- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015
APNewsBreak: Big bump coming for MinnesotaCare users

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Tens of thousands of low-income residents on one of Minnesota’s subsidized health care programs will see a hefty jump in many out-of-pocket costs next year - a likely surprise to those enrollees, who received notices earlier this fall suggesting the costs would remain the same.

State officials finalized cost hikes this week effective for 2016 on MinnesotaCare that vary widely among co-pays, hospital and emergency room visits and other costs. The “working poor” residents on the subsidized program will soon pay $150 for every inpatient hospital visit and $25 for an outpatient stop; both were previously free. The cost of an emergency room visit will jump from $3.50 to $50 and a standard doctor’s office appointment is set to increase from $3 to $15.

Those cost hikes, outlined in a letter sent to lawmakers and obtained by The Associated Press, contradict a notice the Department of Human Services sent this fall to all 90,000-plus households on MinnesotaCare plans. That notice, sent between September and October, included last year’s lower out-of-pocket costs, labeling them as effective starting Jan. 1 and with little indication that the costs would jump.

Assistant Commissioner Nathan Moracco confirmed those letters went out, calling it a matter of “unfortunate timing.” He said the increases hadn’t been finalized when the state sent out federally required notices for next year’s coverage. Moracco said the department will send out notices with the updated costs in the coming weeks.

Those increases will add to the increasing costs of the low-income program. Some MinnesotaCare enrollees will also be hit with monthly premium increases that range from an extra $8 monthly to an additional $30.

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PolyMet review calls for cleanup assurance, water monitoring

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota state officials on Friday delivered a mammoth, final environmental review for a proposed copper-nickel mine, saying the project as designed would meet state standards for protecting the environment and human health.

The highly anticipated 3,500-page document stipulated that wastewater from the mine would have to be treated indefinitely to prevent pollutants from escaping. And it said PolyMet Mining Corp. would have to put up money to make sure cleanup costs are covered for as long as necessary after the mine closes.

“We have really turned this project upside down, inside out and backward and forward to take a look at it,” said Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. Officials said the $20 million spent so far is the most expensive such screening in state history.

The PolyMet project has been fiercely opposed by environmentalists who worry about pollution ruining waters near the mine’s northeast Minnesota location and perhaps even reaching the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Supporters argue that the mine would bring jobs and economic development to an area of the state that sorely needs it as taconite mining has declined.

State officials say the document isn’t a recommendation for or against the project. The release starts a 30-day public comment period that runs through Dec. 14. The DNR will rule by early next year if the study is adequate. The company can then start applying for about two dozen local, state and federal permits.

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The Latest: Landwehr: PolyMet project meets state standards

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The latest on an environmental impact statement being released Friday on the proposed PolyMet mining project to pursue copper and nickel in northern Minnesota (all times local):

3 p.m.

An attorney part of a coalition opposing the PolyMet project is objecting to a state assessment that the copper-nickel mine is environmentally sound.

Kathryn Hoffman of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy says her group is concerned about ongoing water treatment the mining would touch off and whether an adequate damage deposit would be made. She says the water studies included in the final environmental impact statement released Friday needed more independent verification.

The Department of Natural Resources is opening a 30-day public comment period next week. In a preliminary study, the agency was flooded with more than 58,000 public comments. Hoffman says she hopes that comment period results in changes to the proposed project.

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Feds: Man who escaped Ohio prison in ‘78 caught in Minnesota

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A convicted murderer who escaped from an Ohio prison in 1978 by cutting through cell bars and a fence was captured in Minnesota’s capital, where he had a job delivering newspapers, the U.S. Marshals Service said Friday.

Oscar Juarez, 66, was among Ohio’s most wanted fugitives and evaded being caught while on the run despite being arrested but let go at least seven times in the 1980s.

He was taken into custody Thursday night in St. Paul, Minnesota, at an apartment building on a tree-lined street, said Pete Elliott, the U.S. marshal for northern Ohio. It wasn’t clear how long he had been in Minnesota.

He was living alone in St. Paul under a different name, said Chris Clifford, the supervisory deputy U.S. marshal in Minneapolis. Juarez told authorities he’d been living in Minnesota for 20 years, but “we are finding that hard to believe,” Clifford said.

Juarez made an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate in St. Paul on Friday. He will be held until a hearing next week to determine his identity and argue detention.

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