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Ceremony Friday for Bloomer school addition
 
 10.12.17

A ceremony to dedication an addition to the Bloomer Middle School will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13 at the Bloomer Middle School Auditorium.

An open house will be held from 5:45-7 p.m., and refreshments will be offered.

Voters by a nine-vote margin in April 2016 approved a $3.5 million addition to the school. The work adds six classrooms to the building. The addition is 12,360 square feet.

Another 1,890 square feet of the school was remodeled.


Local
Nobel Prize has local connection
 10.12.17

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded—and one winning team member’s wife has a local connection.

Kathleen Santineau, wife of member and signee of the winning team Todd Etzel, is from Chippewa Falls and is an alumna of University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. Etzel is from Green Bay, Wis. and De Pere, Wis.

The pair now lives in Azusa, Calif.

Etzel contributed to the LIGO Gravity Project Inception project, for which Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne will be recognized.


Local
Obamacare insurance rates to rise 36 percent in Wisconsin next year
 
 10.13.17

MADISON — Health insurance premiums on the Affordable Care Act exchange will go up an average of 36 percent in Wisconsin next year, but government subsidies will offset the increases for most people, a state official said Thursday.

A major reason for the stiff hikes is that President Donald Trump’s administration hasn’t said if it will continue certain payments to insurers, said J.P. Wieske, deputy commissioner of insurance.

The increases — and the loss of three national insurers in the state from healthcare.gov, affecting more a third of the 216,000 residents who get insurance that way — also reflect instability in the market, Wieske said.

Too few young and healthy people are signing up for insurance on the exchange, part of what is known as Obamacare, making it risky for insurers who have lost $400 million from the business in the state over three years, he said.

“There’s some concern that we’re in a death spiral,” Wieske said. “The increases we’re seeing reflect the increased amount of risk that a smaller number of carriers are going to have to take on.”

Gov. Scott Walker added: “Obamacare is collapsing, and these huge premium increases show the law failed on its promise to deliver affordable healthcare.”

Enrollment for individual coverage at healthcare.gov runs Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. The vast majority of people get insurance instead through their employer or the government programs Medicaid or Medicare.

Molina Healthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Wisconsin and Health Tradition Health Plan said earlier this year they are leaving the exchange next year. About 75,000 people on those plans will need to select other insurance, Wieske said.

To help stabilize the market, Wisconsin will consider seeking a waiver in 2019 to let the state set up its own system under the federal health care law, he said. Minnesota has done that, and Iowa is requesting permission.

President Trump’s executive order Thursday to allow for the sale of cheaper, less regulated plans could also help, Wieske said.

“We’re hopeful over the longer haul that some of these pieces will have a positive impact on consumers’ ability to buy health insurance,” he said.

Premiums next year will increase an average of 40 percent for so-called silver plans on the exchange in the state. About 90 percent of people with the coverage get subsidies that will also go up accordingly, so they won’t be directly impacted, Wieske said.

Rates for bronze plans, which offer less coverage, will go up 21 percent. The cost for gold plans, which offer more coverage, will go up 19 percent. People buying those plans will have to pay more.

Trump has threatened to end payments to insurance companies to help cover low-income people, though the payments have continued.

Wisconsin, like some other states, told insurance companies to assume the payments, associated with silver plans, won’t be provided next year. That contributed significantly to their large rate increases for silver plans, Wieske said.

If the payments continue, insurers could be required to lower rates in 2019, he said.

The insurance commissioner’s office provided rates by county for 2018 for a 21-year-old buying the lowest-cost silver plan.

That rate will go up about 51 percent next year statewide. In Dane County, it will increase 61 percent, with an average monthly premium of $353, up from $220 this year.

Dean Health Plan, Group Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin and Unity Health Insurance, which has started using the name Quartz, sell plans on the exchange in Dane County.


SUSAN WALSH, ASSOCIATED PRESS  

President Donald Trump steps through the door of Air Force One on Friday at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J. Trump is spending the weekend in Bedminster, N.J., at his golf club. The resignation of the president’s top health official will make repealing “Obamacare” tougher.


Heyde Center welcomes 'Fire & Rain' Saturday
 10.12.17

Singer-songwriter double act Swearingen & Kelli will return to Chippewa Falls with their tribute to beloved tunes of the ‘70s and the artists who performed them with their folk-pop performance “Fire & Rain” at the Heyde Center for the Arts, 3 S. High Street, Chippewa Falls.

The group will sing and play tributes to Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Carole King at their performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14.

AJ Swearingen is a singer-songwriter and producer who has performed in many orchestras across the country. Jayne Kelli began writing and recording her songs at the age of 15. She has shared the stage and opened for artists such as John McCutcheon, Crystal Gayle and more.

Admission is $15 for adults $14 for seniors $8 for youth. Tickets can be purchased at www.cvca.net/events/fire-rain.