Marshall Helmberger (“Iron Range: Why profits over people?” Feb. 26) brings up great points. Unfortunately, money — or people with the money — drives everything (i.e., Vikings stadium windows trump birds, fossil fuels trump sound science, proprietary information trumps public safety). Lake Vermilion is a true natural treasure, so much so that Minnesota invested in a state park for the lake near Pike Bay. Despite that investment, legislators continue to put natural resources at risk. Mining has changed considerably; nowadays, the jobs are specialized (and thus fewer), risks are minimized (in terms of safety to people and environment) and, ultimately, profits are sequestered to the company rather than the community. The state should set an example by instituting appropriate environmental protections that can promote employment opportunities to maintain a healthy environment for enjoying the bounties of an economically important Iron Range lake. Then, the mining companies that continue the legacy of the state’s arguably most iconic industry can play a proactive role in environmental stewardship under which natural resource extraction and enjoyment can coexist.

Nate Cathcart, Lakeville

MEDICAL ERRORS

We need to know still more about them

While the Star Tribune is to be commended for drawing attention to the 2015 Adverse Events report data (“Taking the steps to do no harm,” Feb. 26), it’s not the whole story.

Hospitals have fought implementation and modification of the adverse-events reporting law since it was first passed in 2003 — even after the monumental study by the Institute of Medicine that projected 98,000 deaths per year due to medical mistakes. Adverse events in Minnesota are reported only when the hospital defines them to be serious — for example, if the patient has died or has required additional treatment for seven days or more. If low levels of staffing allow a patient to fall on the way to the bathroom or acquire an ulcer that can be treated in less time, it’s not “serious.”

Nurses fought to amend a subdivision of the law to require root-cause analysis to include staffing as a cause for an adverse event, but that analysis only goes back to the Minnesota Department of Health. The public will never know.

Nurses, doctors, staff, legislators and members of the public all want safe and quality patient care for every Minnesotan. However, the 2015 adverse-events report is an incomplete depiction, and patients and legislators need to dig deeper into how safe their hospitals are and could be.

Rose Roach, St. Paul

The writer is executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association.

 

HEALTH INSURANCE

Is UnitedHealth overstepping its role?

The article about UnitedHealthcare setting prior authorization rules for hysterectomy procedural techniques for which it will pay is a prime example of a medical/health insurance company practicing medicine without a license (“Hysterectomies restricted,” Feb. 27). UnitedHealthcare unilaterally determined that vaginal hysterectomy is the best for patients, and that laparoscopic or abdominal approaches must undergo prior authorization beginning April 6 for its subscribers.

Sure, a doctor can advise the patient that one method is better, but will UnitedHealthcare have examined or taken a history from the patient? Will it have generated a medical record? Does it know what is in the patient’s welfare better than the physician?

There is a purpose to prior authorization, in principle. But in practice, it has become a money-saving tactic for insurers to use to delay and deny until the doctor and patient just give up. The cost of fighting a denial is now reported to be more than $68,000 per doctor a year and more than $800 million for Minnesota clinics a year. Could this be better spent on direct patient care?

Medical insurers answer to stockholders, not patients. It was reported in the Star Tribune Feb. 22 that UnitedHealth Group [parent of UnitedHealthcare] has $391 million parked overseas to avoid paying any taxes on it, this from the 22nd-largest revenue-generating U.S. company. Should all medical insurers be considered practicing medicine without a license de facto, and be confronted with a class-action lawsuit?

Dr. FRANK BURES, Winona, Minn.

 

NETANYAHU’S VISIT

If a rep is needed, I’m still available

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison has made clear that he has no intention of attending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday. Since Ellison seems intent to carry out his public display of disrespect, I volunteer to take his place. The people of Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District deserve to be represented.

Doug Daggett, Minneapolis

The writer was the Republican-endorsed candidate for the Fifth District in 2014.

 

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

Suspect description policy is … suspect

Regarding the new University of Minnesota policy to not report the race of a crime suspect (Twin Cities+Region, Feb. 26): I imagine the next most politically correct move will be not to report the gender of the suspect, and then we will be left with a description that reads as follows: “The suspect is a biped.”

Jerry Baldwin, Fargo, N.D.

• • •

Supplying the race or ethnicity of a suspect doesn’t constitute “racial profiling” but is an attempt to keep students safe. The information, when available, is driven by reality and is not motivated to make some racial group feel “unsafe.” Crime alerts, left purposely vague, will unnecessarily heighten concerns and tensions as it broadens the field of suspects. What good will that do?

Joseph Polunc, Cologne

 

MEANWHILE AT THE U

I can’t abide these alternate uniforms

When did the University of Minnesota athletic department abandon the traditional colors of maroon and gold? The teams are showing up on television in black uniforms. This is depressing and an insult to me as an alumni member. At first glance they look like an Iowa team. (A recent example was the women’s basketball team at Nebraska. Maybe the black signified a team in mourning.) It is another example of the athletic department spending money on unnecessary things and at the same time trying to gouge us season-ticket holders by raising prices to pay for these nonuniversity uniforms.

Ed Pavek, Minnetonka

 

WINTER’S MISERIES

Luckily, there’s already a name for it

Columnist James Lileks doesn’t need to make up cold, Germanic words for the follies of dealing with winter (“Watch as our tolerance level drops to below zero,” Feb. 22). The Norse came up with one quite a while ago — fimbulvinter — that not only covers the misery we mortals have with braving the elements, but also lets us blame something else for having to do so.

William McEnery, West St. Paul