March 6th, 2014
TMI, I know, but it’s my blog, and I can rant if I want to, rant if I want to, rant if I want toooooo, YOU WOULD RANT TO IF MNsure HAPPENED TO YOUUUUUUUU!
Quick, jump down to the bottom and click on the youtube for the background music for this rant!
SINGLE-PAYER NOW! There is no excuse for this half-way effort to placate insurance companies — cut them out of the mix, eliminate the health insurance industry and get focused on HEALTH CARE. Medicare for all, I cannot wait until 65! Just last month I lost a week of my life because I couldn’t get a simple sinus infection treated and the clinic here is only open once a week. It is absurd that in this “civilized” country (yeah, right) there is not access to basic health care. I want to, I do, support the Affordable Care Act, but it has been a struggle… it has taken up altogether too much of my life over the last few months. It is a struggle because the state has kept the insurance companies in it, when what we need to do is eliminate the middleman.
I hate insurance companies, the only thing they’re good for is suing, and DOH, I recognize that insurance is not health care. I’ve also been without “health insurance” coverage since I worked at HCMC, and I left that last “straight job” more than 30 years ago (how can that be) and except for a couple of short stretches when I cooked at Seward Cafe and drove for D.A.N.C.e and had HEALTH CARE through CUHCC, I’ve been just struggling along, using whatever affordable and accessible options I can find, and thank Dog for the Care Clinic here in Red Wing.
Starting October 3, 2013, I began the trek through MNsure... it has not been easy and it’s not over, but there is concrete progress. First I tried to register, and that didn’t work, and I had to do that by hard copy in the mail, sending copies of ID. October 22, 2013, I got the registration info via email and got into the system, but it wouldn’t take the application. OK, whatever, and I tried again, and finally some time later it went in, but the results were NOT ok, seemed the computer said I should be on the “Unassisted Qualified Health Plan” which was limited to one provider in Goodhue County, and would cost at the least, just over $1,100 PER MONTH. Specifically, $1,106.74 for a $12,700 deductible! And $1,661.77 for a $300 deductible, right in the middle $1,380.93 for a $6,600 deductible. Oh, sure, right… that is NOT going to happen. So I called, and what that means is calling and listening to horrible distorted soprano sax elevator music that had that fingernails on blackboard effect, YEOW, what torture, and each session on hold was at least an hour and sometimes more than two. I finally got through, but they couldn’t find it, and told me to wait, that they’d send me info, nothing happened, I called and again was told I didn’t need to do anything, and to wait, and so every two weeks I’d call again, and then finally, in late December, and was told that I’d be covered as of January 1, 2014, and they’d send me info, and when I got it, printed out 1/1/2014, it said “Does not qualify” over and over and over and I had nothing, no coverage, no qualification for anything. AAAARGH! So I called in again, waited and waited, and was told that yes, I do qualify, and that I was covered as of 1/1 @ 1:39 p.m., yet the printout I had was printed 1/1 @ 12:19 p.m. said “Does not qualify” over and over, “Does not qualify” for anything. WTF? I was told to wait for stuff to come in the mail. I called again and was told something of substance for a change, the person was able to find my application/account, and I again was told to check back in a week, that apparently I had not checked the box to be considered for discounts, tax credits, subsidies, or whatever, cheaper options, but that there was a “glitch” in the system and they couldn’t figure out what was holding it up. OK, fine, I called again in a week, the distorted soprano as dreadful as ever (what is that guy’s name, he’s one of the “Twin Beaks” from a couple of decades ago…) and was first again told the computer was down, to call back, so I did call again the next day and was AGAIN told that there was a “glitch” in the system, they didn’t know what to do about it, and by the way, I couldn’t apply for Alan because we are not married, which is NOT what the application says… and again was told to call back in a week. OK, now I’m getting a little exasperated. So I again called back in a week, listened to distorted elevator crap, and this time, I was told I’d get materials in the mail, and oh, did I get something in the mail, a permission form to sign, “Giving Permission for Someone to Act on My Behalf” that was dated January 22, 2014. WTF??? At the time, I was really sick, sinuses triggered by allergies, unable to breathe, eat, sleep, coughing my lungs out, unable to function (this happens every couple of years, to the point of incapacity) so I figured I’d hack and wheeze while on hold, ears were plugged so the soprano sax wasn’t as bad because I couldn’t hear… took a couple days to get through, and time passed and in the meantime, I went to the Care Clinic to get treated, and spoke with the MNsure assister person there, her computer was down, she’d just gotten off the phone reaming some poor person at MNsure, because she wasn’t able to help anyone when their system wasn’t working. The advice she had was to demand to talk to a supervisor, and let them know that I needed coverage now, and she showed me a hard copy application (I’d been working off the computer) that said, “DO Include: … Your unmarried partner who needs health coverage.” Well, that’s what I’d done, and they said I can’t do that, AAAAAAAAAARGH! So OK, fine, I called back the next day and the next and waited through another hour plus of horrible soprano, and gave up, but a few days later I got through and demanded to talk with a supervisor, yuppers, that I did, and it worked. I was transferred to someone who gave me his name, and said, “DOH, you need to fill out another application, a hard copy, do that and email it to me (and hey, if you’re having trouble too, for a fee, I’ll give you his email!!!!), THREE WEEKS IT TOOK TO BE TOLD I NEEDED TO RESUBMIT AN APPLICATION, give me a break… so immediately, that was DONE, that day, January 28. He got it, forwarded it to where it was supposed to go and said he’d follow up. Two days later, on a SATURDAY, I got a call from DHS, who said they had it, but it had to go back to MNsure because there was some problem. OK, whatever …another sigh… and the initial supervisor called back a couple hours later saying he’d received it and would send it to the right place. … sigh… but I’m feeling some progress. Then it disappeared for three weeks, I was following up, getting increasingly agitated, trying to do this MNsure thing and feeling better trying to get some actual work done too after losing a week of my life because I was sick and no access to simple sinus drugs, and then I was on the transmission road show so it was hard to sit on hold forever. I emailed that supervisor several times, ramping up and finally an IN CAPS “what is going on” missive. He told me I was supposed to call another department to follow up, and gave me a number. I did, same damn Dogawful “music,” and was told that it was not the right department (there were several options to select from and none made any sense), called back and waited and got through to a different option and was told that the new paper application I’d emailed was not in the system, this is over THREE WEEKS later. THREE WEEKS!!! I was transferred, and then the call was disconnected, and she called back!!! Transferred again, and was told that I had to contact the original MNsure supervisor who had received the application… sigh… banging my head against the wall until it’s a bloody pulp. Called the number I was given, demanded and got another supervisor who said I have to go back through MNsure, that yes, this was the correct department, but my application was not entered into the system and that they had to delete the first one at MNsure before the second one could be entered, THREE WEEKS AGO WHEN I EMAILED THE SECOND ONE, THE FIRST ONE NEEDED TO BE DELETED AND WASN’T! I offered to send it to him and he couldn’t use email, I would have driven it there but there’s no address to drive to, but he said to send it again to the previous MNsure supervisor and he’d contact him too, and the deletion was to happen via MNsure and then he’d re-enter the application manually after it was deleted, and that he’d follow up. … utterly deflated… but I emailed it again with instructions, and called to let the other guy know it was there and hoping they’d contact each other. I was having a hard time coping at this point, losing it, because now that I was feeling better, I was expecting something to happen. Surprise, he called back! February 27, 2014. He’d contacted the MNsure guy, the initial computer application was removed, and he’d received my emailed application and had just entered it manually. While on phone, he checked to see if anything had happened, said that it usually takes a while, and WHOA, THERE IT WAS, I’d been approved!!! SNAP, it all came together. I was given a member number and told how to deal with health care providers as “fee for service” until I received my forms in the mail to pick coverage, a primary care provider, apparently there are three options. Billing? Well, they don’t have that system yet… How much, don’t know, but the range, well, it will be affordable, even for me! OK, that billing “glitch” is one screw up I can enjoy! Though a bill will be coming some day and there will be some catching up to do. Then he called Alan to get info from him, and we had to send another application signed by him, OK, whatever, we got that in right away, and then he called back within a couple hours and said Alan would be covered, and he’d also get info in the mail, and sure enough, the following day, he called back with verbal info, numbers, and that Alan would get a packet of info too!
WOW. It’s happening. YESTERDAY, ALAN GOT A PACKET OF INFO ON PROVIDERS AND A CARD WITH NUMBERS AND HE CALLED THE CLINIC HERE AND MADE AN APPOINTMENT TO GET HIS EYES CHECKED. I got an envelope with a card and numbers but no packet of info and no provider selection materials. Soon… I do think it will happen soon…
Here it is… it’s Kenny G… urp… gives me a headache to hear it, even though this is a different version and it’s not distorted, well, maybe it’s the same without the distortion, whatever, it’s still obnoxious. It’s probably a test. Hit play and pretend you’re on hold and listen to the tape loop for an hour and a half, if that doesn’t raise your blood pressure and drive you to phonocide, you don’t need MNsure:
March 5th, 2014
It’s a different kind of “Wild West” in transmission these days (the photo up above could well be the old 230 kV line through PA and New Jersey!). But it gets pretty exciting reading through these applications and seeing what it is that these evil transmission promoters are doing.
I did send out a lot of Information Requests today on the ITC Midwest MN/IA transmission project:
IR 1 to ITC (sent a while ago, responses received)
What I’m most concerned about is that they’re touting all these benefits resulting from this project, but the benefits are associated with not just this project, but the REST of MVP 3, which is this project PLUS the MidAmerican part of MVP 3 in Iowa, PLUS MVP 4 (heading eastward to the Mississippi, and MVP 5, which is heading up to the Madison 345 kV ring, not just the part connecting the MVP 3 and MVP 5, but also Badger Coulee connecting CapX from La Crosse to Madison. IT’S ALL CONNECTED, and the benefits, as modeled by PROMOD, are economic benefits, where a fundamental assumption of the modeling which includes ALL of the MVP projects, and not just MVP 3, MVP 4 and MVP 5, but all 17 of them. 17. OK, find, we’re including all those benefits…
… but what about costs? Wellllllllllllll…
They’re only addressing costs for their teeny-tiny portion of MVP 3, about 1/2 of it in Minnesota and a little bit into Iowa, the red part on this map, and no other costs:
The cost/benefit analysis of this project is a little unbalanced:
And it should come as no surprise that their lead witness, ITC Midwest’s David Grover, was behind the TRANSLink docket (oh my… for that docket, go to the PUC search page, and search for docket 02-2152 (NSP) and/or 02-2119 (IP&L) where both utilities were asking the PUC for permission to transfer transmission assets to TRANSLink, what was to be the first transmission only company in Minnesota. It wasn’t exactly going well, and so they bought out the enviros who had intervened:
Things went south in transmission from there, because even though the TRANSLink Petition was withdrawn, the utilities just did it another way, and got everything they wanted, including legislation authorizing transmission only companies:
… plus perks like construction work in progress (CWIP) rate recovery, broadened definition of “need,” on and on, a transmission company or utility’s dream.
It’s all connected…
March 2nd, 2014
The Minesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is in charge of organizing the three rulemakings mandated by last year’s silica sand bill, and it’s really not that complicated — narrow specific issues. From the Session Law, here’s what they’re supposed to do.
Sec. 105. RULES; SILICA SAND.
(a) The commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency shall adopt rules pertaining to the control of particulate emissions from silica sand projects. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.
(b) The commissioner of natural resources shall adopt rules pertaining to the reclamation of silica sand mines. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.
(c) By January 1, 2014, the Department of Health shall adopt an air quality health-based value for silica sand.
(d) The Environmental Quality Board shall amend its rules for environmental review, adopted under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 116D, for silica sand mining and processing to take into account the increased activity in the state and concerns over the
size of specific operations. The Environmental Quality Board shall consider whether the requirements of Minnesota Statutes, section 116C.991, should remain part of the environmental review requirements for silica sand and whether the requirements should be different for different geographic areas of the state. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.
Do notice that each directive for rulemaking says that “The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.“ That’s code words for “take your time, we’re in no hurry to see anything accomplished. Dawdle, go around in circles, fall down, and get lost along the way…” Folks, that’s just what we’re experiencing in this rulemaking process, molasses on a cold day in hell.
Initially, the MPCA resisted forming an Advisory Committee. Those of us who’ve participated in rulemaking before know that the Advisory Committee is where it happens, where you can have some meaningful input, because in the world of rulemaking, you can’t adopt a rule that is substantially different than that offered for comment by the agency. Therefore has to happen at the draft stage, before the agency releases it. But this MPCA is the same MPCA that worked very hard to avoid having a Citizen’s Advisory Committee, despite it being expressly authorized by statute. Once more, with feeling:
Each agency may also appoint committees to comment, before publication of a notice of intent to adopt or a notice of hearing, on the subject matter of a possible rulemaking under active consideration within the agency.
MPCA staff’s report to the EQB stated inexplicably that they were “confused,” claiming ignorance of how rulemakign works and the impact of comments at this stage:
i. Staff requests Board direction on a question that arose at the August 2nd public meetings.
Members of the public expressed interest in a citizen committee to participate in the rulemaking. It is not clear how a citizen committee would affect the rulemaking process laid out in Minn. Statutes Ch. 14. A multi-step public review and comment process is already required in that statute and we just completed the preliminary step. Rulemaking is essentially creating law: Minnesota Rules have the force and effect of law. Rulemaking is a lengthy process, averaging about two years.
As I said in comments prior to, during, and after the meeting, “It is not clear…” NO NO NO! For someone in Smyser’s position, there’s no excuse for statements like this. The statute is very clear about the agencies’ authority to appoint an Advisory Committees and how an advisory committee it would affect rulemaking – it improves the output by providing input before the draft rule is issued.
Here’s how the Dept. of Health explains the role of Advisory Committee members (link to their entire Rulemaking Manual below, it could be helpful for those stuck in this molasses process, yes this is about Health, but the intrinsic role and function of an Advisory Committee remains the same):
- Advice, not voting. The role of the Advisory Committee is to advise [the agency] on the development of these rules. [The agency] looks to the Advisory Committee for its expertise in these regulations.] The Advisory Committee does not have voting authority on what will go in the rules; the [Commissioner] makes any final decisions. The Advisory Committee does, however, have the power of persuasion and the power that comes from having the information needed to make these rules workable.
- Represent your interest group. Each of you likely represents an interest group in one way or another, be it [for example: small hospitals or large hospitals, urban hospitals or rural hospitals, large health care organizations or small health care organizations, consumers, hospital administrators, hospital accounting departments, hospital professional organizations], and so on. We encourage you to maintain communication with others who share your interests.
- Consensus. Our goal is to achieve consensus on as many issues as possible. Even where there is disagreement on some issues, we hope to make the rules as workable as possible for those who have to comply with them.
- Reasonable comments and suggestions. We will carefully consider all comments and suggestions about the rules. You will have the most success persuading [the agency] with your comments and suggestions if you give reasons along the same lines as how [the agency] has to justify the need for and reasonableness of everything in the rules.
And now, about ten months after the legislation was passed, TEN MONTHS, rulemaking is flailing about, there is no language proposed, and staff has no language. What’s going on? My money is on one path — that they’ll stall and bamboozle with bullshit and take in a few general comments, and then hand the draft rule that they want, without any draft, without any review by the Committee, to the agency to issue a SONAR, Notice and put out for public comment, totally blowing off the Citizens Advisory Committee.
Whatever their intent, the impact is that tempest is a fugiting and there’s nothing to show for the time slowly ticking away.
Why would I say such a thing? First, again, there is no draft language for the Committee to review. None, nada, nothing for any of the three rules they’re charged with drafting. So what exactly are they doing?
Second, they are for sure bamboozling them with bullshit, because look what’s posted as materials, from the Silica Sand Advisory Panel page:
Resources for the panel and the public
- Air monitoring data for industrial sand mine/processing plants in Wisconsin
- Report on Silica Sand (2013)
- [DRAFT] Tools to assist local governments in planning for and regulating silica sand projects
- Charting your course – Basic rulemaking
- MDNR – Silica sand rulemaking: reclamation
- Minn. Rules 4410 – Environmental Review
- Minn. Rules 7009 – Minnesota Ambient Air Quality Standards
- Minnesota Rulemaking Manual and Seminar
- MPCA rulemaking for silica sand projects
- Overview of Minnesota formal rulemaking process
- Air monitoring at Minnesota silica sand facilities
- General geospatial information on natural resources
- Silica sand mining and health
- Federal – Compliance Assurance Monitoring
- Federal – State Implementation Plan for Minnesota (SIP)
- Minnesota – Emission Inventory Requirements
- Minnesota – Performance Testing
Environmental Quality Board
Air: State and federal
- Federal – Ambient Air Quality Standards
- Minnesota – Ambient Air Quality Standards
- Definitions and Abbreviations
- Federal – Compliance Assurance Monitoring
- Federal – State Implementation Plan for Minnesota (SIP)
- Minnesota – Emission Inventory Requirements
- Minnesota – Performance Testing
- Federal – Standards of Performance for Calciners and Dryers in Mineral Industries
- Federal – Standards of Performance for Nonmetallic Mineral Processing Plants
- Minnesota – Adopts and incorporates by reference 40 CFR pt. 60, subp. OOO
- Minnesota – Direct Heating Fossil-Fuel-Burning Equipment
- Minnesota – Emission Standards for Visible Air Contaminants
- Minnesota – Fugitive Emissions
- Minnesota – Indirect Heating Fossil-Fuel-Burning Equipment
- Minnesota – Industrial Process Equipment
- Federal – “Title V / Part 70″ Stationary Source Permit Program
- Federal – New Source Review Program
- Minnesota Air Permit Program
OH. MY. DOG.
Now honestly, can you look at that without getting dizzy? If all that crap doesn’t have Committee members, most or all of whom have no experience in rulemaking, ready to commit hari-kari, or go utterly insane, or both…
MPCA, just get to the rulemaking, give the public the draft language, so we can tell you what we think about it. Show us you’re not acting in bad faith.
Feel free to let them know what you think, what you expect of the rulemaking process, and what you want to see for the draft rules:
And in the alternative, methinks we’d best come up with some specific draft language now, if not sooner. Show ‘em how it’s supposed to be done.
February 27th, 2014
In the opening, Frank says that it will be continued on Tuesday, March 5. He expects there will be a hearing on a bill on March 12, and it will also go to the Public Safety Committee.
February 25th, 2014
The U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered stricter standards for transportation of crude oil, stemming from the Bakken oil train disasters cross country. It’s about time!
From the Order, it seems they’re getting it figured out:
Here in Minnesota, Rep. Frank Hornstein is holding an INFORMATIONAL hearing. He’s the chair of House Transportation Finance, and if you want to testify (this is not about a specific bill, that’s pending), contact the Committee staff and let them know you’re interested in speaking out:
Administrator: Matt Scherer 651-296-3316
Legislative Assistant: Rachel Nelson 651-296-5486
You can also contact committee members and let them know what you think, here’s the Committee Page and emails are listed.
Now, back to the DOT Order — here are some specifics about misclassification leading to improper shipment:
And they specifically address the Lac Megantic explosion and found that the rail cars that had NOT exploded were correctly classified:
There are a lot of interesting links in this report, links to investigations, etc., including this page, about the investigation that really got the DOT rolling:
From this report, note the links to Notices of Proposed Violations, chump change, but nailing down some violations (note, for example the Hess Corporation one, with multiple violations, and there’s a sliding scale taking into account past violations, so will they be on them in the future? We shall see.):
As a result of today’s findings, PHMSA has expanded the scope of Operation Classification to include testing for other factors that affect proper characterization and classification such as Reid Vapor Pressure, corrosivity, hydrogen sulfide content and composition/concentration of the entrained gases in the material. PHMSA will also move forward with the Notices of Proposed Violations totaling $93,000 that were issued to Hess Corporation, Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation, and Marathon Oil Company, and will continue working with the rail and oil industry based on Secretary Foxx’s Call to Action, including sharing of additional data, and recommendations for future safety initiatives.