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YWCA honors women of excellence

The St. Joseph YWCA honored female role models during its annual Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon on Thursday at the Civic Arena.

During the luncheon, outstanding volunteers and leaders were spotlighted, and women in the community shared their stories of how the YWCA has touched their lives.

“At the YWCA, that’s our mission — to empower women and eliminate racism — and we take it very seriously,” YWCA Chief Executive Officer Tammy Killin said. “I think that’s important as women, that we continue to work. We’re not quite where we need to be still, and this kind of event will empower all of us to be the type of leaders that we all need to be.”

Killin officially joined the YWCA in January after Jean Brown, the previous chief executive officer, retired after 23 years, making Thursday’s Women of Excellence luncheon her first.

“It’s not like I did this on my own,” Killin said. “Some of the women who’ve been doing it for 18 years, the first pioneers of the event, are still here today. So without the community, my board members, staff members, our steering committee, of course, it wouldn’t come together.”

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Outdoor businesses are ready for the heat of summer

Today’s official start of summer is being welcomed by those who do much of their work outdoors.

Trades such as concrete, roofing, construction, tree removal and lawn services rely on the heat of summer and more sunlight to begin and finish jobs on time. Unfortunately, a cooler and wet spring has led to business being backed up heading into the heart of the work season.

“Currently business is busier than it’s ever been,” Kip Traster, director at K&M Concrete Construction, said. “We have a lot of work, and most of this work is carried over from this last season. We’re currently doing work we should’ve been doing in March and April.”

According to the National Weather Service, the average last spring freeze occurs on April 15.

“Starting this season the frost penetrated the ground deeper than it has in the past and softened the ground so much that in late April, when we delivered a dozer to one of our sites, it practically became stuck,” Traster said.

A labor shortage also is playing a role in some work being behind as well.

“Unemployment levels are really low, so the availability of skilled laborers is not very good right now,” Traster said.

Poor work conditions and fewer employees has led to pushing back deadlines, not just for K & M Concrete Construction, but for many other companies throughout the area.

“Right now we are putting together all the information we can present to the community, project managers and our clients that are waiting on us to get work done,” Traster said.

The good news is that regardless of rain during the summer, the ground will be able to dry up quicker with more solar radiation.

“The sun and the heat are a construction worker’s friend,” Traster said.

Also with summer officially here, for many outdoor businesses that means earlier start times and longer work hours.

“We are able to get a lot done in the summer. The sun comes up at 5:30 a.m. in the morning (so) we are working, and when the sun goes down at 9 p.m. we are finishing up work,” Traster said.

1 in 6 ER visits or hospital stays triggers 'surprise' bill

WASHINGTON — Roughly 1 in every 6 times someone is taken to an emergency room or checks in to the hospital, the treatment is followed by a “surprise” medical bill, according to a study released Thursday. And depending on where you live, the odds can be much higher.

The report from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation finds that millions of people with what’s considered solid coverage from large employers are nonetheless exposed to “out-of-network” charges that can amount to thousands of dollars. It comes as congressional lawmakers of both parties and the Trump administration move to close the loophole, with a Senate panel scheduled to vote on legislation next week.

A patient’s odds of getting a surprise bill vary greatly depending on the state he or she lives in. Texas seems like a bit of a gamble, with 27% of emergency room visits and 38% of in-network hospital stays triggering at least one such bill. Minnesota looks safer, with odds of 2% and 3%, respectively.

Researcher Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Foundation said the reasons for such wide differences are not entirely clear, but seem to be related to the breadth of hospital and doctor networks in each state, and the ways those networks are designed.

Patients in New York, Florida, New Jersey and Kansas also were more likely to get surprise bills. Among the other states where it was less likely were South Dakota, Nebraska, Maine and Mississippi.

Averaging the results nationwide, 18 percent of emergency room visits and 16 percent of stays at an in-network hospital triggered a surprise bill for patients with health insurance through a large employer, the study estimated.

That illustrates the need for Congress to get involved, said Pollitz, since large-employer plans are regulated by federal law and surprise billing protections already enacted by states like New York do not apply to them. “This is a prominent problem affecting patients, and it is beyond the reach of state laws to fix, and it is by definition beyond the ability of patients to fix on their own,” she said.

Next Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee plans to vote on bipartisan legislation that would limit what patients can be charged to their in-network deductibles and copays. The bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., would require insurers to pay out-of-network doctors and hospitals the median — or midpoint — rate paid to in-network providers. The House Energy and Commerce committee is working on similar legislation. President Donald Trump has said he wants to sign a bill.

Major industry lobbies are going to battle over the issue. Insurers and employers generally favor the approach the Alexander-Murray bill takes on how to pay out-of-network providers, using an in-network rate as the reference point. But hospitals and doctors instead want disputed bills to go to arbitration. New York has an arbitration system and a recent study found it has worked well. However, some lawmakers are concerned that on a national scale it may lead to a costly new bureaucracy.

Surprise bills can come about in different ways. In an emergency, a patient can wind up at a hospital that’s not in their insurer’s network. Even at an in-network hospital, emergency physicians or anesthesiologists may not have a contract with the patient’s insurer. For a scheduled surgery at an in-network hospital, not all the doctors may be in the patients’ plan.

Bills can amount to tens of thousands of dollars and hit patients and their families when they are most vulnerable. Often patients are able to negotiate lower charges by working with their insurers and the medical provider. But the process usually takes months, adding stress and anxiety. When it doesn’t work out bills can get sent to collection agencies.

The Kaiser estimates are based on insurance claims from 2017 for nearly 19 million people, or more than 1 in 5 of those covered by large employers. The claims details came from an IBM Health Analytics database that contains information provided by large-employer plans. Researchers excluded patients 65 or older, most of whom are covered by Medicare.

The Alexander-Murray legislation also includes other ideas aimed at lowering medical costs by promoting competition to brand-name drugs, blocking health industry contracting practices can bid up prices, and requiring greater disclosure of information. A public health section of the bill would authorize a national campaign to increase awareness of the role vaccines play in preventing disease.

Amanda Sullivan | News-Press NOW  

St. Joseph’s Mahlyk Davis throws a pitch against the Nevada Griffons on Thursday at Phil Welch Stadium.

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Drug Strike Force: St. Joseph can be hideout for criminals

Whatever the reasons, the city of St. Joseph and the surrounding area has become a hideout for some of Missouri’s worst criminals.

That’s kept the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office and the St. Joseph Police Department busy serving warrants, sometimes arresting those wanted for very serious crimes, like homicide.

“With us, we try to take the warrants that are higher risk,” Buchanan County Drug Strike Force Commander Shawn Collie said. “Warrants that are violent crimes, or warrants that are high risk and going to require a little bit more surveillance or a little bit more work than just pulling them over.”

Last Thursday, police officers and sheriff’s deputies did execute one of those high-risk warrants, arresting a man wanted as part of a homicide investigation in Kansas City.

According to a probable cause statement filed by Collie, Sylvester Crowell, 32, was arrested June 13 after a brief foot chase with both St. Joseph Police Department officers and Sheriff’s deputies in pursuit.

“Members (of the police and sheriff’s office) attempted to arrest Sylvester Crowell for an active Jackson County, Missouri warrant and for investigation of homicide,” the statement said.

“As investigators approached Crowell he fled on foot,” according to the statement. “Crowell was caught after a half block foot chase and (was) taken into custody.”

According to police, they recovered a revolver and a plastic bag with over 40 rounds. Crowell was arrested for resisting arrest, possession of a controlled substance and unlawful use of a weapon in addition to the original warrant.

Collie said he isn’t sure the exact reasons why so many criminals flee to the area, but added that St Joseph’s proximity to Kansas City probably factors in.

”It’s just big enough that somebody can come here and blend in and as long as they aren’t committing crimes they may just blend in with everybody else,” Collie said. “I wouldn’t say that St. Joe attracts a criminal element, but unfortunately St. Joe is a city that attracts a lot of visitors.”

”It’s small enough that you don’t have the issues of Kansas City or St. Louis going on,” he said.

Collie said it’s hard to estimate how many of the warrants his unit serves are from out of the county, but he said his unit works with an outside agency on a warrant at least once a month.

“I wouldn’t ever say it’s a burden, but it’s time-consuming,” Collie said. “For us, when we’re able to take somebody off the streets who’s wanted for a serious crime I think that’s a job that we want to do.”