Readers Write (Aug. 19): UCare, immigration, castigating Walter Palmer, payday loans, property taxes and north Minneapolis

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A month ago, my 93-year-old mother was hospitalized with terrible pain across her back. She was unable to sit or stand. There were no fractures, so after two and a half days she was discharged to a “transitional care center.” She was told that since her hospital stay was less than three days and she had not had surgery, Medicare would not pay for her time in the care center. (Apparently, this is a new rule.) She also was told that her insurance company (Medica) would not cover her stay. So everything had to be out of her pocket. This amounts to $236 per day. Mom has very little savings and no longer owns a home, but lives alone in an apartment and does manage to get by on Social Security.

UCare is one of the very few insurance companies I am aware of that will waive this requirement and cover her care costs. I’m sure that all of the other insurance companies were delighted to find another avenue to save money. UCare also covers the new 3-D method of mammogram screening that is being used across the country. Many of the other insurance companies do not cover this test. And now the state of Minnesota has found a way to stick it to lower-income and elderly Minnesotans with its “competitive bidding” on HMO contracts and will drop UCare as an option for most enrollees.

Do our decisionmakers ever consider the consequences of their actions, or do they just see dollar signs? They have a responsibility to all of the citizens of Minnesota to give us as many options for our health care as possible.

Georgene Bergstrom, Edina

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The Aug. 15 editorial (“Caution needed on health plan contracts”), about how a reform that saves taxpayers’ money unexpectedly shuts UCare out of Minnesota’s public health program, was the extreme beginning of serious debate for a reform of the medical contracting process. It is true (of both medical treatments and provider arrangements) that “even the most promising may have harmful unintended consequences.” For starters, UCare does have serious costs to the system.

Last May, two females, who later identified themselves as a registered nurse and a Somali-speaking interpreter, knocked at our door. A roommate of mine conspired with them and had a 50-year-old man who supposedly had a complicated illness sneaked into the house. The idea was to create a scenario under which this man was cared for at home by my roommate and by the ladies billing thousands of dollars to UCare.

I submit that such and many other profound incidents happen in the immigrant communities in the Twin Cities. Some may call this a consequence of a private company administering public assistance, but I call it corruption. In short, the editorial was right to suggest that the “public health program contracting merits a prudent pause to ensure that pluses outweigh minuses.”

Abdiqani Farah, Minneapolis



Citizenship clause, if properly interpreted, is not a magic key

The Aug. 17 article on the birthright citizenship issue raised by Donald Trump (“Trump sounds off on immigrants”) contains a serious misinterpretation that, if left unaddressed, will hinder a long-overdue debate on this subject.

The article states the purpose of the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause by stating that it confers automatic citizenship on the children of immigrants — “even those living illegally in the U.S.” — since its adoption in 1868. In fact, the purpose of this clause was to ensure that the newly freed slaves would have the full rights of U.S. citizenship.

During the congressional debate over the proposed amendment, one of its principal sponsors categorically stated that the second half of the citizenship clause (“subject to the jurisdiction thereof”) would exclude “persons born in the United States who are foreigners [or] aliens.”

Since illegal immigrants and their children are not, by definition, “subject to the jurisdiction” of the U.S.

the prevailing confusion over birthright citizenship could easily be resolved by a clarifying act of Congress limiting this citizenship only to the children of U.S. citizens and legal residents.

Peter D. Abarbanel, Apple Valley


A Star Tribune hatchet job continues with latest article

What a shoddy, self-important piece of journalism was the article “Where lion hunter is king” on the Aug. 17 front page. Talk about blowing things out of proportion — this reporting job rivals the artificial drama of TV reality shows.

Castigating a person like Walter Palmer as “zealously” guarding his 900-acre hunting plot in northern Minnesota “because he would report you” while actively seeking to protect the property from trespassers — like tens of thousands of Minnesotans also do — just shows what a hatchet job you people at the Star Tribune are willing to perform on this person. But the worst is giving out the location of Palmer’s property and where he might be staying. What gives journalists the right of judge, jury and executioner? This man’s life and career are probably ruined already; he didn’t need this besides. Whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty? I’m disgusted by the coverage the paper has offered. I think I’ll quit buying it.

Instead of rushing to regulation, turn that thought around

The solution to high-cost payday loans (“Legislators set to try again on rate and loan caps,” Aug. 17) is exactly what the Star Tribune would not want to see — namely, less regulation rather than more. Regulations inevitably become a barrier to entry for people wishing to get into this lucrative market. The fastest way to lower the current effective annual interest rate of 200 percent is having 20 providers unhappy with a 5 percent market share who lower their rates to increase market share. In contrast, the more you regulate, the fewer people will be willing to mess around with all of the “red tape,” leaving a small number of market players with little financial incentive to compete.

Jack Kohler, Plymouth


A cap on property tax increases would stabilize neighborhoods

For decades, a great deal of public and private energy has been dedicated to revitalization of north Minneapolis neighborhoods in an effort to provide greater home and work opportunities for the area’s lower-income residents. As the housing market continues to improve, real estate developers are making plans to build homes on vacant lots, with some homes priced in excess of $300,000. That has upset some local residents who resent the fact that rising home prices might force some long-term residents to sell their homes in the face of increasingly unaffordable property taxes (“Neighbors skeptical of pricier houses,” Aug. 16.)

Their concerns are justified. Similar circumstances arose in California in the late 1970s, when a growing population eager for new housing contributed to rapidly increasing home prices. In an effort to make certain that fixed-income homeowners wouldn’t be forced to sell their homes, voters enacted Proposition 13 in 1978. The legislation restricted property tax increases to no more than 1 percent of assessed value, while limiting assessed values themselves to no more than a 2 percent increase annually.

As a Los Angeles resident in the mid-1980s, I was amazed to see that the small homes built by modest-income elderly couples in Beverly Hills remained free of the teardown mania that is underway in so many of our communities. Those folks were able to keep their homes thanks to Prop. 13. Perhaps it is time that Minnesotans demand similar constraints on their family budgets with legislation that prevents government bureaucrats from demanding more and more from us all. After all, government has no right to grow beyond the means of ordinary citizens.

Mark H. Reed, Plymouth

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Category: Payday loans

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