Readers Write (Jan. 25): MNsure, Syria torture, Target layoffs, medical errors, State Capitol art, Muppet diet

  • Updated: January 24, 2014 - 6:52 PM

Public programs are a cash cow for the private contractors who are called to fix them.

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MNSURE

A cash machine for private sector

No doubt Minnesota’s health insurance exchange is in a world of hurt, but let’s consider the source (“Review: Flaws in MNsure run deep,” Jan. 23). The Star Tribune points out that Optum already has won lucrative work fixing Maryland’s state exchange, and now it has its eyes set on a juicy, multiyear contract with MNsure. This after UnitedHealth Group’s other subsidiary, QSSI, is found to be elbow-deep at the federal trough helping fix problems there.

It’s the oldest trick in the book. Project in trouble, call in the consultants. Consultants declare, on their own dime, just how messed up everything is and, oh, here’s the kicker: It is going to take heroic efforts and many months to fix, and they are the only ones who can help. All at a price tag that would make Solomon blush.

Call it the consultants’ full employment act. Call it redistribution on a massive scale as tax revenues and borrowed money flow into the pseudo-private sector — those contractors that have ongoing relationships with federal agencies. Make no mistake: Anything that government sets out to do is done by private-sector companies, with government only playing an oversight role.

DENNIS K. WILLIAMS, St. Paul

 

SYRIA

Torture photos are consistent with reports

The Center for Victims of Torture credits the Star Tribune for bringing awareness to the brutal torture occurring in Syria (editorial, Jan. 23). In 2008, we began helping Iraqi refugees in Jordan suffering from the effects of torture and war. Today, we provide mental health, physical therapy and other services to both Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

The Syrian refugees are either victims of or witnesses to horrific human-rights atrocities, including torture. Many of the abuses shown in the recent photos appear to be consistent with much of what our Jordan staff members are seeing and suggest that the use of torture is widespread and systematic.

However, from our experience, we know survivors do heal and regain their ability to function. They begin to rebuild their lives. Their family ties are strengthened.

Thank you to everyone right here in Minnesota who helps make this lifesaving work possible.

Curt Goering, executive director, Center for Victims of Torture

 

TARGET LAYOFFS

Pleasing the analysts at what real-world cost?

Business columnist Lee Schafer’s reflections on the recent layoff of 475 Target employees, including many in the Twin Cities, coupled with the announced elimination of health insurance for part-time employees, was troubling (“Target’s layoffs reflect need to cut costs,” Jan. 23). The column suggested that these developments maybe look good on the corporate books and please financial analysts, as well. But viewing the layoffs, or at least their timing at the end of Target’s fiscal year this month, as an “accounting” issue disregards the impact the job displacements have in the real world. The people who lose their jobs or their insurance benefits suffer greatly, as do their family members and dependents. So do the communities and businesses where they live and shop, as they have less to spend on the types of goods sold by retailers like Target, no less. These concerns are magnified as unemployment benefits shrink and as the job market remains tight for re-employment.

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