one, they got Abigail Sailors, instead. She’s a student at a North Dakota bible college, the Fargo Forum says. When asked, she told them she needed to take time off from the college. So they left her two checks — one made out to the college for $5,000 and one to her for $1,000.

Related religion: Church torn apart by gay issue after choir director is dismissed at Methodist church (The Herald Bulletin).

In Big Lake, Roger Hanson has been fighting warmer winters to indulge in his hobby — creating huge ice sculptures over each winter with the wastewater from his geothermal system. Perhaps you remember the one from last year:

This year, however, the weather is perfectly winterlike for a new sculpture. But there won’t be one this year, he reported to me via email last night:

Due to an unfortunate incident at my house (water line rupture) I am unable to indulge in my hobby this year. Ironic as it is, after 7 years of fighting warm winters creating these ice sculptures, the one year that I can’t we have the perfect Minnesota winter. I am soooo mad, I be steaming. I still plan to do one again next year. The improvements I plan to make should make it the best ever. And if this weather is a trend that will continue hopefully I be the only one smiling during the Minnesota winter.

More weather: Awe-Inspiring Skies, Captured by an Extreme Storm Chaser (


Related: Ice Fishing Contest drawing 10,000 people gets the go-ahead ( ).

Bonus: Immature, pathetic rant about pregame basketball handshakes (TVFury).

Is Minnesota prepared for a world where water scarcity is widespread?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Does NSA leaker Edward Snowden deserve clemency?

Second hour: The trials of unemployed college graduates.

Third hour: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright’s latest book investigates the world of Scientology. In “Going Clear,” Wright takes a look at the religion through a number of characters, exposing some of the inner workings of the organization.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – A National Press Club broadcast about the future of our national transportation system. The speaker is Joseph Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – The debate over net neutrality.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Marty Moylan will report on what kinds of malware threats face retailers like Target? How do they work? Who deploys them?

A recent documentary film cast a shadow on SeaWorld and its handling of orcas. And lately the marine park has been pushing back. SeaWorld is winning some support and projecting record high earnings. NPR has a look at how SeaWorld is handling rough waters as its controversy continues.

  • MrE85

    #1) I see this less of a slap at MNSure than another example of how difficult life can be for the poor. Had people at the top listed to the folks in the trenches who deal with these folks and their health coverage, they could have told them NOT to give up paper registration. Unfortunately, no one listened. Frankly, I’m not surprised.
    #3RR) “The United Methodist Church saw a drop of 71,000 members in 2011, the last year numbers were available.” Hmmm. I wonder why?

  • Jack Ungerleider

    Editorial Comment: Daily Circuit 1st Hour: When did Edward Snowden become the leader of the NSA?

    • MrE85

      I think they meant “leaker”

  • jon

    @#2) Pretty much fits with my interpretation from monday.

  • Kassie

    There has been an option to apply online for Health Care programs for a couple years. An online application was treated the same as a paper application. This has nothing to do with online versus paper, as MNsure has a paper application available. This has to do with MNsure itself. And many counties had wait times of months before a paper application was even looked at under the old system, so for anyone familiar with the system, this is just more of the same.

  • davidz

    #1 – Large IT project fails to meet requirements. The only reason you don’t see more of this is that large corporate IT projects that fail (at least half of them) are hidden away and never see the light of day. Large government projects fail too, probably about as often, but the transparency of the bidding processes make the visibility greater.

    Don’t end one process until the other is actually capable of meeting the needs.