- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015
No. 2 leader at St. John’s Abbey steps aside on abuse claim

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The No. 2 leader at St. John’s Abbey, the Rev. Tom Andert, has stepped aside because of a sexual misconduct allegation involving a former student at St. John’s Preparatory School, the monastery said Thursday.

The abbey’s spokesman, the Rev. Aelred Senna, told Minnesota Public Radio (https://bit.ly/1fsKiZPhttps://bit.ly/1fsKiZP ) in an email that Andert will “step back from public ministry and from his work until an investigation is completed.”

Andert declined to comment. As prior of the abbey, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Benedictine monastery in Collegeville and monk-in-charge when the abbot was away.

Senna said the decision to remove Andert came in response to a letter sent earlier this month by a former student at St. John’s Prep.

“The letter alleged sexual misconduct by Father Tom Andert, but had very few details,” Senna said. “In spite of the lack of detail in the allegation, we have implemented our policy … and referred the letter writer to a Victim’s Advocate and offered support for counseling.”

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UCare asks judge to halt impending public program signups

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The health insurance company UCare has asked a Minnesota judge to halt the state’s upcoming sign-up period for public health insurance programs as the coverage provider fights a decision eliminating it from the menu of options.

In a Ramsey County lawsuit filed Wednesday, UCare seeks an injunction delaying 2016 enrollments due to start in early September and asks for the right to negotiate new contracts with the state. The company alleges that the state arbitrarily cut it out during a bidding process for those contracts and failed to follow the wishes of dozens of counties which recommended contracting with UCare.

The Department of Human Service announced in late July that UCare fell short of continued inclusion following a competitive bid process, a decision the company has attempted to appeal with the agency and Gov. Mark Dayton. In its complaint, the Minneapolis company notes both the immense burden of shifting its 370,000 low-income enrollees to new plans and the “irreparable harm” to its business the state’s decision would trigger - nearly three-quarters of its customers are on the public programs MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance.

“The public interest at stake here is significant - as counties and community representatives have expressed their displeasure and disagreement with DHS’s announcement excluding UCare from the marketplace,” attorneys for the company argued in a lawsuit that also criticizes the state for an “extreme decision to completely and abruptly exclude UCare.”

The state contracts with health plans to cover hundreds of thousands of residents on its public health programs. For the first time this year, state officials put those contracts out to bid statewide - a move that Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said last month would save $450 million over the next two-year contract starting in 2016.

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Funeral held in Minnesota for 8 slain Texas family members

LA CRESCENT, Minn. (AP) - Eight black hearses lined up side by side outside a church in a small southeastern Minnesota community Thursday, each set to carry one member of a slain Houston, Texas, family to their final resting place.

The funeral for Valerie and Dwayne Jackson and their six children, ages 6 to 13, at La Crescent United Methodist Church and their burial at Prince of Peace Cemetery west of town were closed to the media. About 30 members of the Wisconsin and Minnesota chapters of Bikers Against Child Abuse stood guard at the edge of the church property, the La Crosse Tribune reported. They also formed a human wall at the cemetery to shield the burial.

The mother’s ex-boyfriend, David Conley, is charged with capital murder in the Aug. 8 shootings. Authorities say Conley handcuffed most of them and shot each in the head. The slain children were 13-year-old Nathaniel, 11-year-old Honesty, 10-year-old Dwayne, 9-year-old Caleb, 7-year-old Trinity and 6-year-old Jonah. Authorities say Nathaniel was Conley’s son from his relationship with Valerie Jackson, while the Jacksons were the parents of the other five children.

The Jacksons formerly spent time in La Crosse, Wisconsin, but the funeral was held in nearby La Crescent, Minnesota, because Valerie Jackson’s only surviving child lives in the area.

The Rev. Gregg Nelson, of the church where the funeral was held, declined to name the surviving sibling but told the Post-Bulletin of Rochester ahead of the funeral that the child is currently in his confirmation class.

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MNsure tackles tech problems weeks before signups start

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - State officials say they’re on track to fix several longstanding technical issues at the health insurance exchange MNsure.

MNsure’s technological staff told state lawmakers Thursday they have major improvements to the exchange’s back end system lined up for the weekend. That includes making it faster to update consumers’ addresses and add children to health plans - a process that has taken close to an hour.

The state is also working on automating registration submissions to health insurance companies and tackling a backlog of public program renewals.

MNsure’s technological woes have improved since a disastrous rollout in 2013 but problems have persisted. Interim chief executive Allison O’Toole says they’re making headway on addressing the website’s remaining issues.

The next round of open enrollment begins Nov. 1.

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