By Terry Bailey

The Mitchell County Commissioners conducted their regular monthly meeting at the Courthouse Monday morning, March 25. Commissioners Jim Mashall and Tom Claussen were present as was County Clerk Heather Weston. Commissioner Mike Cooper was absent.
Discussions about health insurance always draw great interest. This was true at the meeting Monday morning. The usual crowd the three Commissioners, the County Clerk, media representative and one or two people on the agenda were present. When Jeremy McGuire, Blue Cross representative, and Darrin Booth, representing Thiel Insurance's Freedom Claim insurance, addressed the group, it suddenly swelled to 16 folks.
Currently Mitchell County has a budget of about 16 million dollars. Of that amount, 2.1 million dollars is earmarked to cover health insurance for the county employees. Tom Claussen summed up the situation by saying, "2.1 million dollars for health insurance is not sustainable. Obviously this amount will go up next year and the year after that."
Currently 29 Kansas counties are enrolled in the Freedom Choice plan. Put simply the Freedom Choice plan manages the smaller claims such as a broken finger and Blue Cross would still cover larger claims such as heart attacks. Booth related that other counties enrolled in the Freedom Choice plan realize savings in overall medical costs.
One of the biggest cautions in the whole process is that Mitchell County's Blue Cross health insurance policy is considered to be a "Cadillac" program. This is because the policy was grandfathered in a number of years ago. Should they drop this program and subsequently want to re-enroll with Blue Cross the benefits of the currently policy would no longer be available. It will continue to be grandfathered in each year as long as the County chooses that policy. Once they choose not to renew the policy, this unique coverage is gone forever.
McGuire and Booth will return this fall when this year's coverage expresses are know so that hard and fast numbers can be crunched in order to make a firm decision.
Tommy Miller, representing North Central Kansas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), was present for his annual visit. CASA volunteers serve as advocates for abused kids in the community. Last year CASA conducted 44 forensic interviews with abused children. Thirteen of these were in Mitchell County.
North Central Kansas CASA is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Since its inception, 534 kids have been served by the agency.
The Commissioners voted to declare April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.
Leadership Mitchell County will be observing their annual meeting and banquet in Hunter on May 4. The business meeting will take place at the Hunter Community Center and the dinner will be served by Kay Heller at the Hunter Café.
Also present for Monday's meeting was Shelby Bohnert, Executive Director of the Mitchell County Regional Medical Foundation. Bohnert worked with Stephanie Simmions for a number of years, and she succeeds Simmions who is now the Chief Operating Officer with the Mitchell County Hospital Health Systems.
The Commissioners voted to add Lucille Heller to the Mitchell County Tourism Board to replace Janet Remus who has resigned.
The Commissioners canvassed questionable ballots as presented to them by County Clerk Heather Weston. There were seven questionable ballots. Four were accepted and three were denied.
Weston reported that in the presidential primary election, Donald Trump received 283 votes and Joseph Biden received 37. The total amount of votes cast in the election represented 9% of the possible voters in Mitchell County. It was reported that the new building at the fairgrounds which served as the site for the voting proved to be very accessible to everyone and that parking was more than adequate.
Having addressed all the items on the printed agenda, the meeting was adjourned.


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