Monday, July 31, 2017

Proposed 2018 health insurance rate information released for MN

SAINT PAUL – Minnesotans can now see proposed 2018 rate information submitted by Minnesota insurers to the Minnesota Commerce Department for individual health insurance plans, including those that will be sold through MNsure.

All insurers that currently offer health plans in Minnesota’s individual market have filed rate proposals for 2018.

The insurers’ rate proposals, which are preliminary and must be reviewed by the Commerce Department, are available on the Commerce website ( Also available are proposed 2018 rates for small group health plans that serve employers with 2-50 employees.

Final 2018 rates will be announced by October 2. The 2018 open enrollment period to buy health insurance begins on November 1 and is scheduled to continue through December 15.

The individual market rate proposals apply only to Minnesotans who directly purchase their own health insurance policies. Most Minnesotans receive coverage from employer-based insurance or public programs such as Medicare, Medical Assistance (Medicaid) and MinnesotaCare. 

As of April this year, about 166,000 Minnesotans have coverage through the individual market.

This year, for the first time, insurers were required to submit two sets of proposed rates: One set with, and one set without, a new state reinsurance program.

Earlier this year, Minnesota enacted a law to create the Minnesota Premium Security Plan. This reinsurance program is designed to help stabilize premiums in the state’s individual market, providing a financial backstop against especially high-cost claims.
Implementation of the reinsurance program is contingent on federal approval, which is pending. The state's application for what is known as a 1332 waiver application was submitted by the Commerce Department to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“To date, we have received positive feedback from federal officials to get their approval for the reinsurance program,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “We are still waiting to receive that approval and hope federal authorities decide by the end of August in order to help finalize the lower rates with reinsurance for 2018.”

Despite uncertainties about potential Congressional action on health reform, the Commerce Department instructed insurers to prepare their rate proposals based on existing federal laws and regulations that currently apply for 2018.

On behalf of Minnesota consumers, the Commerce Department will conduct a rigorous, thorough rate review of each insurer’s rate proposal.

Rates must be justified both by the benefits that consumers receive for their premiums and by the insurance company’s ability to pay expected medical claims costs based on premium revenue.

Insurers must also comply with state and federal laws that protect consumers, including coverage for pre-existing conditions and free preventive care, the adequacy of the provider network and the procedures an individual must follow to enroll or have a claim paid.

As part of the rate review process, the Commerce Department is accepting public comments on the insurers’ 2018 rate proposals through August 31. Minnesotans can submit comments to

Applications open for $8.6 million in Legacy grants

Groups that want to restore, protect or enhance public land can apply for Conservation Partners Legacy (CPL) grants that help pay for work on Minnesota prairies, forests, wetlands or other habitat for fish and wildlife.
Nonprofit organizations and government entities are eligible to submit applications for traditional and metro grant cycles until 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12, on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website at

Projects must be on public land or land permanently protected by conservation easements. Applicants may request up to $400,000 with a total project cost not exceeding $575,000. Projects also must have a 10 percent match from a source outside a state agency.

In its first eight years of funding, over $44 million has been granted through the CPL program for habitat projects throughout Minnesota. Funding comes from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.

Three types of CPL grants

For fiscal year 2018, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council recommended allocating $4.5 million for the traditional grant cycle, $2.6 million for the metro grant cycle (for projects located in the seven-county metro area or within the city limits of Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester) and $1.5 million for the Expedited Conservation Projects (ECP) grant cycle. The ECP cycle is open continuously through May 11, 2018, or until funds run out, with the first funding round due Sept. 25.

More information about the three grant types can be found at Potential applicants are encouraged to review the request for proposal and the “how to apply” tab on the website, which guides users through the application process.

Questions can be directed to: Jessica Lee, CPL grant program coordinator for the DNR, or 651-259-5233.

MACV to Hold StandDown Aug 1-2

Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) will be holding the 25th annual Metro Area Veterans’ StandDown August 1 – 2, at the Boy Scout Base Camp at Fort Snelling. Free, on-site assistance for homeless and underserved Veterans will include VA medical clinic, housing services, legal assistance (including court, federal and state tax assistance), hot meals, clothing, VA benefit information, employment assistance, mental health resources, DMV, haircuts, public benefits information, and more. There will be a free shuttle to and from the Fort Snelling Light Rail Station. Shuttles will also be picking up Veterans from local shelters.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

La Salle Lake SRA celebration Aug. 12

It took citizen input and lots of planning, but it’s open, it’s beautiful, and it needs visitors. A celebration of the 940-acre La Salle Lake State Recreation Area in Hubbard County will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12.

The Minnesota state parks and trails celebration includes activities ranging from a pontoon boat ride on La Salle Lake to guided tours of the facilities and a host of activities and presentations. Visitors can check out the picnic pavilion, expanded parking area, nature play area and River Overlook interpretive hiking trail that leads to the confluence of the Mississippi River and La Salle Creek. Those feeling especially energetic, can head off to hike the narrow, rugged, 6.5-mile Challenge Trail that circles the lake.

Events include:
10 a.m. and 11 a.m. – Pontoon Tours
Ride on the pontoon to hear about the unique qualities of La Salle Lake, the deepest lake (213 feet) entirely within the state. Meet at the boat ramp.
10 a.m. – Scientific and Natural Area Tour
Learn about the jack pine blow down and current resource management, and walk to the confluence of the Mississippi River and La Salle Creek. Meet at the River Overlook Trailhead at the SNA (north side of County Road 9).
10 a.m. – Facilities Walking Tour
Walk through the picnic area, cabin area and campground to view current facilities and hear a bit of site history. Meet at the picnic shelter.
10 a.m. - noon (ongoing) – Archery
Try shooting an arrow with a youth bow. Ages 8 and up. (Young children may like to play at the nearby Nature Play Area.) Meet at the picnic shelter/parking lot area.
11:30 a.m. – Refreshments
Meet at the picnic shelter.
Noon – Speakers
Meet at the picnic shelter.

These activities are free, but vehicles must have a permit ($7/day or $35/year) to enter Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

La Salle Lake SRA is managed cooperatively by the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails, Fish and Wildlife, Forestry and Ecological and Water Resources divisions, and is a satellite unit of Itasca State Park, which is located about 8 miles away.

Established in 2011, La Salle Lake SRA offers hunting, fishing, hiking, snowshoeing and wildlife viewing. It includes La Salle Lake Scientific and Natural Area, which supports numerous rare plant and animal species.
The forested landscape features red and jack pine forests and woodlands, large white pine, balsam fir and white spruce forests, and a high quality old-growth northern white cedar forest. In addition to La Salle Lake and La Salle Creek, it also features more than one-half mile of Mississippi River Headwaters shoreline.

The Trust for Public Land, a national, nonprofit, land conservation organization, partnered with the DNR to transfer the property to public ownership. The property was purchased with funds dedicated to environmental projects.

The majority of the $8.49 million in funding came from the 2008 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment Act – specifically the Outdoor Heritage Fund through a grant from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Additional funding was provided by the Parks and Trails Fund and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.
Driving directions
La Salle Lake State Recreation Area is 233 miles northwest of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and 8 miles northeast of Itasca State Park.
From the north: From Shevlin, take Clearwater County Road 2 south 13.5 miles to Clearwater County Road 40 and continue east on Hubbard County Road 9 for 2.5 miles.
From the south: From the north entrance of Itasca State Park, take Clearwater County Road 2 north 6 miles to Clearwater County Road 40 and continue east on Hubbard County Road 9 for 2.5 miles.
From the east: From Highway 71, take Hubbard County Road 9 west for 12 miles to Becida, then continue west for 4 miles.
For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).