The Minnesota Department of Commerce has earmarked tens of thousands of dollars in federal grant money for staff travel to conferences.
The department announced they received a $1 million grant from the federal government for service to help make sure “insurance companies are complying with all appropriate federal and state laws so Minnesota consumers receive the health care benefits they are entitled to,” reports Fox 9.
State Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) released documents which outlined a total of $62,846 in expenses to send three staff members from the Commerce and Minnesota Health Departments to a total of four conferences reports the Pioneer Press. The conferences are sponsored by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Destinations included Honolulu, Hawaii; Miami Beach Florida; as well as Denver and Philadelphia.
“It appears extravagant,” Albright wrote in a Wednesday letter to Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman reports the Pioneer Press, “to seek supplemental funding for staff travel to conferences at luxury resorts in Miami and Hawaii.”
Turns out that the application Albright had seen and then released was a draft edition. The final application axed the trip to Hawaii, but retained the other three conferences.
“Rep. Albright somehow had a draft of a grant application that was not what was actually submitted,” Commerce Department spokesman Ross Corson said in an email to the Pioneer Press, “The training/travel budget is $24,000 over a two-year period. There are no trips to Hawaii.”
The application also reduced the number of staff members being sent from three to two. The total travel costs will amount to $24,384, or $12,192 per person over that two year period.
Corson told the Pioneer Press that attending the conferences gives staff “detailed guidance” on incoming federal regulations that may affect Minnesota.
The application is still awaiting formal approval as Minnesotans head into the new year facing health care plan cost increase of between 50 to 67 percent on current rates.