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.




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



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.




Seems like fatigue is part of the problem

Regarding the article “Medical mistakes down, but critical errors up” (Jan. 23), I wonder how lack of sleep effects this conundrum. Back-to-back shifts by doctors, interns and nurses can’t be good for patients. Clearly, getting adequate sleep is not just a health issue; it can, in fact, jeopardize the lives of others. Too bad we give bragging rights to those who sacrifice their eight hours for so-called productivity.

Sleep deprivation in the health field is an insidious problem that needs addressing. Isn’t it time hospitals examine their policies?




My vote for a painting that should remain

As I consider the controversy created by Gov. Mark Dayton’s remarks regarding art at the State Capitol (“Dayton ponders Civil War murals,” Jan. 22, and “How does art tell our story,” Opinion Exchange, Jan. 24), I believe that we must find a middle ground — the art in the Governor’s Reception Room should reflect the social change that the state has experienced while also honoring Minnesota’s participation in North America’s bloodiest conflict.

While it may be time to replace several of the paintings that hang in the Reception Room, I hope that one in particular will be allowed to stay. The image depicting the Third Minnesota Infantry’s march into Little Rock, Ark., stands out in my mind as the truest reflection of what Minnesota gave to the Civil War. The portrait does not impart any false romanticism, and it captures the weariness and sacrifice of the Minnesota men, portraying them as they were: tired, dirty and hardened after months of bitter fighting against their own countrymen.

IAN IVERSON, Northfield, Minn.



Who’s to say there’s no nutritional value?

“Can Muppets teach kids to eat better?” asks a Jan. 24 headline. Presumably Kermit eats flies. Is that better?

JOE RITTER, Minneapolis