Health care protest on ice gets personal with UnitedHealth CEO

“We can not allow people like Hemsley to profit off denying people health care without feeling a public backlash for their actions. If we want health care reform we need to stand for real reform and we need to stand against United HealthCare.” — Protester 
For some, it is simply wrong to profit off the illnesses of others. Feeling ignored by senators and representatives that appear to listen only to lobbyists, a group of Minnesotans took their displeasure directly to the CEO of one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies on Saturday. We don’t need insurance profiteers between us and our health care,” said activist and co-organizer Roger Cuthbertson, after planting a banner in the snow in front of the $6.6 million Lake Minnetonka mansion owned by UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley. Elizabeth Frost, MD, and co-chair of the Minnesota Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), joined the protest. Continue Reading

MN Department of Health: Don’t give up your mammogram

Two recent developments have women wondering about mammograms. Almost half of U.S. states have begun turning away some low-income women seeking free cancer screenings. Are free screenings still available in Minnesota after state budget cuts and mid-year unallotments to some Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) programs?  Should women under 50 postpone their annual mammograms as recommended by the U.S. Preventatives Services Task Force? 
It’s “yes, for now” to the first and a vehement “no” to the second, according to MDH.  

Women seeking eligibility information about the free mammography program or those wanting to make an appointment for a free mammogram should call Sage at 1-888-6-HEALTH (or 888-643-2584)
Despite rather severe cuts to some health-related programs administered by MDH, the Sage Screening Program continues to cover the cost of free mammograms and cervical cancer screenings for uninsured women or those whose insurance plan doesn’t cover the full cost of screening. Sage is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and other charitable organizations, as well as the state. Sage follows the American Cancer Society guidelines that call for annual mammograms for women 40 and up, and younger women with symptoms or special health risks, including a family history of breast cancer. Continue Reading

Facts are most powerful tool in Planned Parenthood’s efforts to prevent teen births

Planned Parenthood has seen teen births rise, fall, and rise again. After a 15-year national decline, teen births rose in 2006 and again in 2007, according to separate reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kaiser Family Foundation.  Considering that the Christian Right has muscled its way into public policy-making and convinced politicians to fund “abstinence-only” classes in many schools while de-funding sex education and access to birth control, and as the argument over abortion becomes more intense—sometimes murderous—with each election, the reason for the turnabout in teen pregnancies seems more transparent. Contact Planned Parenthood at 1-800-239-PLAN 1-800-230-7526 Kim Rossow, outreach and education manager at Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota’s (PPMNS) Minneapolis office, acknowledged that people in the reproductive health field face big challenges in today’s political environment, but won’t dwell on it. Planned Parenthood continues to provide core birth control, testing and abortion services. Teens can still walk into a clinic and receive birth control and counseling without their parent’s permission, confirmed Rossow. Continue Reading

Citizen’s League: More public involvement needed to solve Minnesota’s water pollution problem

The Minnesota PCA has made valiant efforts at testing the state’s lakes and rivers for contaminants, and what they’ve found isn’t pretty.  Only about 18 percent of Minnesota’s lakes and 14 percent of rivers have been evaluated for contamination as part of a 10-year monitoring project. Of the water bodies that have been evaluated so far, 40 percent have been found to be “impaired,” or polluted to the extent that they don’t meet state water quality standards. As of this September, the inventory had identified 3,049 impairments of 1,205 lakes and 436 rivers statewide. Going deeper, learning more • To the Source: Moving Minnesota’s Water Governance Upstream • Volunteer Surface Water Monitoring Guide (download from MPCA) “There are not nearly enough organizations to monitor the health of all the waters in Minnesota. If every professional organization used its staff full time, every day, to monitor the waters, there would still not be enough to adequately do the job….As a volunteer monitor, you can contribute to the quality of waters in Minnesota by raising community awareness of water-quality issues and providing valuable data that can be used to influence decisions.” — MPCA Volunteer Surface Water Monitoring Guide • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Statewide Endocrine Disrupting Compound Monitoring Study, 2007-2008, September 2009 (download from MPCA) Another MPCA study released this fall (Statewide Endocrine Disrupting Compound Monitoring Study, 2007-2008) found endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) from pharmaceuticals, hormones, pesticides, personal care products, and compounds including Bisphenol-A, had made their way into lakes and streams in all regions of the state, even in “underdeveloped” lakes. Continue Reading

Supenn Harrison teaches that life, like cooking, is best when done in harmony and balance

Many people are aware of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet but how many have considered the healthy aspects of the Thai diet? The authentic Thai diet goes hand-in-hand with a spiritual lifestyle, according to restaurateur Supenn Harrison. To the Thai, diet and lifestyle are almost inseparable; both strive for balance and harmony. Harrison, like 95 percent of native Thais, is a Buddhist of the Theravada school. Thai Buddhism is based on the religious movement founded in the sixth century B.C. by Siddhartha, later called the Buddha, who urged the world to follow the enlightened Middle Way.Full disclosure: Kathlyn Stone edited Harrison’s forthcoming cookbook, Awaken to Thai Cooking. Continue Reading

Minnesotans help address Iraq’s water crisis, one filtration unit at a time

Twenty-three schools in Najaf, Iraq’s 10th largest city, now have clean drinking water, something they lacked a year or two ago. That leaves 850 schools to go, said Samera Al-Halawi, a member of the Najaf Chamber of Commerce. Al-Halawai and 13 other Iraqi civic and educational leaders have been in Minnesota since Sept. 18 as part of a delegation to advance a “Water for Peace” project and celebrate a new Najaf-Minneapolis Sister City agreement. By the time the group departs on Saturday, its members will have met with hundreds of educators, community leaders and activists, and other individuals who have pledged to keep working to alleviate the suffering caused by a lack of clean, healthy water. Continue Reading

Mad As Hell Doctors: Eliminate health insurance and everyone wins

Forty-five thousand Americans died last year from lack of health insurance. The average physician devotes $85,000 a year on processing paperwork for a multitude of companies handling their patients’ insurance plans.  The World Health Organization several years ago ranked the United States 37th in health outcomes, yet the country spends twice as much on health care than any other industrialized nation. Pharmaceutical companies spend $71 billion on marketing but just $23 billion on research and development. Black men in some U.S. cities have a life expectancy on par with Bangladesh. Hearing reports like that and facing desperate patients on a daily basis, what’s a socially and fiscally conscious doctor to do? Continue Reading

Public transportation now free to all disabled veterans

Disabled veterans are now eligible for free public transportation throughout the state thanks to a new law passed by the Minnesota Legislature. Veterans must show their Veterans ID bearing the words “Service Connected” or the initials “SC” below their photo. The cards are given at the time of enrollment at any Veterans Affairs facility; locally at the VA medical centers in Minneapolis and St. Cloud. Free transportation is also extended to personal care attendants who are assisting a disabled veteran as they travel. Continue Reading

Back-To-School shots

With the days shortening and the nights getting cooler, it’s time to think about chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella. Minnesota state law requires parents of all children who attend school and children in child care to show proof of up-to-date immunizations before enrollment. The law also allows parents, guardians or students over 18 to file for a medical or conscientious exemption to the school immunization requirements. New this fall: Starting this September, two doses of chickenpox vaccine are required for all children entering kindergarten or 7th grade. If you have health insurance, call your health care clinic for shots. Continue Reading