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Commissioners Hear Good News From BC/BS

The Mitchell County Commissioners heard good news and favorable options from Alejandra Jiarez, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, representative for this area. Jiarez was here to talk to the Commissioners about renewing their employee benefit plan for the coming year. She said this is the most massive change in BC/BS benefit plans in the history of their company.

Jiarez said the commissioners can breath a sigh of relief because of their favorable participation Mitchell County will be looking at lower rates this year. Since this county is "grandfathered" in they won't have to answer to some of the new regulations. They will be able to keep every thing, as it is if they decide to go with BC/BS again this year, she said. Their renewal is looked on as a favorable plan so this will give the county more breathing room when it comes to penalties from the Affordable Health Care Act later on. She felt it would be about a year before the Affordable Healthcare Act penalties would go into effect.

Chairman Mike Cooper said county employees as a whole are all very happy with the coverage they have on their present plan. All of the different groups will receive lower rates across the board, Juarez said. She assured the commissioners she is available to come out and do a variety of presentations to the employees and provide health and wellness information for the employees at any time and explained other offers they have available.

Commissioner Tom Claussen asked if this county would receive a refund check as they have the past few years. Jiarez said it looks very favorable at the present time but they will find out after March after they see what goes on from now until that time. Chairman Cooper said they have talked it over before hand and want to proceed with their plan as it is now without any changes. Commissioner Claussen made the motion to accept the employee's BC/BS Insurance plan just the way they had it last year, seconded by Commissioner Ben Marshall. The motion passed unanimously.

County Clerk, Chris Treaster, said they finished the final county evaluation report last week and she was happy to announce that Mitchell County's Evaluation is up a little bit from last year.

Commissioner Claussen said they received a notice from the National Association of County's asking for $450 membership fee, which is up $50 from last year. He asked if the other commissioners thought they wanted to continue to be a member. Chairman Cooper encouraged them to keep their membership as the organization sends out good information. Commissioner Duane Patrick represents this district of Kansas. The commissions approved a motion to remain a member of the association.

Sondra Hone, County Health Department, brought in a Dietitian WIC Contract for Ottawa County. The commissioners approved the contract for October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015. Hone said she got word last week the government is only going to issue checks for WIC through the end of this month. Plan payments will depend on the government shut down situation. Hone said they are giving a lot of flu shots now.

Ed Debesis, Emergency Medical Services, reported they have had four ambulances down since last Sunday. The new ambulance is doing all right so far. He explained the problems each of the ambulances have had and what they are doing to get them back into service. One unit will have to have the engine pulled which will cost $5,000 or more. He plans to pull the water rescue truck back into service. MC #3 is out at Solomon Valley Transportation being fixed. He would like to find a used truck for the first responders to haul their equipment in.

Debesis plans to go to the doctor's meeting next month to discuss the number of runs they are getting a long way out of the county because the fees these bring in are just barely covering the gas. One run cost $3,000 and they got paid $286 in payment. People without insurance are just not paying so he is having to write off the difference. "We are a not a for profit service and I don't want to be cruel but we will go broke this way. We just can't keep eating this expense," Debesis said. Our total write off for the year so far is $70,162.52 which is double the write off over the whole year in 2012. These are mostly Medicare and Medicaid patients. Bad debt write off for this month alone was $8,601.38. The total ambulance runs in September were 64 which is 28 more calls over this month last year.

"I do have the right to turn people down," Debesis said, "We only get $820 a run through Medicare. Blue-Cross Insurance pays the best. On 911 calls I have to do it but on transfers we don't have to do this. If some of these people could be taken to Salina instead of instead of hospitals further away it would cost us $1,100 compared to $3,000 for the longer trips. If we decide to do this it has to be consistent. I know that some services request their money up front if they know they aren't going to get paid or if they even request one-half of the payment that would help. I would never turn down a life or death emergency," Debesis said.

Commissioner Claussen asked Chairman Cooper how big a project the area to prepare meals for the jail is going to be now that they have relocated the rooms to house the meal preparation in. Cooper said these are larger rooms and have more places to plug in equipment already available. They have to put in a hood over the stoves and an exhaust fan. Consolidated Foods Inc. goal is to have the equipment in by the November 1, and be up and running by December 1. The county has to sign a contract before they can do that. They want to start job interviews and get people hired to fix the meals as soon as they get set up. They are ready to start shipping equipment in now and have already approved the kitchen layout. Brian Streit, Courthouse Maintenance Supervisor is busy working on the project, Cooper told the other commissioners.

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