You’ve heard a lot about Medicare Advantage packages, and now Minnesota’s Congressional Democrats are endorsing those corporate offerings. Naturally, any marketing put forward by the health care insurance industry is going to sound like an advantage, but there are significant factors about those packages which are not being disclosed.
Why is AHIP (America's Health Insurance Plans) thanking 368 members of congress for supporting Medicare Advantage? All ten of Minnesota’s federal officials, both Senators and Congresspersons, signed a letter of support for AHIP supporting Medicare Advantage. This includes Angie Craig, Ilhan Omar, and Dean Philips, all of whom campaigned for progressive health care reform in 2018.
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) admits that Medicare Advantage and Medicare’s Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs, which are owned and operated by the insurance corporations) programs are losing money—the funds America’s workers must pay into with each paycheck. MedPAC claims there’s no way to determine why those industry-managed programs are losing our tax money. But I know there is a way, and so do you! Government transparency and accountability! Our government keeps avoiding standards of transparency and accountability—it refuses to operate with normal integrity.
As a citizen, you are entitled to know why Medicare is losing money to Medicare Advantage and ACOs. That’s merely fair. It’s a normal expectation. But corporations are not playing fair; our government does not compel them to follow the law.
Research from the Center for Public Integrity finds that Medicare Advantage plans are clearly gaming the system. This happened to the tune of some $70 billion between 2008-2013 because the insurance industry inflated risk scores. Medicare pays the corporation which offers a Medicare Advantage plan a fixed amount for each individual enrolled. It pays through a tool called a “risk score.” The tool is supposed to pay Medicare Advantage plans higher rates for sicker patients and less for those in good health.
Senator Grassley of Iowa, raised concerns about the Medicare Advantage plans in a letter to The Honorable Seema Verma, Administrator for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Senator Grassley reported on a previous response from CMS. He indicated the “Obama Administration failed to mention to the Committee that its initial recovery assessment was $128 million rather than the $3.4 million actually recovered by the government from the five plans. The difference in the assessment and the actual recovery is striking and demands an explanation. Further, in light of the $70 billion in risk score overpayments between 2008-2013 reported by the Center for Public Integrity, CMS’s 2007 overpayment estimate of $128 million appears low and could very well be just the tip of the iceberg.”
The audits disclosing the $128 million in federal overpayments to health plans were part of a cache of confidential CMS documents released through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Center for Public Integrity.
A lack of robust audits and the lack of recovery of overpayments appears to be a chronic problem on the part of our government. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the watchdog arm of Congress, found that CMS’s methodology for auditing insurance industry contracts with the federal government fails to select those which have the greatest potential for recovery of improper payments. GAO also found that CMS has spent about $117 million on Medicare Advantage audits, but recouped just under $14 million in total.
Quite clearly, CMS is not willing to take on the big offenders. By a similar token, our Congress avoids conflicts with those offenders who pad their campaign coffers. Moreover, 368 Congresspersons signed a letter praising the offenders for their offerings. Don’t expect any meaningful health care reform from Minnesota’s bipartisan delegation any time soon!
I am running for U.S. Senate against Amy Klobuchar. I am positioned against her according to the three fastest rising costs in America today…war, health care, and education. We can reduce spending on endless wars, nearly 2/3 of our budget, and invest in health care reform and education… for the future strength of our economy.
Like a majority of voters, I believe that we need a strong third party movement to address the polarization and gridlock in our two party system.
It’s less about Paula and more about our election process and the enormous influence of money in politics.
It’s very difficult for 3rd parties to engage the public and challenge the messaging of marketing campaigns from the major parties.
Paula isn't even listed in the Star Tribune voter guide. Minnesota Public Radio would not include Paula in their state fair debate between Amy Klobuchar and Jim Neuberger.
Paula was at the state fair all 12 days talking to voters and never once heard from the media.
MinnPost published an interview with Angie Craig where she states that Paula was the reason she lost in 2016…
We refute that claim. We’ve looked at the data too.
We know that Paula's vote comes from disenfranchised voters from both sides of the isle. We shared that response with MinnPost
Minnpost refused to print our response. They continue to support the spoiler narrative, ignoring the fact that Independent voters have no voice in the political discussion.
I’d like to say to anyone who has never voted or perhaps given up on voting.
This campaign is a unique opportunity
I’m asking people to come out an voted on November 6th
I want people to know that 5% is a victory, a real path to real reform.
And that’s what we need!
It is said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I remember!
In the 1960s the Nashua River was starved of oxygen, biologically dead, and one of the ten most polluted rivers in the United States. The sludge-filled river, which flows through New Hampshire and Massachusetts, was a different color every day, depending on what was discharged that day. (Moyer 2014). I lived in Nashua in 1968 and I remember the condition of this river.
I remember Love Canal, one of the most infamous toxic waste sites, still seeping toxins 35 years later. (Associated Press 2013). I remember when the EPA Superfund was established in 1980. There are currently 1,317 Superfund sites across the U.S. including multiple sites in Minnesota(Johnson 2017) There are 21 sites that Environmental Protection Agency regulators have targeted “for immediate and intense attention.” including an abandoned copper mine in Nevada (Brady 2017)
This long-term impact results from a lack of regulation and a willingness to borrow from the future to satisfy short-term productivity. The raucous calls for deregulation express a desire to return to this model of environmental exploitation and borrow from the future of our children and our children’s children. Drilling leases, pipelines, burning coal, even killing wolves are examples of this desire to exploit the environment for personal gain and short-term goals. In Minnesota, sulfide mining is one of those critical environmental concerns.
The Twin Metals proposal, recently revived by Washington, is projecting 5.8 billion tons of copper over a thirty-year time frame, equal to 190 million tons annually. (Johnson 2017). The PolyMet proposal originally projected 69.4 million tons per annum (PolyMet Mining) but they have also suggested that would rise to 118 million tons per annum over a twenty-year time frame. (Marcotty 2018). According to the International Copper Study Group, the Global production of copper in 2017 was 19.4 million tons. ( International Copper Study Group, 2017). The two copper mining projects combined are projecting a 15 fold increase in copper production. That would certainly depress copper prices substantially in the near term until the demand for copper catches up with production. That should be a concern for investors but if the companies go bankrupt, it’s a major concern for taxpayers as well. The numbers don’t add up.
The proposal is offering rapid economic expansion over a very brief period of twenty or thirty years, while likely suppressing the ongoing economic development in other sectors of the economy. The economic consequences would be similar to what happened when the iron ore market collapsed. That alone would make it untenable as a long-term regional development plan.
The more salient issue, however, continues to be the environmental impact. Certainly, no one is suggesting draining sulfuric acid directly into the watershed. According to the reports, modern sulfide mining is 100% safe but translating engineering designs into actual production is rarely 100%. Unanticipated events and failures do occur. The Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia illustrates the potential and the disastrous consequences. Neither company, Twin Metals nor PolMet, has any safety track record for sulfide mining. (Kohls 2018)
What’s required, is a comprehensive policy based on long-term strategies. The economy of Minnesota’s Arrowhead region has evolved and diversified since iron ore mining diminished in the 1980’s. Any potential for short-term economic gains threatens more diversified and sustainable economic developments. This area is rich in resources for the development of renewable and sustainable initiatives in energy and agriculture. Combined with the potential for long-term environmental impact and the risk of economic failure, there is no justification to proceed with any existing sulfide mining proposal. I am categorically opposed to the PolyMet land swap proposal and sulfide mining in Minnesota.
Associated Press, November 2, 2013 | 11:03pm “Love Canal’ still oozing poison 35 years later” New York Post, Metro. Retrieved August 30, 2018, from https://nypost.com/2013/11/02/love-canal-still-oozing-poison-35-years-later/.
Brady Dennis, December 8, 2017 “EPA lists 21 toxic Superfund sites that need ‘immediate and intense’ cleanup” Washington Post, Energy and Environment. Retrieved August 30, 2018, from https://nypost.com/2013/11/02/love-canal-still-oozing-poison-35-years-later/.
International Copper Study Group, 2017 Retrieved August 30, 2018, from http://www.icsg.org/index.php/component/jdownloads/finish/165/871.
Johnson, David Updated: March 22, 2017 3:33 PM ET “Do You Live Near Toxic Waste? See 1,317 of the Most Polluted Spots in the U.S.” Time, Health. Retrieved August 30, 2018, from http://time.com/4695109/superfund-sites-toxic-waste-locations/.
Kohls, Dr. Gary G. Global Research, February 22, 2018, “British Columbia’s Mount Polley Copper Mining Disaster of 2014” Retrieved August 30, 2018, from https://www.globalresearch.ca/british-columbias-mount-polley-copper-mining-disaster-of-2014/5629028
Marcotty, Josephine, June 8, 2018 — 10:23pm “Prospect of larger PolyMet mine sparks demand for more review”, Star Tribune, Local, Retrieved August 30, 2018, from http://www.startribune.com/prospect-of-larger-polymet-mine-sparks-demand-for-more-review/485009481/.
Moyer, Ellen, Ph.D. 07/07/2014 12:46 pm “How a Housewife Transformed an Open Sewer into a Swimmable River” Huffpost, Blog. Retrieved August 30, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-moyer-phd/nashua-river-transformed-_b_5552680.html.
Myers, John, December 22, 2017 at 4:09 pm “White House resurrects proposed Twin Metals mine near BWCA ”, Pioneer Press, News, Retrieved August 30, 2018, from https://www.twincities.com/2017/12/22/feds-keep-proposed-twin-metals-minnesota-copper-mine-plan-alive/.
PolyMet Mining > NorthMet Project > NorthMet at a Glance, “PolyMet NorthMet Project at a Glance” Retrieved August 30, 2018, from http://polymetmining.com/northmet-project/overview/
In memory of Thurman Blevins
It has been reported that I am the first openly Transgender woman to run for the U.S. House of Representatives back in 2014. I am the first openly transgender woman in the state of Minnesota to be endorsed by a major party. This weekend I marched in the Minneapolis Pride Parade in celebration of the LGBTQ community. I am proud of the progress we have made. Yet, I remain conflicted about the enormousness separation of wealth and privilege that continues to plague our society. I can readily reflect on my own experiences of isolation, threats, prejudice, and persecution from police and the courts. I do so, not to compare my own experience with that of other marginalized communities but to emphasize a need to understand the cause of individual communities: to understand the intersection and find common purpose.
There is a hazard in trying to build coalition by erasing individual identities for the appearance of common purpose. That is the fallacy of nation-building: assimilating communities and deciding who shall be part of the protected community and who represents a disadvantage or threat to that community. The LGBTQ community struggles with the same gender equity issues that plague our society at large. The issues of the gay men are not the same for the lesbian community and neither is the same for the transgender community which intersects both genders. The issues of sexuality are not the same as the issues of gender.
It is equally hazardous to erase the individual struggles of other marginalized communities under the banner of People of Color. The issues of Mexican border immigration are not the same for descendants of the Atlantic slave trade. They are not the same for immigrants and war refugees of other nations torn by American imperialism. They are not the same for Jewish populations conflicted by a government that supports both Zionism and anti-antisemitism. They are not the same for Muslim populations persecuted primarily for their religious beliefs. This list is not exhaustive. It is only the communities where I have had significant engagement.
So I return to the issue of common purpose. I ran my first campaign in 2014 on the heels of the historic Minnesota Vote No campaign: the struggle for same-sex marriage. Even as I worked hard for it and celebrated its passage, I remained conflicted about the true significance of a reform that granted a great privilege to some but failed to address the enormous injustice of a government ordinance over family values. At the time of the marriage debate, I myself was engaged in a struggle with the family court to protect the rights of my son to be with a transgender parent. I am fully cognizant of the abuses of our foster care system, foreign adoptions, and the separation of indigenous families and immigrants at our southern border. I am fully aware of the abuses of the Violence Against Women Act, claiming to protect women while failing to protect the most vulnerable, fully protect the rights of children, and address the fundamental causes of sexual violence and domestic abuse. We have empowered, police, prosecutors, judges, and lawyers; even ICE, the DEA, and border patrol, but we have not empowered the people who are supposedly served by these institutions. As a nation, we have given up our humanity in favor of the rule of law. We have forgotten who makes the laws and how indiscriminately those laws are enforced. That issue of indiscriminate enforcement is exactly why “All Lives Matter” is an irrelevant retort to the issue of “Black Lives Matter”. Without equal protection under the law, there is no law. Without proper review of the law, there is no order. Therein lies the common purpose of all marginalized communities. It is meaningless to have equal rights if we do not have equal protection under the law and the institutions that enforce the law.
Police have become the focus for the failures of our criminal justice system. Police are on the front lines, enforcing that system of racial and ethnic disparity. They do have a role to play in addressing the bias within their own community and ensuring their own integrity. They can not be held blameless by any measure of quality for the services they do provide. Still, they are only the face of a much deeper issue.
On Saturday, I was in Winona to speak at a protest against the separation of children from their families at the Mexican border. There is no justification for this blatant display of inhumanity. We are a nation of immigrants and many of our ancestors came here for the same reasons: to escape war, persecution, and famine. The cause of this immigration can easily be traced to American drug enforcement policies and the global inequality of wealth. It is again reflective of a governing class that seeks wealth and power over social accountability. It is not an issue of law; it is a failure of leadership.
In the evening of Saturday, June 23rd, 2018, I received reports of another police shooting of a young black man in the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thirty-year-old Thurman Blevins was shot and killed by Minneapolis police. Whatever “the law” decides, there is absolutely no justification for this blatant display of inhumanity. Sunday morning I am at the staging area for the Pride parade. The parade is delayed for over an hour because of a protest against police brutality. I reflect on the first pride parade nearly 40 years ago with 50 people, half of whom marched and the other half who remained behind to support the marchers and bail them out of jail. I am reminded that Pride originated as a protest against police brutality and I am recognizing what it has become: a corporate sponsored celebration of individual expression. I am realizing how little we have impacted the systemic systems of oppression and wealth inequality.
After the Pride Parade, at 4 PM, I am at the Minneapolis fourth Police precinct examining just how little progress we’ve made on major social justice issues. At 7 PM, I am at the vigil in North Minneapolis where the shooting occurred. I cannot begin to relate to you the depth of human emotion surrounding family and friends and community brought together by such an event: the anger, the emotional pain, and the fear.
There are many politicians there. I have heard the promises they have made to this community. I understand the lack of credibility. The solutions exist. The cost of mass incarceration far exceeds the cost of early intervention and prevention. When police exist primarily to enforce criminal prosecution, they have no role in social intervention and reform. We need entirely new agencies to deal with public health issues of poverty, mental health, drug addition and issues which are not considered victimless: domestic violence, child abuse, sexual violence, and gun violence. What is lacking is the will to implement them. It is evidenced in the promise that they will fix the problem once they are elected. It is a promise this community has heard too many times.
It is a fundamental fallacy, that one must win in order to create change. For the people, we must find common purpose and change the political dialogue. That’s how we win. I am proud to stand against the establishment of wealth and power. I am proud to see myself as a member of all marginalized communities, even as we have yet to realize our common purpose and stand together for a shared vision of liberty and justice for all.
I am posting for comment the position of the Sex Workers Outreach Project.
Sex work is work, and sex workers rights are labor rights. The criminalization of the sex industry exacerbates violences against sex workers, severs them from vital systems of support, and pushes sex trafficking further underground putting their lives at greater risk to violence. It is necessary to stand in solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement, recognizing that labor exploitation is a violation of human rights. We support sex workers’ fight for decriminalization as well as policies that protect their health and safety. http://www.new.swopusa.org/
I do support their position. It is consistent with my more general position that the laws which empowers the justice system to deny women control over their reproductive health, sexuality, and relationships continues to enforce gender inequity, domination and exploitation of women, and a double standard of moral oppression. I have seen and experienced similar failings in the Violence Against Women Act which has led to abuses of the system in divorce and child custody, failed to provide meaningful intervention and prevention, and commonly fails to protect the most vulnerable.
OF COURSE, I SHOULD BE THERE! 50,000 people are expected to attend including 20,000 students protesting an intolerable level of gun violence and the growing threat against our young people.
I am a politician and these events are the place where politicians publicize their support for change. But it would be more accurate to say, this is where politicians empathize with constituents about the profound lack of inactivity in our government around major social issues like gun control. Because the true positions of our politicians are reflected in the bills they sponsor, the way that they vote, and the issues that they fight for.
I am also a member of the League of Women Voters. Our volunteers will be there registering voters to ensure they raise their voice at the ballot box in November and I should be there.
But I will not be there. Like millions of Americans I have lost faith in a political establishment that polarizes the issues, tells us it’s complicated, and beseeches us to be realistic. The time has arrived for a new political paradigm: a political party that serves the interests of the people. I will be at Rondo Library in St Paul working with the Green Party to secure their endorsement and join with the national Movement for a People’s Party because we have two major parties that have embraced global imperialism, the manufacture and sale of guns, weapons exports, and the militarization of our society.
The mass shootings, the police gun violence against people of color, even the expanding assault on immigrates are just multiple faces of the same issue: a political system so grossly dependent on the wealth of corporate capitalism that they are incapable of representing their constituents.
Political polarization forces us to focus on the consequences of gun violence which have reached intolerable levels for most Americans. It is particularly evident watching America’s youth rise up in protest. It is an issue of great urgency which must be addressed but we see a disturbing level of inactivity and complacency from our political leadership.
Our focus on the consequences and what appear to be the obvious solutions only takes us part way. Too often we fail to recognize the political and economic narratives that drive the polarization of politicized issues. That political narrative is one of individual freedom. A corporate owned media has persuaded us to believe that guns represent civil liberties and self-preservation. The data supporting that narrative is extremely sparse when compared to the overwhelming sacrifice of victims and families impacted by gun violence.
That narrative supports the manufacture and sale of guns, as well as the broader issues of global imperialism, weapons exports and the militarization of our society. It undermines the reality of a society that has lost faith in our government, fostering a disturbing realization that our government can no longer protect us. The counter-narrative is not one of banning guns but rather restoring accountability in our political process, equity in the institutions of American justice, and balance in our economy. Perhaps then, we can begin to accept that guns will never make us free.
"In 1966, the organizers of NOW, The National Organization of Women, recognized that equality demanded economic independence for women, requiring a social restructuring that wouldn’t simply create employment opportunity for women but create economic value for the work done by women. Community work and childrearing would have to be shared more equally by husband, wife, and society.
Industrialization and technology are male spaces and war is the ultimate manifestation. The politics of wealth and power has functioned to exclude women from these spaces.
“A woman's place is in the home:” a notion that has trivialized the role of women in society for centuries, perhaps since the dawn of property rights. Female spaces are the foundations of society: family, childcare, education, health care, and social organizing.
We have created a narrative of gender conflict where women fight for economic and social status by gaining entry to male spaces in a society that continues to devalue nurses, teachers, social workers, and childcare, highly skilled and demanding professions that offer little social mobility. We sexualize women, but deny them the right to fairly negotiate; rather, dominating them through false narratives about a protected class. Those protections would generally be unnecessary if women had true equality in American society.
As a transgender woman I have lived experience in both genders. I have experienced both sides of the issue: the indignity of being discounted, minimized, and ignored as well as the loss of due process perpetuated by the false allegations of political and economic agendas.
The #MeToo movement is a symptom of broader social issues. We must welcome the discussion but we must avoid suppressing the broader discussion. We must change the social narrative around gender equity, not by pressuring women into male spaces, but rather by valuing what women do, defining solidarity, not by class status but according to common purpose. We need to shift the narrative of wealth and power towards one of cultural evolution."
I remember a time when there was a strong relationship between business and community. With the evolution of technology and the mobilization of capital and labor, business has grown and consolidated. Many of the social benefits provided by business have diminished along with the diminishing workforce. People look to government to address the increased social burden. At the same time the migration of wealth has shifted the political parties toward policy that serves these wealthy global conglomerates producing a government in partnership with them. A government of the people can not thrive under this business model of government. A new political paradigm independent of this business model that exists solely to increase profit, will, and must, evolve to serve the will of the people.
I have felt a sense of optimism from the recent wave of pronouncements against sexual harassment and in support of victims. There has long been a need for a more in-depth, broader conversation of this issue, but I realize this discussion is not forthcoming. While women have universally experienced sexually inappropriate behavior, it is also clear that women are not united in our response to this issue.
I understand the desire of politicians to assume the moral high ground concerning allegations against Senator Franken, but I also understand the practical dilemma of failing to engage in the tough discussion and press for meaningful structural change in our political process and society. It is insufficient to define the issue as one of moral indignation. The circumstance surrounding Senator Franken offered us an opportunity to advance the broader discussion around gender discrimination, sexual violence, and domestic abuse. More fundamentally, it offered us an opportunity to advance the dialogue about the relationship between men and women.
In its original statement of purpose, the National Organization of Women declared their intent to “…take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American Society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof, in truly equal partnership with men.” Since then feminism has been undermined - at least perceptually - by an aggressive narrative of a man-hate rebellion. Feminism has become a conflict among women over divergent ideologies, competing with men for positions of power and influence while maintaining traditional social values around childcare, education, healthcare and social organizing. By demanding consequences without meaningful discourse around the relationship of men and women, I fear we have done little but reinforce that division, inviting a backlash that only serves to undermine the value of women’s social contribution.
I am dismayed by Al Franken’s resignation because I believe the ethics investigation would have placed a greater obligation on men to assess their relationship to the broader social narratives of women. I am disappointed that our most influential women leadership, Amy Klobuchar and Betty McCollum, have failed to take any public position on this issue. I do believe the ethics investigation should still continue.