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February 9, 2017 • Headline News
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Bluegrass musician to share story of hope and life in recovery from alcoholism at MHS

Wanda English Burnett

On Monday, February 13, Jamie Johnson, formerly of Milan, will be back at the high school where he used to attend to tell students his story. It’s one of great highs, low lows, and now a day-to-day walk living as a recovering alcoholic. He will also perform a concert that night at 6 p.m. at the school for the entire community to attend. His message is powerful, his passion great for others who are struggling on the path he took.

Jamie Johnson and son ColetrainSUBMITTED PHOTO
And another star is born! Jamie Johnson mentors his son, Coletrain, as they enjoy music together.

Following his dreams to be a musician, Johnson traveled to Tennessee several years ago. He achieved that dream by climbing every mountain and overcoming every obstacle to become one of the nation’s most respected and talented bluegrass performers. Johnson was literally on top of the world. His group “The Grascals” performed 167 times at the Grand Ole Opry, were three-time Grammy nominees, twice the International Bluegrass Entertainers of the Year, and even performed at the White House twice, once for President Bush, and once for President Obama. They went on to serve as Dolly Parton’s band, and they appeared on shows such as Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, The Talk, and Country Music Association’s Fan Fest on ABC and more. They were four time Dove nominees and recorded with greats such as Dolly Parton, George Jones, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley and Hank Williams Jr., to name a few.

Johnson’s personality was magnetic, winding up the crowds, with his musical talent flowing from whatever instrument he played and the vocal sounds he sang. He was good. But, no one knew behind that performance, there lurked something much deeper. A pain and darkness that he tried to drown with alcohol. “I had it all but couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror,” he told The Versailles Republican in an interview.

He was crushed beneath a load of a full-time job at his company, Omni Native American Sales, selling steel products to mostly government entities and automotive businesses. He was on the road 160 to 200 days a year performing, managing the band, weekly meetings with sponsors, had a full-time writing deal, and became a husband and father. The pressure was overwhelming. Crushing beneath the load, Johnson turned to the bottle. He said he was always the casual, party drinker but not dependent on it to get through the day. One day, not really any specific day, alcohol had such a hold on him that his every day life was affected. His performance on stage was affected, his life at home was affected, and he was in a dark place of depression that seemingly had no end. More and more he realized he was loosing his grip on things, his beloved band and the musical talent that had brought him to the top of the mountain. But, when he finally was separated from his wife, Susanne, and son, Coletrain, he knew his gig was up. It was time to get help. He’s not ashamed of getting help and working the 12-step program.

He’s fighting everyday to be the kind of man God wants him to be, to use his talents in a different venue. He’s gained so much more than he lost, saying getting his wife and son back was his life. “That’s all that really mattered to me,” he said. Looking back nothing else was really worth the long days on the road or the stress he came under. “She was right there at the treatment center to pick me up,” he noted, thankful for her love and understanding. “I know I need God in my life. Period,” he noted.

Long-time friend from Milan, Travis Rohrig, elementary school principal at Jac-Cen-Del , said of Johnson: “For many years Jamie has provided hope for many people. He provided hope by being an example of a small town boy chasing and accomplishing his dreams. Now, he provides hope for all people who have had personal struggles. He is living proof that you can overcome anything life puts in your way.”

That’s what he’s going to do at the Milan High School on Monday, February 13, offering a message of hope. Johnson reached out to both Rohrig and schoolmate, and athletic director John Prifogle at Milan offering to come to their respective schools to tell his story and hopefully inspire someone, or prevent them from turning to drugs or alcohol. Fran Moore, STARS student services director for Milan schools, noted that Johnson will speak first to the students, then he will be doing a concert that evening at 6 p.m. There will be a free will donation in the evening portion that will benefit the school’s STARS program.

Johnson will perform a song he wrote from his experience “Ready to Love Me Again” that had 26,000 views on YouTube in just two weeks. He now speaks in treatment centers across the country and does speaking engagements whenever and wherever he can, hoping to save someone from the struggles he has been through or perhaps help them get our of a low place. It’s a story of despair turned to hope you don’t want to miss.

Major changes may be coming to Medicare

Trudy Lieberman

Trudy LiebermanWhat’s going to happen to Medicare? That’s not an insignificant question given the political shift in Washington. Now, with Republicans controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress, some ideas they’ve been pushing for years have a chance of passing. Those ideas would drastically change the way Medicare works for those already on it and those joining in the next few years.

Medicare is wildly popular, but that popularity doesn’t necessarily translate into understanding of a very complex program, what’s happened to it, and what may happen. Writing about Medicare for nearly 30 years and watching it evolve, I’ve seen how easily Congress has already made big changes with hardly a peep from the press or the public. The same could happen again. In this column I discuss a few of those possible changes gleaned from my decades of experience covering the program.

Since the election, there’s been talk of “voucherizing” or privatizing Medicare, an idea Republicans have been pushing for 20 years. Under a fully privatized arrangement Medicare would no longer be social insurance like Social Security but more like Obamacare with everyone eventually buying their coverage from private insurance companies. Beneficiaries would receive a sum of money, likely to be called “premium support” instead of the more dire-sounding “voucher,” to help buy their coverage. The amount of support and how well it would keep pace with medical inflation would be buried in the details Congress would hash out.

Today, the government provides the benefits for hospital and physician care for most Medicare beneficiaries, but that could change with more privatization. There already is a lot of privatization in Medicare, and it came about step-by-step usually with both political parties in agreement and lots of buzz words like “consumer choice” to sell changes to the public. The long steady march toward Medicare Advantage (MA) plans now used by about one-third of all beneficiaries and the prescription drug benefit are privatized insurance programs within Medicare. Seniors in MA plans give up their traditional, standardized Medicare benefits for doctor and hospital services and buy them from insurers that receive subsidies from the government. In a totally privatized arrangement there may be no standardized benefits, and seniors would choose from a menu of insurance company options much the way drug plans are sold today.

It’s too early to say whether Congress will push for premium support this year. Democrats have already signaled they will fight back. It’s more likely that other changes could slip through that would radically alter Medicare and force beneficiaries to pay a lot more for their care. One of them is a change in the rules on balance billing (physicians charging seniors and disabled people on the program more than what Medicare will pay). Most doctors accept Medicare’s payment as payment in full. Those who don’t can charge patients only 15 percent more than Medicare’s payment. This limit offers protection against the high balance billing charges patients with other kinds of insurance are facing.

The nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price is no fan of the 15 percent rule and once proposed eliminating it, which may explain why he has gotten such a strong endorsement from the American Medical Association. The AMA has called Price a leader in developing public policy to advance patient choice and “reduce excessive regulatory burdens.” Many doctors who work with Medicare patients would like to charge as much as they want. Congress may try to shift costs another way. The objective is to reduce what the government pays for beneficiaries’ care by making them pay more themselves. One solution is to combine the deductibles for hospital and physician care into one and impose an out-of-pocket spending cap for beneficiaries still enrolled in traditional Medicare. Two-thirds of beneficiaries are. Currently no such cap exists. (Seniors in MA plans do face such caps, last year as high as $6,700.) If seniors in the traditional program also buy a Medigap plan, it’s possible they have what’s called “first dollar coverage.” That means medical expenses are covered from the beginning. Congress has already begun to take that protection away. Beginning in 2020 insurers can no longer sell certain Medigap plans that provide for the first dollar coverage beneficiaries want; however, if you have such a policy, you can keep it.

Medicare does face some long-term funding shortfalls, and so far the acceptable solution is to require that seniors pay more rather than raise taxes for everyone or impose cost controls with teeth, which doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and other healthcare providers don’t want. I will explore all that, including negotiating pharmaceutical prices, in a future column.

How do you think Medicare should change? Write to Trudy at

Eat healthy at 50 and beyond

A balanced diet is an integral element of a healthy lifestyle for men, women and children alike. But while kids and young adults might be able to get away with an extra cheeseburger here or there, men and women approaching 50 have less leeway. According to the National Institute on Aging, simply counting calories without regard for the foods being consumed is not enough for men and women 50 and older to maintain their long-term health. Rather, the NIA emphasizes the importance of choosing low-calorie foods that have a lot of the nutrients the body needs. But counting calories can be an effective and simple way to maintain a healthy weight, provided those calories are coming from nutrient-rich foods. The NIA advises men and women over 50 adhere to the following daily calorie intake recommendations as they attempt to stay healthy into their golden years.

Eat healthyWomen
• Not physically active: 1,600 calories
• Somewhat active: 1,800 calories
• Active lifestyle: between 2,000 and 2,200 calories

• Not physically active: 2,000 calories
• Somewhat active: between 2,200 and 2,400 calories
• Active lifestyle: between 2,400 and 2,800 calories

When choosing foods to eat, the NIA recommends eating many different colors and types of vegetables and fruits. Phytochemicals are substances that occur naturally in plants and there are thousands of these substances offering various benefits. The Produce for Better Health Foundation notes that a varied, colorful diet incorporates lots of different types of phytochemicals, which the PBH says have disease-preventing properties.

The NIA also advises that men and women over 50 make sure at least half the grains in their diets are whole grains. Numerous studies have discovered the various benefits of whole grains, which are loaded with protein, fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients. Whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.

Another potential hurdle men and women over 50 may encounter is a change in their sense of smell and taste. A person’s sense of smell may fade with age, and because smell and taste are so closely related, foods enjoyed for years may no longer tantalize the taste buds. That can be problematic, as many people instinctually add more salt to foods they find bland.

According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, older adults should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. That equates to roughly 3 ⁄ 4 teaspoon of salt. Older men and women should resist the temptation to use salt to add flavor to foods and instead opt for healthy foods that they can still smell and taste. In addition, men and women should mention any loss of their sense of smell to their physicians, as such a loss may indicate the presence of Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. Maintaining a healthy diet after 50 may require some hard work and discipline. But the long-term benefits of a healthy diet make the extra effort well worth it.


Local Bulletin Board

Deadline is March 17
Margaret Mary Health accepting scholarship applications

Margaret Mary Health is now accepting applications for its scholarship program. To qualify, applicants must be pursuing degrees in the health care field, be a full-time student and maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Recipients receive an initial award of $3,000 and $1,000 each year up to three years. Applications are available at the hospital, area high schools or online at Completed applications must be returned to human resources by March 17, 2017. For more information call 812-933-5259.

Reservations due March 18
Art in Nature II to offer free art classes

Are you a budding artist but never got to try your hand at watercolor painting, wood turning, or recycled art? Art in Nature is the perfect opportunity to feel free to attempt artistic aspirations guided by talented local artists ready with the tools you need. Scheduled for Monday through Saturday, April 3 – 8, at the Recreation Hall in Versailles State Park (VSP), classes will be held nightly from 6 – 8 p.m., plus a jewelry making class Saturday from 1 – 3 p.m., and an art show of all the created art Saturday evening from 6 – 8 p.m. For a complete schedule and how to register pick up a copy of the Osgood Journal dated January 31, 2017.

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