Minnesota has a serious problem to address

For several years, the organization Safe Passages has been a watchdog group trying to speak clearly about the need for better screening data and standards for children reported to child protection. When Minnesota has an average of 71 percent of its children screened out of receiving further investigation and the national average is 38 percent, as reported by the Star Tribune in a front-page article April 20, something needs to be done.

Safe Passages has been lobbying the Legislature to pass common-sense requirements to protect children. It is very important we keep data on the number of calls on a child even if the call is screened out. It would allow people to see a pattern that might warn that a child needs intervention. We also need state standards of what constitutes neglect. As stated in the article, there is a wide variation in what each county thinks of as neglect.

As a guardian ad litem of Hennepin County, I have seen social workers and child service workers give their very best to protect neglected and abused children, but first they need to receive the referral.

Kay Kramer, St. Anthony

• • •

Our supposedly progressive state manages to be third-highest in the nation in its willingness to turn a blind eye to suffering among our most innocent. It is beyond stunning that half of Minnesota counties would refuse to intervene when a father threatens his son and shoots the family dog in front of the child, or when a father chokes and punches the mother as kids play video games.

As state taxpayers, all of us pay heavily to support the Department of Human Services. This is a scandal of the first order. Gov. Mark Dayton and his legislative majorities have a moral imperative to respond to this outrageous, ongoing abuse of our children.

Mark H. Reed, Plymouth



More transparency? Or a more-personal stake?

D.J. Tice is entirely correct to chastise most of our congressional delegation for resisting the needed cuts to Medicare Advantage insurance companies (“What you pay? Hard to say when it’s health care,” April 18). Sens. Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar and the others should know that such privatization of public programs rarely achieves the promised savings. As with the outsourcing of state-funded health care programs such as Medical Assistance, we instead get higher costs and self-protective obfuscation.

Tice’s comparison of the health care marketplace to more transparent ones for food and gasoline is telling but potentially confusing to readers. It is often unreasonable for those with medical needs to go shopping. (A weekend special on appendectomies?) It would make more sense to subject medical providers to transparent and broadly applicable negotiated fees, leveraging the power of the largest possible pool of insured and making the resulting discounts available to all.

This is the essence of the much-maligned “single-payer” method of financing health care. Negotiation of fees by a public-private partnership also is practiced by our water and electrical utility commissions. No one seems to be calling that “socialism.” We just take the benefits for granted.

Joel Clemmer, St. Paul

• • •

Tice’s column was mostly excellent. He showed a great understanding of economics — specifically, that prices are essential for conveying information to consumers. The natural conclusion is that, for our health care system to work better, consumers need to make decisions about how to spend their own money based on prices. One way to do that is to encourage everyone to have health care saving accounts and to pay for larger amounts of their care with their own money.

Instead, Tice laments the fact that politicians decided not to follow through with $200 billion of cuts to Medicare Advantage. Government cuts to reimbursement rates are not based on supply and demand, but rather on government power. Where spending is controlled by consumers, adjustments will be made by both providers and consumers that result in the most value being delivered per dollar of spending. Where spending is controlled by the government, providers are forced to provide services for less than they believe those services are worth.

James Brandt, New Brighton



For taxpayers, that call from Asia is collect

John Rash’s article on the call by Japan for a greater presence and deterrence by U.S. forces in Asia to meet the rising power of China (“Calling America, from Asia,” April 20) must have those in the military-industrial complex licking their chops. As usual, this will be done at the expense of American taxpayers. However, will China loan us the money?

Jack Stech, Hopkins



Now that the gender bias is out of the way …

Thank you for informing us of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges’ haircut (“Leading lady of fashion,” Variety, April 20). After 12 years of wondering whether R.T. was even cutting his hair, I am relieved to discover that our new female mayor is indeed taking care of that important matter. I just hope that had one of her male opponents been elected, we would still be assured that they were changing their hairstyle to fit the office, wearing more suits and shopping thriftily at consignment stores.

Maria White, Minneapolis