Members tread precarious waters of health care reform at Chamber luncheon

By Melissa Huber, I-O Reporter

The 30 year veteran insurance agent, Julie Blockey, was at the helm of the very confusing ship that is health care reform. The informative presentation was saved for after local reports.

The Conrad Public Library reported that Erin Berzel’s art show went very well. Next, the Library will be planning a Valentine’s Day silent auction for Feb. 12. They are still on the lookout for donations for the event.

Laurie Ward, PMC’s Better Health Improvement Specialist, spoke about the grant she was instrumental in getting for the hospital. The money is being used to improve relations between PMC and the community, and this is being achieved through steps such as the recent surveys that have been sent out, and other efforts.

The community Cancer Foundation will be having their annual fundraiser, Karaoke for Cancer, on Jan. 18. Additional dates are Feb. 1 and 15, and also March 1 and 22.

Cheryl Curry, with Pondera Port Authority, reported that they have sold their third and final house with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Superintendent Craig Barringer spoke on behalf of Conrad Public Schools. Barringer explained the previous plan to have some Prairie View School students give presentations on the recently acquired iPads, but Gerald McDermott, who has been working with the children on the project, was stranded in an airport and could not make it to the meeting.

Both the high school and UMS will be getting Google Chromebook labs. Barringer also noted how nice it is to have an auditorium, as the school Christmas concerts usually took quite a bit of man power, and a full day to set up and take down. Sports practices had to be postponed or done very early in the morning. With the permanent auditorium there is no real setup needed and there is a place for everyone to rehearse. He closed by mentioning that Conrad will host Class C District girls’ and boys’ basketball tournament Jan. 20-22. As of this meeting, it was said that Principal Ken Larson was still on the lookout for ticket takers for this event.

Julie Blockey, the luncheon’s speaker on health care reform, was very knowledgeable in her subject, and after 30 years in the business, it’s no surprise. Blockey used her time to outline the changes that the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, has made in the insurance world.

Interestingly enough, she mentioned that she didn’t think she’d see the day when health insurance would be a buzz topic, but it seems that time has come. While bidding for group insurance for small employers (50 employees or less) once required a lengthy completion of health statements, smalls groups can now provide a census with the names of each employee, their dates of birth, and the coverage codes they chose (how they wish to be enrolled).

Also, with the addition of Obamacare, there seems to be an increase of employers that are now offering employee-only coverage, allowing the spouses and would-be dependents to go to the exchanges.

Listed perks of Obamacare were things such as guaranteed issue (meaning that no one can be denied insurance due to health status), no pre-existing exclusions, no coverage waiting periods in excess of 90 days, and no annual limits on “essential Benefits”.

Those interested in learning more about Blockey and her business can visit her website at www.swmtfinancial.com .