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This Week's Editorial
Another Perspective PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lori Pankonin   

County fair reflections spark meeting my man

Chase County, Neb., Fair time brings memories from all angles ... from my childhood, to teen years and dating, to watching our children soak in the thrills, to the hours of volunteer experiences, to seeing people galore and to experiencing the joy of excited grandchildren.

What stands out vividly as a very key connection in my lifetime was that evening 41 years ago when I met Russ Pankonin. That’s all it was ... an introduction. He had a girlfriend, and I had other interests, but there was something that clicked. As the year passed and we’d end up in the same places, interest sparked again, but there were always other factors.

A full year later in the fall, we had our first official date to homecoming. Yes, I invited a Grant, Neb., boy to homecoming in Imperial, Neb. And yes, I made the first official ask. He instantly made my heart go pitter-patter, and I was hooked. But I had already agreed to going to another homecoming the next weekend. And I kept that date.

It was the very next week that I had his big class ring. We were going steady ... just like that. Talk about falling hard and fast. I was madly in love. Puppy love is maybe what you’d think. I was 15 years old, and he was 16.

We had a couple breakups and tried to date others when he went off to college. But we’re convinced we were meant for each other. Last week marked 35 years since we’ve been hitched. I’ll have to say it’s been a good ride.

As we ate an anniversary dinner, we talked about what memories come to the top from those three and a half decades. Ironically, it involved births and deaths. Yes, the amazing miracle of the birth of our two daughters, then three grandchildren forms a bond that’s indescribable.


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Holyoke Enterprise Aug. 21, 2014

 
Thinking About Health PDF Print E-mail
Written by Trudy Lieberman   

When Congress says it’s OK to waste health care dollars

Evidence continues to pile up that Medicare Advantage plans are no advantage for taxpayers. MA plans, as they are called, are one alternative for seniors to receive their Medicare benefits. But in this case, the benefits come from government payments to private insurance carriers, not directly from the federal government.

Medicare Advantage plans took off in 2006 when overpayments from the government allowed insurance sellers to offer these arrangements as an alternative to traditional Medicare benefits and Medigap policies.

In a move to encourage beneficiaries to use managed care—on the theory it would save money—the government began to pay insurers to provide the same benefits to seniors and disabled people eligible for Medicare that would be available in the regular fee-for-service program.

Payments from Washington have been very generous­—a kind of subsidy for insurers that has made it possible for them to entice seniors with low or no monthly premiums for their coverage and extra goodies like chiropractic care, gym memberships and eye glasses.

There was a catch, though, that seniors would learn about only if they got sick. Some of these no-premium MA plans came with high copayments and coinsurance required for many services.

Still, they’ve become so popular that 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries now have them, and most beneficiaries eagerly sign up for them during fall open enrollment with little thought to potentially high out-of-pocket costs down the road.

Studies by health policy researchers in and out of government have found that Medicare has paid insurance companies as much as 12 or 13 percent more than it costs to provide identical benefits for the same services under the traditional program thanks to quirks in the payment formulas as well as overbilling by insurance companies.

The most recent study has come from Medicare’s own researchers who quietly posted their results in late July on an online research site of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the Medicare program. They found many MA plans routinely overbill the government for treating elderly patients and have done so for years.

Researchers said that many MA plans exaggerate how sick their patients are and how much they cost to treat them, a practice called upcoding, which my journalistic colleague Fred Schulte at the Center for Public Integrity has written about extensively.

Schulte told me “the study can appear to be an inside baseball thing but it’s hugely important since it exposes tons and tons of misspent taxpayer money.”


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Holyoke Enterprise Aug. 21, 2014

 

 
Extension Corner PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kindra Plumb   

4-H Encourages Healthy Competition

With most county fairs in the area coming to a close, it is time to reflect on another successful fair season. During county fair, one common thread that all 4-H members will be a part of is competition. This includes competition in the show ring, club exhibits and general project exhibits, just to name a few. 4-H emphasizes friendly competition, with 4-H members learning how to win and lose graciously at all times.

Youth and adults alike experience competition regularly in everyday life. Everyone enjoys winning or feeling that they are good at something. Competitiveness is a learned behavior, which in the appropriate situation, can help build character.

Healthy and appropriate competition promotes the development of important life skills such as decision-making, self-control, discipline and self-confidence. Competition encourages a healthy attitude about success and offers opportunities to learn from mistakes and failures.


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Holyoke Enterprise Aug. 21, 2014