Minnesota News Briefs: Medicaid funding results in an auditMinnesota News
-- The investigation into Minnesota's Medicaid funding situation is picking up steam. In a packed hearing at the state capitol on Tuesday, state officials said they are bringing in an auditor to see if the state inflated costs to illegally gain federal health care funds.
ST. PAUL - The investigation into Minnesota's Medicaid funding situation is picking up steam. In a packed hearing at the state capitol on Tuesday, state officials said they are bringing in an auditor to see if the state inflated costs to illegally gain federal health care funds.
The state works with four private insurance companies to manage its Medicaid program: Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Medica, UCare and Health Partners. Total funds involved include two-million dollars from the state which are matched by two-million federal dollars. Governor Dayton and officials from the HMOs all say they welcome the audit.
A man is dead after leaping into the Mississippi River from the High Bridge in St. Paul. Firefighters in ice rescue suits waded into the river to rescue the man, who remained afloat until they reached him. He was was pronounced dead at the hospital.
A Brooten man is dead after a one-vehicle crash Tuesday afternoon in Willmar. Police say a pickup driven by 72-year-old Wayne Chadwick ran off the road and struck a tree. Chadwick was in cardiac arrest and given CPR at the scene but later died at Rice Memorial Hospital. The medical examiner is investigating whether Chadwick died of a medical condition or injuries suffered in the crash.
Governor Dayton delivers his second State of the State address to a joint session of the Minnesota House and Senate tonight (7p.m.) at the State Capitol. The governor has taken a number of opportunities to blast the Republican-controlled legislature so far this session -- most prominently his "not fit to govern" comment after the Senate ousted his Public Utilities commissioner. Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier says if Dayton turns up the partisan vitriol in tonight's speech, prospects go down for accomplishments this session -- including a Vikings stadium.
Hundreds of Minnesotans were at the state Capitol this morning for the annual Veterans Day on the Hill event. Ralph Donais with the United Veterans Legislative Council says veterans will be recognized by Governor Dayton and others for what they've done for our country. He says it's sort of a show of force for the nearly 400-thousand veterans in the state. Veterans are encouraged to meet with their local lawmakers following the rally. This year's program includes a ceremony to honor World War II veterans from Minnesota.
Bumping the statewide legal speed limit from 55 to 60-miles-an-hour has support from both sides of the political aisle but some say it will lead to more crashes and deaths on our roadways. A bill is now making its way through the state legislature. MnDOT estimates a speed limit increase would affect at least 40,000 miles of county roads and 60-thousand miles of township roads. Those in favor of the bill say most people are already driving 60 anyway.
We're past the mid-way point of February and how are energy bills stacking up for Minnesotans? CenterPoint Energy's Becca Virden says their customers are saving about 25 percent over last winter. She says we had a 14-percent colder than average winter last season while through the end of the January this year we had 12-percent warmer weather. Virden points out that natural gas prices also remain lower than last year due to abundant supplies.
The latest snowfall totals continue to offer a pale view of winter so far across Minnesota. Faribault and Martin counties both report accumulations up to three-inches yesterday, while two-and-a-half-inches fell in Freeborn County. The National Weather Service says light snow will appear today in central and far-northern Minnesota -- then it's back to warmer, mostly dry weather through the rest of this week.
A top Republican strategist says it was his mistake that brochures printed at taxpayer expense and distributed at last week's precinct caucuses listed a link to a GOP fundraising website. Senate Republican Caucus executive director Steve Sviggum -- the former House Speaker -- says he should have caught it and it's his responsibility and no one else's. Sviggum says the caucus will reimburse the state immediately for about 47-dollars in printing expenses. Democrats say it was a violation of state law and have filed a formal complaint. A DFL spokeswoman says the complaint remains in force because clearly more people were involved than Sviggum and it needs to be investigated.
Officials from Minnesota and Washington met in St. Paul this morning -- drawing up plans to deal with disasters and emergencies, should they happen in the coming months. From July of 2010 through July of last year, there were five federally declared disasters statewide. Today's gathering is about how Minnesota qualifies for federal assistance following storms, floods and tornadoes.
It's likely Congress and President Barack Obama will work out an extension of the two-percent payroll tax cut through the end of this year. Final Congressional approval could come by Friday. But Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Stillwater says she will be voting "no" on the plan She says Speaker of the House John Boehner and other Republicans are being forced to go along with it by the president. She says Barack Obama "saw that this temporary gimic might deliver some political popularity for himself." Besides the payroll tax cut, the bill would also extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and block a 27-percent cut in reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Michele Bachmann says she will not be joining the cast of TV'-s "Dancing With The Stars" this season. But did admit she won a 10th grade Polka dancing contest and is proud of that. Bachmann says she'd rather create jobs, cut government spending and build a new bridge over the St. Croix River.
Starting in June, United Airlines will offer an additional daily roundtrip flight between Duluth and Chicago. Airport spokesman Brian Ryks says current flights are typically between 75- and 85-percent full and growing. The additional flight to Chicago is scheduled to depart at 10:46am, positioned between the early morning 6am departure and the afternoon 3:06 flight.
Duluth is savoring an unexpected windfall. The city's hospitality industry hit an all-time high last year with hotels, bars and restaurants pulling in more than eight-million dollars in tourism taxes. Some local boosters say Duluth is ready to market itself as a national tourist destination. Tony Barrett, an economics professor at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, says the high volume of tourist visits last year is strong evidence the northeastern region has left the recession behind.
Another scam is making the rounds. Cynthia Carrillo of Moorhead says she received two calls within a few hours from a man and woman claiming to be from the federal government saying she was eligible for thousands of dollars for being felony free. Both callers said she had 88-hundred dollars coming but they needed her bank account and credit card numbers so they could deposit the money into her account. When Carrillo told the callers she was recording them, they hung up. Police remind you not to give any personal information over the phone and remember, if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.
Triple AAA Minnesota is predicting gas prices will reach an all-time high by Memorial Day weekend. Spokeswoman Gail Weinholzer says this will be the fourth time in the last seven years that we've approached four dollars a gallon. The highest average in Minnesota was three-dollars-and-98 cents and that was on July 16th, 2008. Weinholzer says the elimination of the 45-cent ethanol subsidy, the switch from winter to summer-grade fuel and increased demand from China and India will drive prices over the four-dollar mark. Some fuel analysts are warning of five- and six-dollar gas.
Here are the winning numbers from the Minnesota State Lottery for Tuesday, February 14th, 2012. The Daily Three: 2-1-4. Northstar Cash: 10-16-20-23-27.