BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Insurance exchange

While peaceful demonstrators stood on the steps of our state capitol on Tuesday in solidarity over the sanctity of life a different story was happening under their noses as law makers met to discuss the Minnesota Insurance Exchange (part of Obamacare).

Attending that meeting I noted a certain frenzy to pass the “data” section out of committee by the Democrat members... without any legal guidelines for the appeals process for eligibility and determination or any money available to maintain it. The money for the exchange would come from withholding up to 3.5 percent of our insurance premiums!

And as for appeals — we were told to just trust the government.

There was confusion as to what private information would be required in order to use the exchange. However, that confusion doesn’t really matter because in May of 2012 section HHS 153.340 dealing with Obamacare went into effect. Health and Human Services (HHS) says medical record databases need to be developed to implement what healthcare policy experts call “risk adjustment methodologies,” under the guise that health risk factors be fairly distributed across the insurance pool.

The state, or HHS will be collecting our medical records. Where did doctor-patient confidentiality go? Where did HIPAA go? This is intrusive! The type of information to be collected and stored away includes individual diagnoses, the type of care provided, healthcare providers seen, the amount paid, out-of-pocket liabilities, demographic data and encrypted social security numbers.

HHS claims our records will be de-identified and researchers will be allowed access. What is the intent of the research?

Allowing such a database to be created could be a back door to greater government control.

Our state leaders need to take a close look at what is good for Minnesotans. The folks in St. Paul need to stop the Minnesota Insurance Exchange in its tracks. Collection of our medical records has nothing to do with insuring the uninsured.

Jan Skjolsvik

Fifty Lakes

State pension reforms

An Associated Press article that appeared in the Dispatch stated that Minnesota’s public pension plans are “worse off than they were” before sustainability legislation was enacted in 2010. This claim is incorrect.

The numbers used in the article to back up this claim average gain and loss experiences of the funds over five years. Since only two years have passed since the 2010 pension reforms, it is highly misleading to cite these numbers and build a case that the funds are worse off.

In fact, on a market — or real — value basis, the Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS) General Plan has improved from 65.6 percent funded in 2009 to 82 percent funded in 2012, thanks in large part to the 2010 reforms. The Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) General Plan went from 53.8 percent

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funded in 2009 to 73 percent funded in 2012. And the Teachers Retirement Association (TRA) went from 59.8 percent funded in 2009 to 72.5 percent funded in 2012. In total, the 2010 reforms reduced benefit liabilities for the pension funds by $5.9 billion.

The article unfairly cherry-picked a particularly bad investment return year to create the wrong impression about the period following the 2010 reforms. The article stated that the State Board of Investment “saw only a 1.5 percent rate of return” in 2011. True enough. But SBI also returned 14.4 percent in 2010 and 13.7 percent in 2012, facts that the article omitted. Since 1980, the SBI has returned an average of 9.9 percent per year, placing it in the top third among institutional investors nationwide.

The boards of directors, executives and stakeholders of the three statewide retirement systems continually monitor the funds’ health and have a history of recommending proactive reforms that the state legislature has adopted in a bipartisan manner to ensure financial stability. Skewed stories such as these do a disservice to our 729,000 active and retired members as well as taxpayers.

Laurie Fiori Hacking, executive director, TRA

Dave Bergstrom, executive director, MSRS

Mary Most Vanek, executive director, PERA