The Free Press, Mankato, MN


May 11, 2013

Rotary donation tops for kids

To the Greater Mankato Rotary Club for its generous donation of money and time to the Southern Minnesota Children’s Museum.

The newly merged club was looking for a big project to support, and this one fits the bill. The $4 million museum project has been in the works for years now. So far $2.5 million has been raised for it.

The rotary has committed $100,000 over five years as well as 10,000 hours of volunteer service. Volunteer opportunities could include helping out as play workers, on construction of exhibits and organization of fundraisers. That combination of giving time and money sets a good precedent for other groups interested in supporting the children’s museum. Money is needed to remodel the former city garage if that ends up being the site as planned, but hours of help are also needed to get the project done and keep the facility running.

Medical pricing disparities create confusion

To the widely and unexplained variations in medical billing across Minnesota and across the nation.

In an attempt to provide more transparency for consumers, the federal government last week made public more than 3,000 hospital charges for the most common procedures. The results were startling.

A joint replacement in Minnesota ranged from $26,000 to $55,000 while national costs varied from some $5,000 to more than $200,000. Kidney treatment ranged from near $10,000 to more than double that at different Minnesota hospitals. Similar disparities were found for most procedures.

Federal officials and consumer advocates said the wide differences can’t be explained by the cost of doing business in different communities and that higher charges didn’t correlate to better health outcomes.

Medical transparency has improved as more groups and government agencies have posted online data bases that give information on accidents in nursing homes, rate doctors and provide more financial information. Consumers need much more information — including costs of procedures, profits and administrative costs of insurance companies, costs of drugs — if they are to make the best decisions for themselves.

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