Why A $70,000 Minimum Salary Isn’t Enough

That old law of “unintended consequences” always kicks in.   

When Dan Price announced that he was raising the minimum salary in his company to $70,000, it made a lot of headlines. The story of the founder and CEO of the Seattle-based credit card processor Gravity Payments drastically cutting his own salary in order to raise the standard of living of even his lowest paid employees was written about just about everywhere, from liberal bloggers to conservative radio hosts.

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Jane Ahlin: Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are a story of two directions

This will make Jane’s fellow collectivists sad. 

 As far as he was concerned, healthy bodies, high ideals, and self-sufficiency are fostered best around a campfire kids built themselves, probably after a day of portaging canoes and paddling into stiff breezes.

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Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Died in 2013, Afghans Declare

Did Joe Biden attend the funeral? 

KABUL, Afghanistan — After months of speculation, Afghan officials announced Wednesday that they were now certain that the Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013.

The announcement is not likely to conclusively settle the question of Mullah Omar’s fate. Afghan officials offered no evidence regarding his death or how they had come to find out about it. And though American officials called the report credible, they, too, were publicly reticent about details or to explain how the news was coming to light only now, even as the Taliban insurgency is gaining momentum on Afghan battlefields.

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Letter: Medicare has made huge difference

It’s going bankrupt, what does Wayne propose to deal with that fact?

Letter: Medicare has made huge difference

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Cost of expanding Medicaid in ND balloons; governor says expansion ‘was the right thing to do’

Jack must think he can buy his way into heaven by spending other people’s money instead of his family’s money. 

BISMARCK – North Dakota will spend millions more than originally projected for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, a tab that could top $30 million per year by 2020 based on current projections.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who pushed for the state to pursue Medicaid expansion in 2013, stands by the decision to expand the health program for low-income residents.

“Rising health care costs are certainly a concern, but we still feel that the expansion is fiscally manageable and that it was the right thing to do for North Dakota,” he said Thursday through spokesman Jeff Zent.

Sanford Health Plan, the only private insurer involved in Medicaid expansion in North Dakota, reports that the cost of claims among the Medicaid expansion group in its first year was 3½ times that of the company’s commercial group – “a significant indicator that we still have a lot of health issues going on,” said Lisa Carlson, executive director of planning and regulation.

The cost of claims averaged $1,215 per member, per month among the Medicaid expansion group, compared with $352 in the commercial group, she said.

The federal government is covering the cost of Medicaid expansion through 2016 for North Dakota, one of 30 states that decided to participate.

North Dakota will begin paying 5 percent of the cost starting Jan. 1, 2017, a share that will gradually increase to 10 percent by 2020.

When state lawmakers were considering in 2013 whether to expand Medicaid, the North Dakota Department of Human Services projected it would cost $2.9 million from the state’s general fund during the last six months of the biennium ending June 30, 2017.

That projection has increased to $8.2 million because of several factors, DHS Executive Director Maggie Anderson said.

“When we built the estimate in 2013, we knew that’s what it was,” she said. “This is a group that we had not covered before. There was no exact science to what their health care costs would be.”

Carlson agreed, saying Sanford and the state used different actuaries but came up with similar projections. Enrollment in Medicaid expansion has been higher than projected and currently stands at about 18,600, double what was projected at this point, she said.

“We both underestimated how quickly it would grow in such a short period of time,” she said.

Anderson said the $2.9 million estimate assumed, based on claims data at the time, that low-income parents with dependent children who would be newly eligible for Medicaid would have pent-up health care needs because they likely hadn’t been insured before, Anderson said.

Officials thought they’d see most of those pent-up costs during the first six months after enrollment.

“What we’ve actually seen is that higher utilization of services has remained fairly consistent,” she said. “We haven’t really seen that drop off.”

In its first year, the Medicaid expansion group logged 1,021 inpatient days per 1,000 people, quadruple the 251 inpatient days in the commercial group, Carlson said.

“They go to the hospital more, and then their average length of stay is longer,” she said.

The gap in emergency room visits was even greater per 1,000 people: 1,201 in the Medicaid expansion group compared with 175 in the commercial group, Carlson said, adding “we know we have some work to do” in educating patients about urgent care services.

Sanford Health Plan is using the benchmarks to create an action plan for nurse care managers who work with patients, with the goal of improving health and controlling costs, Carlson said.

“We’re optimistic. We feel like we’re making a difference,” she said.

The state hasn’t projected what Medicaid expansion will cost in the 2017-19 biennium and beyond, Anderson said. Simply using the projection for the first half of 2017, it would cost $16.4 million for the entire calendar year and more than $32 million annually by 2020 when the state’s share jumps to 10 percent.

Anderson said other factors contributing to the higher cost projection for 2017 include inflation, additional costs for mandated behavioral health services and an increase in reimbursement rates for pharmacists who complained that they were too low.

The Affordable Care Act required states to expand Medicaid coverage to eligible residents with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which is currently $33,465 for a four-person household. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2012 allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion.

Dalrymple, a Republican, supported Medicaid expansion, including it in his budget recommendation to lawmakers in 2013. The GOP-controlled Legislature approved it that spring, and Dalrymple told Forum News Service that December, “There really is no good reason to stand in the way of 20,000 North Dakotans having the opportunity to get health insurance coverage at no cost to themselves.”

At the time, the state expected to receive an additional $154 million to $171 million in federal funding for the 18 months of the 2013-15 biennium that Medicaid expansion would be in effect.

But by the end of the biennium on June 30, the state had spent $268 million on Medicaid expansion – all of it federal money – due to increased use and costs, Anderson said.

The $8.2 million projection, which was approved by lawmakers in the agency’s 2015-17 budget, assumes enrollment will reach 20,500 as originally projected. But Anderson said that dollar figure may fluctuate if utilization costs increase.

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Letter: Clinton can lead in right direction

Will the Clintons share their many millions?

Letter: Clinton can lead in right direction

The gap between the rich and poor is ever-widening in America. How long will it be before people give up on the American dream, that we are all on the same side?

The concept of “common-wealth,” according to Wikipedia, originally comes from “common weal” in which weal, or wealth, meant well-being. By the 17th century, the definition had expanded to embrace a state “in which supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state.”

We need a nationwide living wage of $15 an hour. Hillary Clinton is far-sighted enough to lead America away from division and strife, and toward a sharing democracy.

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Fargo woman accused of trashing apartment building

Oh, oh! 

FARGO – A Fargo woman faces felony charges after allegedly trashing her apartment and the apartment building to the tune of thousands of dollars in damage after she was evicted.

Court documents filed Monday in Cass County District Court state that on June 26, officers arrived at Anisa Abdi Abdulle‘s former apartment at 4337 9th Ave. S. in response to a criminal mischief report. It wasn’t their first time dealing with Abdulle, court documents say.

They had been at the apartment earlier that week for loud pounding, and Abdulle was booked on a disorderly conduct charge.

The landlord, Mark Klevgaard, had been trying to take photos of damage in the common areas of the apartment building when an enraged Abdulle came out of her apartment and dumped some sort of white creamy liquid all over him, the floor and the steps.

Klevgaard told police he thought Abdulle might have been the person who threw food-like substances, fluids and powdered laundry detergents all over the carpets, walls and doors of the building.

He estimated it was going to cost him about $6,000 to fix, he told police.

Other tenants told police Abdulle had caused another mess earlier that month, and she had asked them if they liked cleaning it up because she was going to do it again.

At the time, Abdulle wouldn’t let officers in but told them she wouldn’t cause damage to the apartment, court documents say.

Friday, officers found what Abdulle might have been up to after they left.

Carpets in Abdulle’s unit were sliced and yanked up, and the wood-style flooring torn.

There were large holes in the Sheetrock, and a number of imprints of something striking the walls, and some of the Sheetrock paper had been ripped off.

One window was broken out, and it was plain the damage was caused intentionally, documents state, although it was unclear to officers when the destruction began.

Abdulle was charged with two counts of Class C felony criminal mischief and one count of disorderly conduct, a Class B misdemeanor.

Abdulle’s next court appearance is set for today.

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Scientists warn the sun will ‘go to sleep’ in 2030

Haven’t we been told we must pay more taxes and reduce out standard of living to fight “global warming?” Which is it?

The Earth could be headed for a ‘mini ice age’ researchers have warned.

A new study claims to have cracked predicting solar cycles – and says that between 2020 and 2030 solar cycles will cancel each other out.

This, they say, will lead to a phenomenon known as the ‘Maunder minimum’ – which has previously been known as a mini ice age when it hit between 1646 and 1715, even causing London’s River Thames to freeze over.


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Same-sex couples to get federal marriage benefits, attorney general says

It’s all about the freebies.

WASHINGTON – Federal marriage benefits will be made available to same-sex couples across the United States after last month’s Supreme Court ruling, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Thursday.

“I directed Justice Department staff to work with the agencies to ensure that the ruling be given full effect across the federal government,” including Social Security and veterans benefits programs, Lynch said in a statement.

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Forum editorial: ‘High-tax’ Minnesota is No. 1

State media has never met a tax it didn’t love. Why not tax everything at 100% to achieve utopia? 

“It’s not true, at least as measured by an outside assessment of Minnesota’s business climate that includes the state’s population and jobs growth, employee skill sets, and wage scales that in most classifications are higher than in North Dakota and South Dakota.

That’s the conclusion of no less than CNBC, the cable TV business station that is required viewing for business leaders, investors and policymakers. The big factor in the report’s findings was that companies are more likely to locate or grow where they can find the largest supply of skilled, qualified workers, not necessarily where they can find the lowest taxes or highest incentives. By those criteria, Minnesota measures up as No. 1, knocking Texas from the top spot. North Dakota ranked a respectable sixth; South Dakota 11th.

The ranking might surprise those North Dakotans who use Minnesota as the “bad” example of high taxes and harsh regulation. But while North Dakota is enjoying the best economic period in its history, driven largely by energy development in the west, Minnesota’s economy is far larger and far more diverse, and always has been, despite the state’s tax structure and its regulatory practices. As the CNBC analysis confirms, other factors make the difference.

The uncertainties of agriculture and energy have always determined the strength or weakness of North Dakota’s economy. While there has been unprecedented economic diversification in the past few decades, particularly in Fargo and Bismarck, a collapse in oil country or a steep decline in commodity prices (some of both are happening) can have huge negative effects on the overall economy. Combine those factors with a small population that thus far does not have enough skilled and educated workers to fill thousands of good jobs, and the CNBC findings make sense. Minnesota’s population tops 6 million; North Dakota’s flirts with 700,000.

The rankings confirm that business growth is about more than low taxes. Job training and the amenities that higher taxes fund make a difference. North Dakota, with low taxes, does well. Minnesota, with higher taxes, does better.”

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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