News Day: Feds rescue MN budget deficit

March 3: More news — Coleman asks for new election / Cut, cut, cut / Medicare paying off insurance companies / City Council putting brakes on Central Corridor plans? / Lock ’em up / MN Job Watch

MN budget deficit: better news MPR reports that the budget projections due out later this morning will show good news for Minnesotans, with federal stimulus money riding to the rescue. Without the federal aid, the two-year deficit was projected to grow to $6.4 billion, but with the aid, it will shrink to $4.57 billion (from the previously-projected $4.8 billion.) That’s about the only good news, with unemployment up, tax revenues down, and the Guv stlll insisting on balancing the budget by slashing LGA and other state expenditures and refusing to consider tax increases.

Coleman asks for new election At the end of five weeks of testimony, reports MN Independent, Norm Coleman’s side concluded that they want a new election. That’s one clear signal that they expect the court decision will go against them. One more signal–the court fined Coleman $7500 for <a href=”wasting three days of court time by their failure to disclose communications between its attorneys and a witness, and subsequent wrangling over the witness testimony.

Cut, cut, cut As MinnPost points out, every government body is asking for YOUR input on budgets. Which means, in all local cases, that they are looking to share the process and the pain of cutting programs and services. In some cases — schools, for example, that seems like asking whether to cut off your right arm or your left. Latest up: Hennepin County libraries.

Medicare paying off insurance companies In an outstanding report, MPR’s Dan Olson shines the spotlight on the Medicare Advantage program. In this program, insurance companies sell policies for plans to deliver medical services to Medicare participants. Medicare Advantage costs about $1000 more per person than Medicare, and that subsidy is paid to insurance companies by the government. Unscrupulous insurance agents have also used illegal means to pressure seniors into signing up for the plans, according to the report. Bottom line: Medicare is more efficient than the insurance companies, the companies are making a big bucks on Medicare Advantage plans, and taxpayers are paying the bill. President Obama’s health care plans call for cutting the Medicare Advantage payments. Medicare Advantage originally was sold as a “more efficient” private sector alternative to Medicare.

City Council putting brakes on Central Corridor plans? The St. Paul City Council is considering refusing its permission to give up prime downtown real estate for a train garage, reports Dave Orrick in the PiPress. Nearby residents and businesses object to conversion of the former Diamond Products building at Fourth Street and Broadway. Councilmember Dave Thune agrees, saying “It wipes out our last chance to redevelop a prime location across from art galleries and coffee shops and lofts, and they want to plop a train garage there.” This is the latest in a series of calls for changes in the project to accommodate communities along its length, and Met Council’s Peter Bell met this objection as he has met all others, saying that there is no money for changes and that any objections will prompt the feds to pull funding from the project and delay everything for at least a year.

Lock ’em up The NYT reports that one in every 31 adults is in prison, on parole or probation, costing $47 billion in 2008, with corrections spending quadrupling in the past twenty years. The increase in the number of people in the system came as the crime rate declined by 25 percent in the past two decades.

One in 11 African-Americans, or 9.2 percent, are under correctional control, compared with one in 27 Latinos (3.7 percent) and one in 45 whites (2.2 percent). Only one out of 89 women is behind bars or monitored, compared with one out of 18 men.

MN Job Watch The Strib has already cut salaries for most workers, but the pressmen are holding out against deep cuts that the Strib demands. If they don’t agree, reports Sharon Schmickle in MinnPost, the Strib has asked the bankruptcy court to throw out their union contract. The Newspaper Guild agreed to concessions August 1, when its old contract expired. The pressmen’s contract runs through late 2010, and they say the Strib has not furnished enough information to know whether proposed cuts are necessary to save the paper or just to put money in Avista’s pockets. Mailers and drivers, also affiliated with the Teamsters, will stand or fall with the pressmen.

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One response to “News Day: Feds rescue MN budget deficit

  1. Millions are being literally FORCED onto MEDICARE ADVANTAGE !!!!

    Bush said we have choice. He lied, again. Many retirees are literally being forced off Original Medicare onto Medicare Advantage. They do not have a choice. We are the cash cow for greedy private Medicare Advantage insurance companies. We’ve been hijacked off Original Medicare by these private Advantage companies. I suspect many on Medicare Advantage have been forced onto it in order to keep their supplement from their former employer. Former employers are forcing their retirees to take Medicare Advantage or they lose their supplementary insurance from their former employer. How can they do this? How can this be legal? Money would be better spent on Original Medicare, instead of helping private insurance company CEO’s get multimillion dollar bonuses. And the federal government was paying about 12% to 17% more for Medicare Advantage, and the participants get a smaller network, and can’t use many Original Medicare Providers. This happened to me in WV where they forced all state employee/retirees onto Medicare Advantage and also many county and municipal retirees, and others. It has also be tried in other states. If they’re doing it to state retirees they must be doing to this to people who have worked for private businesses. Please reviews my comments below. For more information about this in other states please review the document I’ve to which I have linked at the end. I haven’t really seen anything about this in mainstream media. We all hear about the senior citizen in maybe Alabama bamboozled into signing up for Medicare Advantage with disastrous effects, but you don’t hear about hundreds of thousands moved to Medicare Advantage against their wishes, often dragged kicking and screaming onto Medicare Advantage.

    Yes. Millions are being literally FORCED onto MEDICARE ADVANTAGE !!!!

    Did you know that don’t get to choose whether you want Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage? Your former employer does, and you have to go to Medicare Advantage, which is really private Medicare DISADVANTAGE, to keep you supplement.

    Medicare Advantage, has to give similar services, but not exactly all the same services in the same way as original, nor pay the same rate, nor have all the Medicare providers. They can operate it as a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization), which will probably and most assuredly be a much, much smaller network. They do not have to have all the Original Medicare providers, or even a small part of them. The Advantage Plan need meet only “CSM ratios”, Central Medicare Services Ratios, which means so many providers of a certain types within so many minutes, of so many plan participants. Since each of these private plans is small, with a small number of participants, when compared to Original Medicare, you could end up with a very small network. Say there are 5 nursing homes in you town, and 2 aren’t in you plan, and 2 are full; You end up in the worst nursing home in town. Remember the farther you live away from your former employer, the less of a network you will probably have, since it’s based on the number of participants in a given area. Also you could have problems going to specialists and better hospitals outside your home area. Say you need to go Sloan Kettering or John Hopkins. If they’re not in your plan, even through they take Original Medicare, then you could end up paying maybe 25 % to 40 % more to go there, than those on Original Medicare. So in order to use Original Medicare providers not in you Medicare Advantage network, you will have many additional charges. There will probably be double coinsurance charges, double deductible, double Out Of Pocket Maximum , same as out of network costs in other private insurances. Also the Medicare Advantage Plan can add other out of Network fess. You will also be paying any difference between any lower Medicare Advantage rate and the Original Medicare rate, if out of network. Of greater concern is that no one will be setting usual and customary charges when out of network, which means you could have to pay and additional 20% to 40+ % of the bill. Guess who pays this? You do. All this to use a provider, that everyone else gets to go to if they have original Medicare without all these extra costs, but we have to pay more with Medicare Advantage. It would work the same way with a Medicare Advantage Private Fee for Service Plan (PFFS) if you go to an Original Provider who doesn’t take their rates, then we have to pay the difference, to use an Original Medicare provider under Medicare Advantage, than when using that provider under Original Medicare with a supplement from our former employee. Lastly the Medicare Advantage provider/network can be changed yearly by your former employer, and the Medicare Advantage Plan can make changes in their network and plan details, so you really can’t count on anything. Also Original Medicare allows a second supplement, and Medicare Advantage does not. Original Medicare has a really broad network, all providers in the country who accept Medicare, so it’s nearly impossible to be out of network, and have all those extra costs.

    Medicare Advantage costs us more of our tax dollars, while the Medicare Advantage companies make outrageous profits on our tax dollars just to give out our own tax dollars and supplement premiums, and severely limit our access to many of the Original Medicare providers. We lose choice and it costs us more.

    With regards to forcing retirees off Original Medicare and onto Medicare Advantage, below is some additional information. One trick that they have is using the OPEB (Other post-employment benefits) laws, which are suppose to insure that are promised benefits are properly funded, as an excuse to cu benefits. You may ask how they do this. They get a company to do an audit of the funds and then that same company makes suggestions. Guess what they suggest – cutting benefits, and forcing retirees onto Medicare Advantage. How is that funding the promised benefits? They are doing this to retired state employees in a number of states including WV. Please have someone call me about this. There are many details that you need to know.

    This last note only applies to some people, but constituted another take away of benefits that applies only to couples, where the spouses both worked and carried insurance on themselves and each other, one through one former employer and the other through another employer related plan. With Traditional Original Medicare when they retired, Medicare, of course, is the primary payer and pays first, and then through a Traditional Coordination of benefits, and the private plan through the employer pays second, and the spouse’s plan pays third, if there is anything left to pay. (This reverses for your spouse). This situation continues even, after both are on Medicare. In other words, Traditional Original Medicare allows 2 supplements. However, Medicare Advantage does not allow 2 supplements so you are forced to drop either your spouse’s insurance or yours. So after both have worked a lifetime for their employers, and earned both supplements, Medicare Advantage won’t let you have the 2nd supplement, while original Medicare does.

    So just by forcing retirees on to Medicare Advantage, a former employer’s supplement has not only changed its benefits, but denied participants the right to participant in Traditional Original Medicare, and for those who had a 2nd supplement (for which their spouse worked) forced them to lose it. It messed up 2 to 3 insurances for each participant, with the stroke of a pen. Medicare Advantage rules steal the second supplement from participants, while providing a smaller network. Only the insurance companies win.

    Solution is to not allow this to be done period. Isn’t this a violation of some sort of Medical Civil Rights, to have to lose Original Medicare in order to keep our supplements from our former employers for which we have worked a lifetime.

    On another matter, if you want to give people a choice between government Medicare and Private Medicare, fund both the same amount per person.(Don’t pay any more for Medicare Advantage, than Original Medicare). But each private company, like original Medicare, must accept all applicants, regardless of prior health problems, and they must cover everything exactly the same as original Medicare, pay the same rates, use forms and billing codes that match original Medicare and provide access to all the same providers. They can sell a supplement to fill gaps, but one shouldn’t have to sign up for Medicare Advantage to get the supplement, and buying their supplement can’t be a condition in order to get their Medicare. I doubt, private Medicare Advantage can do this, as they are all into profit. But this would give people choice if private Medicare Advantage can match the efficiency of Original Medicare.

    Personally, I prefer Original government run Medicare. I dislike the misleading adds by the private insurance companies, about people not wanting their Medicare through a government bureaucrat. That’s rather absurd. Are not insurance companies filled with their own bureaucrats? Also they really shouldn’t just get to call themselves Medicare Advantage. Many people on Advantage Plans don’t even realize they are not on government Medicare but with a private company. These companies in their name need to say something like “Nongovernment run Medicare-like Plan”.

    Lastly, it’s my understanding that the people in our supplement plan not only required to switch from Original Medicare to Medicare to keep their employer/.retiree supplement, but also they didn’t even have to sign for this change, the former employer’s supplement just took them out of Original Medicare and put them all on Medicare Advantage.

    What can be done to prevent this???? What can you do to help?

    Please see document at http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/testimony/2008test/013008dftest.pdf

    about how this is being done in other states.

    Below is article about similar material, but this link

    Click to access 013008dftest.pdf

    takes you to a better explanation than the article below, but I can’t paste it in because it is in acrobat. Please see the above link .

    Shorter summary link below.
    http://www.afscme.org/legislation-politics/17557.cfm
    AFSCME Urges Senate to Reign in Privatization of Medicare
    David R. Fillman, AFSCME International Vice-President and Executive Director of Council 13, testified at a Senate Finance Committee oversight hearing on Medicare Advantage private fee-for-service plans. Fillman told the Committee how insurance companies are targeting public retiree health care as a way to boost profits at retirees’ expense. In 2003, the Republican-controlled Congress gave insurance companies significant profit incentives to develop and market Medicare Advantage plans to replace, not supplement, Medicare. The private plans cost taxpayers and the Medicare program more – for every dollar spent for traditional Medicare benefits, it costs $1.13 for Medicare Advantage plans to provide those same benefits. The $54 billion in subsidies to these plans over the next five years advance Medicare’s insolvency and will ultimately force benefit cuts and/or increases in costs for taxpayers and beneficiaries. Even with subsidies, the private plans limit access to care and choice, cost more for sicker beneficiaries, have an additional layer in the claims appeal process, lack quality and accountability, and are allowed to change benefits and beneficiary out-of-pocket costs every year. AFSCME urged the Senate to pass legislation to stop corporate greed from ruining Medicare and our retirees’ health.
    To learn more about how these private plans undermine Medicare, and to read David R. Fillman’s full testimony, please visit the Legislation page on our website. Or go to this link: http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/testimony/2008test/013008dftest.

    Please go to the above link. It really explains it all, but is in Acrobat fomat so I can’t cut and paste it in. It is Mr. Fillman’s Jan 30, 2008 testimony.

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