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It isn’t a secret that Democrats aren’t fans of government reform. They’ve been the defenders of the status quo for years. Hillary Clinton was their presidential nominee. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are the faces of Senate and House Democrats. This trio of fossils aren’t mistaken for having fresh ideas. If they don’t want to be politically irrelevant, they need new management and fresh, appealing ideas.

In Minnesota, the DFL is slightly ahead of the game compared with the DNC. Still, they’re too reliant on cronyism. That’s what this article highlights.

Cronyism is the name of the game that Ted Mondale and Michelle Kelm-Helgen played with U.S. Bank Stadium suites. According to multiple reports, “Kelm-Helgen and Mondale, two government employees, control access to two lower-level luxury ‘Norseman Suites’ for all events at the stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The MSFA controls 36 tickets per game and the agency also got a nearly identical number of free parking spaces in the surface lot used by Vikings players.” That’s just the tip of the U.S. Bank Stadium iceberg. There’s more:

Kelm-Helgen and Mondale said they and the four MSFA commissioners use the suites to host potential clients who are looking to rent all or portions of the stadium, which opened in August. But they also acknowledge they regularly invite friends and family to the suites.

The two say they can’t reveal the identities of their guests because that would hinder their marketing efforts. However, they did release the identities of 12 current and former public officials who reimbursed the authority $200 for their tickets to the suite.

Here’s the description of what’s included in the Norseman Suites:

Norseman Lounge Suites
Highly exclusive 10 person Suites located between the 20 yard line and the end line just 36 rows from the field. Each Suite comes with access to the exclusive Lounge directly behind the Suite featuring a private bar and all-inclusive upscale food offerings, VIP parking, other event access, away game trips and much more. (NEWLY DESIGNED, ONLY 15 BUILT)

ABOUT THE NORSEMAN LOUNGE SUITES        
• 36 Rows from the Field
• Side End zone – 20 yard line
• 6 fixed and 4 drink rail chairs with view to the field
• All-inclusive, unlimited beer, wine, high end food and non-alcoholic beverages
• Private/ Elite Lounge access
• 1 Annual Suite Holder Event on the field
• Super Bowl Access
• Away game road trips
• Access to other events
EXCLUSIVE SUITE BENEFITS       
• VIP Parking Passes in a ramp in close proximity to the Stadium
• All-inclusive food and beverage package with a full-service concierge staff
• Participation in Team-arranged away road trips at points during the term of your Suite Agreement (limited to two (2) persons)
• The opportunity to purchase a to-be-determined number of Super Bowl tickets (not Suite tickets) in any year the Vikings participate in the Super Bowl or the Super Bowl is held at the new Stadium

Frankly, it’s disgusting that Kelm-Helgen and Mondale insist that they “can’t reveal the identities of their guests because that would hinder their marketing efforts.” That’s spin for saying ‘giving out that list would be politically embarrassing.’

I’d say that some DFL (sense of) entitlement reform is required.

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In this interview, incoming Chair of the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, nailed it when she was asked by the AP reporter if there will be a special session. Sen. Benson replied “I am less hopeful today than I was even a couple of days ago. We’re just not hearing anything from the governor that indicates he’s interested in the bigger picture in health care. There needs to be some understanding from the governor’s office that he wants to change things going forward. If we get that, I think we go a long way to opening the door to a special session.”

I wrote this post to highlight Gov. Dayton’s unseriousness in fixing Minnesota’s health care system. It wasn’t that long ago that Minnesota had the best health care and health insurance systems in the United States. That isn’t true anymore. Rather than fixing the problems are having, Gov. Dayton has chosen to criticize Republicans, saying “We’re running out of time. Quit dilly-dallying and get to work, and decide whether you are going to support my proposal, which is ready to go, and is viable, or you don’t want to do it.”

First, Republicans have agreed that there needs to be a rebate system for this year to help people who don’t qualify for the federal subsidies. That’s the entirety of Gov. Dayton’s plan. Gov. Dayton’s plan doesn’t do anything to fix anything for the long-term. If that isn’t fixed, Minnesotans will be faced with a bigger crisis this time next year. This isn’t a matter of Republicans “dilly-dallying around.” It’s a matter of whether Gov. Dayton will stop pretending the ACA is a solid health care system. It isn’t.

Q: How much can the Legislature really do before the changes from the federal level become clear?
A: We have to put some solid things in place. I think we have to look at a reinsurance program (to help insurers pay for high-cost patients). How do we improve choice of competitiveness? I don’t know if we’ve already gone too far. Can the individual market recover?

Thanks to Minnesota’s reinsurance program, Minnesotans with pre-existing conditions could get health insurance at a reasonable price. It isn’t coincidental that health insurance premiums have skyrocketed since it was eliminated.

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Gov. Dayton’s last day in office can’t come soon enough. Saying that our governor is a spoiled rich brat with a short fuse is understatement. This time, Gov. Dayton says that he’s running out of patience with the GOP over MNsure. This article quotes Gov. Dayton as saying “I’m running out of patience” after accusing “Republicans of dragging their feet about fixing” MNsure.

After watching Gov. Dayton the past 6 years, I’m not convinced that Gov. Dayton ever had patience. Later in the article, Gov. Dayton is quoted as saying “We’re running out of time. Quit dilly-dallying and get to work, and decide whether you are going to support my proposal, which is ready to go, and is viable, or you don’t want to do it.”

Gov. Dayton, stop pretending like you have a plan to fix all of Minnesota’s health care problems. You’ve got a plan to send out rebate checks to people who make too much money to qualify for federal subsidies.

Gov. Dayton’s ‘plan’ doesn’t do a thing to increase access to health care. It certainly doesn’t make health care affordable for anything more than a year. People living in rural Minnesota don’t have a lengthy list of insurers to pick from, either. Here’s the video of Gov. Dayton coming unhinged:

I published this post to highlight Greg Davids’ plan to fix the multiple problems with Minnesota’s health care system. At the time that I published that post, I made these points:

One part of Chairman Davids’ proposal deals with out-of-network expenses:

Create a tax credit to reduce out of-network-costs that arise from seeking care from a long-time primary care physician. Minnesotans were promised that if they liked their doctor they could keep their doctor, but too many are losing their long-time doctors due to narrow networks. Continuity of care needs to be addressed to ensure that we do not lose sight of the importance of actual health care when we look at the problems with health insurance coverage.

Another part of Chairman Davids’ plan deals with expanding choices:

Allow Minnesotans to purchase non-qualified health plans (QHPs), and seek a federal waiver to waive tax penalties for those who purchase a non-QHP insurance plan. If the federal government will not approve the waiver, Minnesota should provide a rebate to cover the cost of the non-QHP penalty.

Since the time I published that post, it’s likely that the Trump administration will grant states waivers that would permit them to ignore parts of the ACA.

Where’s Gov. Dayton’s comprehensive plan to fix the things that he and the DFL broke when they created MNsure? Gov. Dayton and the DFL certainly sang MNsure’s praises at their signing ceremony. Sen. Lourey said “The people won on this bill.” Rep. Joe Atkins said “This truly is a landmark day in Minnesota. This is the most significant reform of health insurance we’ve seen in Minnesota in 50 years.”

The system that the DFL put in place certainly wasn’t a reform and the people lost when MNsure was implemented. If Gov. Dayton and the DFL want to lose big in 2018, all they have to do is keep doing what they’re doing. Gov. Dayton and the DFL are heading for a trainwreck of historic proportions if they don’t get serious about working with Republicans in fixing the DFL’s crisis.

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It isn’t a secret that Gov. Dayton will resist attempts to improve Minnesota’s health care system. This article includes a quote from Gov. Dayton that indicates he’s still in denial about Obamacare.

First, it’s worth noting that Gov. Dayton said “The average wait time has been measured in seconds. If they’re going to be attacking MNsure and wanting to abolish it, they should at least do it on the basis of the current situation, not [what happened] three years ago.” Though I’m not the GOP spokesman, I think it’s safe to say that Republicans use the term MNsure to talk about Minnesota’s health care system.

Right now, Minnesota’s health insurance system isn’t affordable. Lot’s of people have health insurance but can’t afford health care because of Minnesota’s high health care premiums and high deductibles. One of the things that was talked about at this press availability was the need to return Minnesota to having a high-risk pool:

Leader-Elect Gazelka highlighted MCHA multiple times during his press availability. Specifically, WCCO’s Pat Kessler asked about whether Republicans could maintain Minnesota’s 96% insured rate. The clear inference was that the Republican plan would kick people off of insurance. Had Kessler done his homework, he’d know that the Republicans’ plan was likely to maintain that 96% insured rate. In 2007, Minnesota’s insured rate was 92.8%. Of those that weren’t insured, half were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health care. That means that the effective insured rate pre-ACA was 96.5%.

Most importantly, Minnesotans’ health insurance was affordable prior to the Anything But Affordable Care Act. Why would Gov. Dayton and the DFL resist returning to a health insurance system that worked and was affordable? I predict that that’s what Gov. Dayton and the DFL will do. With Dayton’s propensity to shut the government down, I think it’s likely that Gov. Dayton will attempt to shut state government down for the third time in his time in office.

Gov. Dayton’s legacy will be ruined if MNsure is discredited. Gov. Dayton and the DFL were bigtime cheerleaders for the ACA and MNsure. It’s possible that the ACA will get gutted before Trump is sworn in. The individual and employer mandates are guaranteed to be repealed. Shouldn’t Gov. Dayton say yes to keeping the exchange intact but then accepted the major overhaul of Minnesota’s health care system?

Shouldn’t Minnesotans have the option of HSAs and catastrophic policies if that’s the best fit for their situation? Why should government tell families what their policies have to include? Democrats say that “a woman’s right to choose” must always be between her, her doctor and her god because it’s a highly personal decision. Shouldn’t providing health care for their family be a highly personal decision, too?

Families, not bureaucrats, know what’s best for their family. That’s why families, consulting with their doctors, should be given their choice. Gov. Dayton and the DFL insist that they know best. Here’s a hint for Gov. Dayton and the DFL: Any politician that doesn’t remember that the tax bill he negotiated has a sales on farm equipment repairs shouldn’t be trusted with making health insurance decisions for families.

Finally, how can Gov. Dayton and the DFL insist on maintaining a system that’s driving health insurance companies out of the individual market? Apparently, they’re that willing to hurt families rather than admit that they made a colossal mistake.

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Today marks LFR’s 12th blogiversary. When I started blogging, social media didn’t really exist to any large extent. Twitter wars hadn’t started. We certainly didn’t have Twitchy chronicling the provocative things people said on Twitter. In fact, Twitter didn’t take off until Nancy Pelosi shut down the House of Representatives rather than vote on the Republicans’ all-of-the-above energy program. In fact, that’s why I wrote this post. John Culberson, a Republican member of the House, used Twitter to get the word out about the Republicans’ protest of Pelosi’s strong-arm tactics. When Pelosi turned off the microphones, Rep. Culberson started texting people to tell them of Ms. Pelosi’s strong-arm tactics. Then he took to Twitter.

I started blogging because the so-called MSM wasn’t interested in supplying important information to the people. I hoped that bloggers would create the competition that would force the MSM to start doing their job. Obviously, that hasn’t happened. If anything, it’s gotten worse. The MSM quickly transformed into the Agenda Media, a phrase I coined years before Rush coined the phrase ‘Drive-By Media’. I still think my phrase is a better fit.

LFR’s pledge to you is that I’ll continue to hold people’s feet to the fire. I’ll continue writing about institutional corruption, whether it’s found at MnSCU headquarters or whether it’s when the Dayton administration rigs union organizing elections.

I’m proud that I’ve helped win several elections, including two State Senate races and one congressional race this year. I’ll pledge to keep pressure on the DFL until they fix Minnesota’s health care crisis, too. They broke it. Unfortunately, they’ve refused to fix it. The good news is that Republicans are prepared to fix it. The incoming Trump administration will do its part. Greg Davids, Matt Dean and others will fix what’s broken with Minnesota’s problems.

During the 2017 session, I hope to expand LFR coverage of the legislative session by taking occasional trips to the Capitol, especially around the deadlines. With Gov. Dayton expecting to dig in his heels, especially on health care, this session will be one of the most eventful sessions in history.

Those trips will cost money so consider this my appeal for sponsorships. If you’re interested in sponsoring these trips, contact me by leaving a comment. I will contact you via email. Consider this the official start of my quarterly bleg.

Some things have changed since I started blogging. Over the next year, LFR will be changing, too. Stay tuned for those developments. What hasn’t changed is the need to hold politicians’ feet to the fire. I’m hoping to do that for another dozen years or more.

Finally, thank you to all of the loyal readers of LFR. I’m proud of the fact that LFR has become one of the legislators’ most read news sources.

Briana Bierschbach’s article exposes the DFL’s electoral dilemma going forward. She quotes Ken Martin, the DFL State Party Chairman, as saying “Clearly there were a lot of white, non-college-educated, working-class voters who were frustrated and anxious about their future and they wanted change. We have to figure out how to speak to white, working-class voters in a better way.”

Actually, the DFL’s problem isn’t messaging. The DFL’s problems revolve around geography and policies. Specifically, the DFL is dominated by the Twin Cities environmental activists that can’t relate to outstate Minnesota. What’s worse for the DFL is that these environmental activists don’t want to relate to blue collar workers.

This isn’t just a problem for the DFL. The Democratic Party nationally got routed because they ignored these blue collar workers. Democrats nationally and the DFL locally both have sided with environmental activists on issue after issue. Whether it’s on the Keystone XL Pipeline or the Dakota Access Pipeline nationally or the Sandpiper Pipeline here in Minnesota, the environmental activists always win the fight with the Democrats.

If that pattern doesn’t change, the DFL will continue to get hurt electorally. They won’t admit this in public but the truth is that Donald Trump has changed the political landscape. I’m not calling this a permanent realignment. It’s a significant shift, though, because there’s now a new option available to blue collar Democrats.

This past year, Rep. Thissen told us that the DFL would make up ground in outstate Minnesota with broadband and transit. I wrote that those things wouldn’t help them in outstate Minnesota because they weren’t important to outstate voters. The DFL didn’t identify health care accessibility or health insurance premiums as battleground issues.

Think of it this way: outstate voters that normally vote DFL are drifting away from the DFL because of health care and environmental issues. Suburban voters are drifting, too, because health care prices are expensive. The DFL’s messaging won’t change those realities.

When open enrollment first came on the horizon, the DFL instantly said that MNsure “only” directly affected 250,000 people. I’ve frequently challenged that assertion because it doesn’t paint the entire picture. While it’s technically true, it’s only true due to the qualifier “directly.”

The secret to the spin is that qualifier. The PR people don’t want others to know that insurance companies losing money in the individual market bleeds into other markets. For instance, Blue Cross lost $500,000,000 on the individual market last year. (That’s why they’ve announced that they won’t participate in the individual market anymore.)

It isn’t a stretch to think that Blue Cross’s $500,000,000 loss last year caused them to cut expenses elsewhere. Unfortunately, cutting expenses carries a human price with it. One of the people affected by Blue Cross’s decision is Sarah Gill, a Kindergarten teacher in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District. Ms. Gill has 3 children, ages 6,5 and 2. Her youngest child, Aiden, “was diagnosed with a rare birth defect called congenital diaphragmatic hernia at 22 weeks gestation and was given a 50 percent survival rate. I chose Sartell Pediatrics in 2013 after learning about Aiden’s diagnosis and I needed a pediatrician who was willing to answer all my questions, close to my home and work, and easily available for appointments. I want my children to continue to receive their medical care at Sartell Pediatrics because of the exceptional care of the doctors and staff there. The doctors and staff know my family and my children’s medical history, especially Aiden’s. Aiden’s diagnosis and medical care is rare and unique and many doctors have not treated patients with this condition. The doctors and staff at Sartell Pediatrics have gone above and beyond for my family.”

Sartell Pediatrics is part of a network called Integrity Health Network. This afternoon, I spoke with Jill Smith, the administrator at Sartell Pediatrics. She told me that IHN negotiates contracts with the insurance companies, which allows them to focus on improving health care practices. She told me “We’re proud to be part of Integrity Health Network and we would like to continue to have them negotiate our contracts with Blue Cross and other insurance providers. Sartell Pediatrics, among the other Integrity Health Network clinics, are some of the most cost-effective providers in the region. Data released by Minnesota Community Measurement in early October highlights Sartell Pediatrics with the 5th lowest total cost of pediatric care in the state. These are good health care providers and we are concerned about the negative impact on access and costs due to Blue Cross’s decision.”

I’ve confirmed that other provider networks are getting dropped by Blue Cross and that they’re being told it’s for financial reasons. Since Blue Cross isn’t in the individual market anymore, their decisions are affecting people not in the individual market. It isn’t a stretch to think that MNsure is just the tip of the iceberg that’s negatively affecting health care in Minnesota. The information I’ve gathered indicates that the money being lost by health insurance companies in the individual market, aka MNsure, is narrowing the size of networks while driving up premiums.

If Gov. Dayton and the DFL don’t step up and fix all of the problems involved in Minnesota’s health care crisis, voters should vote the DFL out of office in 2018. This crisis isn’t just about too-high premium prices. This crisis is about deductibles being totally unaffordable, accessibility being difficult and network and options being too limited.

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I wrote this post to highlight Gov. Dayton’s fearmongering on the MNsure/ACA reform. This weekend, he said “It’s a great political slogan. I think it had a major impact on some of the legislative races. But it’s another thing to deal with the reality of what you put in its place. They better look before they push us over the cliff.”

In the post, I replied “Gov. Dayton, quit with the fearmongering. Nobody’s talking about anything radical. In fact, Matt Dean, the chair of the House HHS Finance Committee and a member of the House HHS Reform Committee, ‘said Minnesota should replace the Affordable Care Act with its old approach, a high-risk pool to cover ill and expensive consumers who previously couldn’t get health insurance.'”

The truth is that the only thing that Gov. Dayton and the DFL have proposed thus far to ‘fix’ MNsure is a one-time bailout of people making too much to qualify for federal subsidies. Both sides agree that that’s necessary in the short-term. That isn’t controversial but it isn’t the complete fix for Minnesota’s health insurance crisis, either.

Medica has reached its self-imposed limits of policies sold through the individual markets. One-time rebates won’t fix that. This article highlights the problem facing hundreds of Minnesota families:

Medica has hit its enrollment cap for those buying through the MNsure state-run exchange, meaning only one option for people in dozens of Greater Minnesota counties who want to switch to a new health plan.

In those counties, the only option left is Blue Plus, which is the most expensive plan offered. Gov. Dayton and the DFL haven’t proposed a single solution to these families’ situation. By definition, isn’t not proposing a plan that fixes these families’ situation is the equivalent of pushing these families off a financial cliff?

It’s worth noting that there’s no need to wait. The caps were agreed to by the Dayton administration. That means this is a Minnesota-only problem. It requires a fix from Minnesota’s politicians.

It’s clear that Republicans are leading on this issue. Greg Davids, the chair of the House Taxes Committee, put forward the outline for MNsure/ACA reform. Chairman Davids’ proposal includes fixing things like cost, accessibility, families keeping their doctors and providing families more options in terms of more insurers in all parts of the state.

Gov. Dayton and the DFL are one-trick ponies. They haven’t proposed fixing anything. They’ve proposed maintaining the status quo. That isn’t leadership. That’s political cowardice, coupled with the DFL’s usual dose of demagoguery.

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This article highlights the difficult position Gov. Dayton and the DFL painted themselves into when they created MNsure while enthusiastically praising the ACA. Now that health insurance premiums sold on the individual market have increased by up to 67% this year after increasing by up to 54% last year, it isn’t difficult convincing Minnesota farmers that they need something different. They’re already demanding change.

Gov. Dayton is attempting to sound tough when he said “It’s a great political slogan. I think it had a major impact on some of the legislative races. But it’s another thing to deal with the reality of what you put in its place. They better look before they push us over the cliff.”

Gov. Dayton, quit with the fearmongering. Nobody’s talking about anything radical. In fact, Matt Dean, the chair of the House HHS Finance Committee and a member of the House HHS Reform Committee, “said Minnesota should replace the Affordable Care Act with its old approach, a high-risk pool to cover ill and expensive consumers who previously couldn’t get health insurance.” Before the ACA, Minnesota’s uninsured rate was 7.2% in 2007. Of those that didn’t have insurance, 50% of them were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, meaning Minnesota’s effective uninsured rate was a spectacular 96.4%. I can’t wait to hear Gov. Dayton explain how maintaining a 96.4% insured rate is the equivalent of pushing people “over the cliff.” Then again, the Democrats’ Agenda Project shadow group, did put this disgustingly dishonest ad together:

With Democrats, the only thing we shouldn’t expect is them doing the right thing the first time.

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This Our View editorial in the Mankato Free Press gets it wrong. That isn’t surprising. It’s predictable. Let’s look at what the MFP got wrong.

MFP’s headline is simple: “Our View: Legislature: Make divided government work.” Let’s be clear about something. Republicans gained seats in the House during a presidential election. While they were expected to hold onto their majority in the House, it was expected that they’d have fewer members than they started 2015 with. Republicans gained a net of 6 seats in the Senate, defeating 4 incumbents, flipping 3 open seats previously held by the DFL, then losing Senate Minority Leader Hann’s district in Eden Prairie.

The thing that brought the GOP their majorities is known to everyone paying attention to this election. In district after district, voters frequently rejected the ACA, often by wide margins. What’s astonishing is that 52 of the 76 GOP victories in the House races were won with more than 58% of the vote, something that’s unprecedented in MNGOP history. In race after race, MNGOP candidates said that fixing MNsure and the ACA were the most important, most frequently, issues mentioned by voters.

Republicans have offered plans to fix the most important parts of the ACA. The DFL has offered a one-time fix for skyrocketing health insurance premiums. Factor in that the DFL created MNsure without a single Republican vote. That brings us to this indisputable truth: the DFL needs to come in the Republicans’ direction. In the vast majority of races, voters rejected the DFL’s ideas on health care.

These paragraphs are especially disgusting:

Recent news stories reported that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt “struck combative tones” for the upcoming legislative session with the Republicans in control of the Legislature. We hope both leaders get rid of those combative tones sooner than later.

The people of Minnesota find such tones tiresome. Last year’s legislative session left too much important work undone. Tax breaks for famers and small business, major bonding projects and road funding were left at the table.

There was a time when politicians worked to do what’s best for Minnesotans. That’s disappeared with Dayton. He’s done what his special interest puppeteers told him to do. It’s his obligation to move in Speaker Daudt’s direction because voters rejected the DFL’s ideas on health care. Voters rejected the DFL’s tax policies, too. Again, it’s Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s obligation to move in the Republicans’ direction on fixing MNsure and taxes.

If Gov. Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith and the DFL insist on not listening to the message voters sent on Election Day again, they’ll soon be removed from controlling any of Minnesota’s levers of power. That’s because they’ll soon be dealing with a Republican governor and GOP majorities in the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate. It’s that simple.

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