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December 22, 2016 • Headline News
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Polar Plunge seeks sponsors

Special Olympics Indiana’s largest signature fundraising event, the Polar Plunge, has raised more than $3 million dollars since its inception in 2000.
The 18 Polar Plunges around the state feature 2,900 plungers braving the icy cold waters in Indiana, as they fundraiser to support athletes with intellectual disabilities. Over 5,000 spectators and volunteers watch as both individuals and teams in costumes jump in freezing water to participate in this incredible team-building, bucket-list challenge. Sponsorship opportunities for the Polar Plunge are available for companies that want to partner with Special Olympics Indiana. Contact Greg Townsend at 812-584-6861 or by email at, or visit to download a sponsorship form.

Jan. 7
First responder breakfast with legislator

Police, Fire, and EMS members please join State Representative Randy Frye for a breakfast to discuss public safety issues for the upcoming legislative session. The breakfast, sponsored by the Aurora Volunteer Fire Department, will be on Saturday, Jan. 7 beginning at 8 a.m.


Christmas dinner shared by caring people

Wanda English Burnett

When people say one person cannot make a difference, they are wrong. A long-time tradition in Ripley County almost came to an end, but one person stepped forward and Christmas Day dinner will continue at St. John’s Catholic Church this year again. The day will be enjoyed by many in the community who look forward to a delicious meal of turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, dessert and more.

Pictured from left are Spencer Johnson, his dad, Duke, and mom, Keri, who along with Riley Johnson (Spencer’s brother not pictured), were getting things underway last week for the annual Christmas dinner that will be held at St. John’s Catholic Church in Osgood, on Christmas Day. Many meals will also be delivered to various people throughout the community. Keri makes sure all the ingredients are in place before the cooks come in to begin the process to cook nearly 200 meals this year.

The dinner was begun 32 years ago, but over time volunteers either aged, moved away, or passed on to their eternal reward. The annual Christmas dinner at the St. John’s Catholic Church in Osgood was one volunteer away from being ended. Keri Johnson said as she sat in church at St. John’s and heard the call for someone to take it on, her heart skipped a beat. She felt she was that someone. Father Shaun Whittington felt the same way as he approached her after the service. “If you don’t do it – it’s probably over,” he told her in 2011.

The dinner hasn’t missed a beat since that time and just this year stands on its own with non-profit status, not under the umbrella of St. John’s Catholic Church. The dinner is stilled cooked at the church fellowship hall and served there. Also, a host of volunteers still drive warm dinners to people all over Ripley County. Keri has been involved in the process since moving to the county in 1993, in one form or another. She helped her parents, Bill and Toni McDonald, who still participate in the tradition.

“I just felt like it was a tradition that couldn’t die,” she noted, adding she didn’t know if she was up for the challenge at first, but was willing to try. Her hard work ethic and organizational skills make it less daunting than it could be. That was seven years ago and with a wonderful family, husband, Duke; sons, Spencer and Riley, and with a host of volunteers the dinner continues . Keri noted, “We have so many involved.” The behind-the-scenes people are many and come from all across the county. “This is truly a community dinner,” Keri laughed. Fink’s Church ladies will be firing up their ovens baking 25 loaves of home-made bread. Ladies from the Hopewell Baptist Church will be providing home-made pies, along with those from St. John’s Lutheran, St. John’s Catholic and St. Maurice.

Keri said her heart swells as the people begin to call each year to be put on the list. But, the best part of all are the stories. “People are so appreciative. They look forward to someone coming to their home on Christmas Day,” she noted. Once Keri was asked to change the date so volunteers could spend time with their families. “That’s what it’s all about!” she exclaimed with tears in her eyes. “We have ALL day. We can take a little portion of it to make others happy.” Her boys agreed they don’t mind a bit helping with the dinner on Christmas Day. It’s almost as though it wouldn’t be Christmas for the Johnson family if they didn’t roll out of bed early and get to the church hall where the magic gets underway. In no way did Keri say they go it alone.

“There are SO many people, it’s a wonderful day with dinners delivered into homes, and the same delicious, healthy meal served to the volunteers and anyone who simply doesn’t want to spend Christmas alone, “ she noted. It’s that simple.

The dinner was begun by a past priest, Father Minta, and Dova Hunter and is rightly named after them to memorialize them and give credit to two people who had a vision. It is provided through efforts of a lot of faith-based organizations, businesses and individuals and is held at the St. John Catholic Church Hall in Osgood on Christmas Day. Really giving and receiving is what Christmas is all about. However, Keri says the faith part of the dinner is not pushed on anyone. They do say a prayer of thankfulness for the meal, people can participate or not. “This is for everyone – no boundaries, no barriers,” she said. “If you want to eat a Christmas meal with others, it’s for you.” It’s provided for free, made by hands that love people and their community.

Keri’s organizational skills provided a streamlined operation with every address printed on mapquest for the drivers and a 501c3 status in place for tax purposes. While the deadline was December 14 for this year’s dinner, there’s always next year. She always advertises in local newspapers to get an idea of how many will participate so no one is left out. To make a donation or find out more you can call 812-689-3322, or send a check to Hunter & Minta Memorial Ripley County Community Christmas Dinner Inc., PO Box 82, Osgood, IN 47037 or email:
Every cent goes directly to the cost of the dinner and no grant money is used for this event. “It’s strictly a community thing,” Keri concluded.

Out-of-network ER docs may charge big bucks

Trudy Lieberman

Surprise medical bills spell big trouble for consumers, especially those who find themselves in an emergency room. Such “surprises” have surfaced as a major patient problem, but because of entrenched healthcare interests, a solution is not likely any time soon.

Here’s what happens. Patients arrive at the emergency room of a hospital that is in their insurer’s provider network; however, the physician who treats them is out of network. Because ER docs are usually assured a steady stream of patients many believe they don’t need to accept potentially lower fees from insurers in exchange for any new patients they might attract by belonging to a network. That’s not the case for other specialists who may rely on insurer networks for more business. Whatever the reason, emergency room patients may be stuck with huge bills their insurance company may not cover or it will pay less than if patients had used in-network doctors. If you think this is unfair, it is.

A study by Yale researchers of more than 2 million emergency room visits across the country was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It found that out-of-network doctors treated 22 percent of the patients who visited emergency departments; the departments themselves were part of their insurers’ networks. The average bill patients incurred was $623. The highest bill was more than $19,000. To put that number in perspective, this year the Federal Reserve reported that 46 percent of Americans were unable to pay a $400 expense without running up credit card debt or selling assets. Not surprisingly, researchers found out-of-network ER doctors ended up getting paid a lot more than those who were part of a network. “The fact this type of price gouging has become routine operating procedure in so many emergency departments is shameful and appalling,” says Chuck Bell, programs director for Consumers Union.

A recent study in Texas by the Center for Public Policy Priorities shows how prevalent out-of-network ER doctors are. Using a 2013 report from the Texas Department of Insurance, the Center found that 45 percent of in-network hospitals in the state used by United Healthcare had no in-network ER doctors. Fifty-six percent of Humana’s hospitals had none. “Consumers would be astonished to see how poor the odds are of getting an in-network doctor in the emergency room.” Bell added. The odds of getting redress are also low. Too many consumers don’t contest their bills. Only about 25 percent of those getting surprise bills do, Bell told me. Of those who do protest to their insurer, only half get their bill forgiven or reduced.

Surprise bills are a variation of what’s called balance billing, which is the gap between what insurance, including Medicare, pays and what a doctor charges. It’s been around for decades, but in the late 1980s, the outcry from Medicare beneficiaries became so loud that Congress did something about it. For doctors who accept Medicare’s payment in full, there is no balance billing - called “excess charges” in Medicare speak. Doctors, including ER physicians who don’t accept that payment, can sock beneficiaries with excess charges, but Medicare limits what they can charge.

Beneficiaries can protect themselves from these excess charges, should they use a doctor who doesn’t accept Medicare’s fee schedule, by buying Medigap policies Plan F and Plan G. For those with Medicare Advantage plans, there’s no protection until the beneficiary reaches the plan’s out-of-pocket spending limit. After that, the doctor can’t balance bill separately. There’s no similar help for those not on Medicare. Many consumers are unaware that an out-of-network doctor is treating them. The standard advice - to ask if your doctor is in the network - is silly when it comes to care in the ER. What patient having a heart attack is going to look up and say, “Hey doc, are you with Aetna?”|

A few states - New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut, and Florida - hold patients harmless if they find themselves with a surprise bill or require outside arbitration to decide a case. But, Bell says it will take an act of Congress to solve this problem. Public outrage will have to get much louder if that’s to happen. Because chances are high you’ll find yourself with such a bill, think twice before you choose to go to the ER for a problem that can wait until you see your regular doctor. Although Obamacare was supposed to cut down on emergency room use, that hasn’t happened. People are still going to ERs for less serious conditions, many being enticed by hospitals themselves that advertise their ER wait times on billboards.

Our healthcare system is all about making money and balance billing, its causes and consequences, is another sorry example. What is your experience with surprise billing? Write to Trudy at

Mock plane crash in Milan

Boy Scouts prepare for emergencies

On the weekend of December 9,10 and 11, Milan Boy Scout Troop 631 conducted an emergency preparedness exercise. The scouts responded to a small plane crash in the Milan area. The scenario was that a twin-engine, Beechcraft Baron 58 from Lunken airport en route to Indianapolis airport disappeared from radar at 4:20 a.m. on December 10. There was a crew of four on board at the time of the crash. Troop 631 was tasked with locating the aircraft, rendering assistance to the survivors, securing the area, and documenting the crash site and rescue efforts. The scouts divided up into four teams: leadership, first aid, firefighting, and a Quick Reaction Team. Isaac Rosenbarger served as over all team lead.

Milan Boy Scouts Troop 631SUBMITTED PHOTO
Pictured are members of Milan Boy Scouts Troop 631 participating in an Emergency Preparedness Exercise recently.

The first task was to locate the aircraft. They did this by triangulating the electronic beacon from the aircraft. Jared Rigdon was able to plot on a topographical map the compass bearing of the signals. He then plotted the location of the plane and transmitted the UTM grid coordinates to the ground team. He then moved to the crash site to aid in rescue efforts. The ground team located the aircraft and found four fuel fires. The fire fighting team systematically put out the fires using all-purpose, dry chemical extinguishers.

Ben Starkey and Tommy Black served as the firefighters. The first aid team moved in to treat survivors. Kevin Brown, Kyler Daulton and Justin Lillis were on the first aid team. The first aid team treated a variety of injuries from simple abrasions to compound fractures and hypothermia. After conducting interviews with the crew, the scouts discovered that one crew member was missing. The Quick Reaction Team, led by Dawson Schroeder and Jared Rigdon conducted a hasty missing person search and located the missing crew member approximately 300 meters from the crash site.

Brody Lack and Parker Sutherlin documented the crash site and all rescue efforts. After completing the mission, the scouts returned to Milan Park to debrief and relax. The scouts learned a great deal and had an opportunity to put into action the skills they had learned over the past year.

Troop 631 would like to thank the Milan Park board for use of the park, Andrew Hand for use of his property where the exercise took place and Jim Gilday for use of the Baron 58 fuselage.

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