HELENA – Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen released today the list of prices for insurance policies that will go on sale this fall as part of the final roll-out of Obamacare’s insurance industry changes.
As expected, the prices are in line with what Montanans expected to pay for health insurance had Obamacare not become law, a fact Lindeen attributed to Montana’s citizen protection laws that have long prevented many of the worst insurance industry abuses. In some cases, the prices may be somewhat cheaper than current rates.
“I’m pleasantly surprised by these prices and pleased that Montanans who have survived cancer and other serious illnesses will no longer be denied health insurance or priced out of the market,” Lindeen said. “Not everything about Obamacare is perfect, but these market reforms were a long time coming.”
All insurance sold in Montana is regulated by Lindeen’s office – including pricing and benefits covered. The prices Lindeen released Monday are final for 2014 and will not change during the year. The prices will be posted to the commissioner’s website today.
The rates are for plans that will be sold beginning in October through the federally built insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace will be an online insurance store where Montanans can compare plans sold by three different private companies: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, PacificSource and the Montana Health CO-OP. The rates released Monday do not include tax credits that many Montanans will receive when buying insurance through the Marketplace.
All the plans sold in the Marketplace – and in the private insurance market – must now cover ten “essential health” areas, including mother-newborn care, doctor’s office visits, emergency medicine and others. The plans are broken out by “actuarial value,” – an insurance term that refers to how much an individual pays for medical spending and how much the insurance company pays. In this way, Montana insurance shoppers can easily tell which plans are similar. A “platinum plan,” for example, has an actuarial value of 90 percent. That means the insurance company pays 90 percent of medical costs on average, while the consumer pays 10 percent.
Lindeen reminded Montanans that the prices do not reflect new federal programs designed to make buying insurance more affordable, programs many Montanans buying in the Marketplace are expected to qualify for. More information about the tax credits and other discount programs are on Lindeen’s Obamacare education website, www.montanahealthanswers.com.
Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 10:35
Ressa Charter, a third-generation Montana farmer from the Roundup Bull Mountains, spoke Thursday, Aug. 1, to the League of Women Voters of Billings on agricultural policies. Charter is the chairman of the Northern Plains Resource Council agricultural task force.
He began his presentation by talking about genetically modified grains. This year, GM wheat appeared in Oregon, even though none was planted in that area as Monsanto, which holds the patent on GM wheat, ended field testing in 2004. Foreign markets, such as Japan and Italy, threatened to close off any U.S. grain imports.
Charter is confident pressure can be put on the State Department to assure no GM grains threaten the export market from experimental test plots. There are wheat test plots in North Dakota. If the export market was closed to wheat from Montana, it would have a devastating economic effect on the economy of Montana.
Charter continued to say he did not believe we could have a vibrant democracy if the food industry is controlled by corporate agriculture. This belief was developed after being a member of the Peace Corps in both Russia and China where he saw the similarities of centralized control in communism and capitalism.
“Everything we produce,” he said, “goes to the Midwest, where it is processed and brought back to us. A free market? Not really.”
Family farmers cannot protect themselves. The popular response to the threats to family farmers is negligible because there is little personal knowledge of farmers and farming and the connection to nutrition.
We need to change the current “dominant narrative,” Charter said, such as the need for farmers to produce more to feed the rest of the world. “The question is do we need or want to be feeding the world?”
Another dominant narrative is that nutrition and farming have no connection. By producing GM commodities like corn in huge quantities with chemical fertilizers, we are depleting the soils and causing other environmental problems. Producing corn with a higher glucose content and feeding it to animals is simply passing on this glucose to people.
Charter questioned whether the use of supplemental water soluble vitamins and minerals can be effective in replacing trace minerals that we no longer get in sufficient quantities in our food.
Asked about the national Farm Bill, Charter said, “the best it does is prevent chaos.” We should be looking at a 50-year plan rather than five-year plans that create cheap commodities resulting in diabetes. A sustainable Farm Bill would include food and wellness programs.
Subsidizing corporate competitors pushes out small niche farmers.
A step we can take is to buy locally grown food, he pointed out. One such program is www.communityfoodclub.org sponsored by Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council. The Northern Plains Resource Council is working on alternative “dominant narratives” in the next few months.
The League of Women Voters of Billings has a monthly study group learning about agricultural concerns in order to modify the 40-year-old national League of Women Voters United States position on agriculture at the summer 2014 convention. You can read the position paper on www.lwv.org and contact the Billings LWV at www.lwvbillings.org.
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 August 2013 10:55
Tami Haaland, an English professor at Montana State University Billings, has been named Montana’s poet laureate.
The Montana poet laureate is a two-year honorary position created by the state Legislature in 2005 and administered by the Montana Arts Council.
Haaland takes over from Sheryl Noethe. She will serve until Aug. 1, 2015.
On announcing Haaland’s appointment, Gov. Steve Bullock said, “She is a Montana born-and-raised published poet, and I look forward to expanding on some of her community services, like increasing youth participation in literary writing, and her work teaching creative writing at the Montana Women’s Prison.”
Tami Haaland is the author of two books of poetry: “Breath in Every Room,” winner of the Nicholas Roerich Prize from Story Line Press, and “When We Wake in the Night,” a finalist for the May Swenson Award.
Born on the Hi-Line where her family farmed south of Inverness, she not only teaches at MSU Billings, she also has been teaching creative writing at Montana Women’s Prison since 2008, and she coordinates a writing-in-the-schools program for Arts Without Boundaries.
Haaland was nominated by Montana’s first Poet Laureate, Sandra Alcosser, who said of her, “with heart and mind, she serves the world of poetry and its followers well.”
The post honors a citizen poet of exceptional talent and accomplishment.
The Poet Laureate also encourages appreciation of poetry and literary life in Montana. In 2005, Sandra Alcosser became our first Montana Poet Laureate and served for two years. Other previous Poet Laureates are Greg Pape, Henry Real Bird and Sheryl Noethe.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 August 2013 17:03
By JANE WHITE - The Billings Outpost
Eight people from Whitehall, Big Timber and Billings identified themselves as everyday people who are so frustrated with corruption in the Obama administration that they stood on the South 27th Street overpass with signs emblazoned with “Overpass – Impeach Obama,” on the last Saturday of July.
Josh Daniels, 37, a precinct committee man in the Republican Party – which allows him to attend conventions and vote on the Republican Party platform – and Jim Buterbaugh, 58, not affiliated with any political party, said, “We are not fanatics. We are just regular people who care about America.”
Truckers honked their air horns, and drivers gave thumbs up, smiled and waved at the protesters. Smaller vehicles beeped as they drove by the sign-waving group.
Buterbaugh estimated that the crowd had gotten 200 beeps from the constant stream of traffic. The small group split up to ensure that about four people remained on each side of the overpass for many hours on July 27. The group members said they found each other on a Facebook site called Overpasses for Obama’s Impeachment.
One man, Kyle Hartman, 23, a retail employee who carried a huge American flag from Big Timber, said, “We want to raise awareness about how Obama is crushing our constitutional freedoms.”
Can a president be impeached for potentially violating a citizen’s constitutional freedoms? Can the president be said to have been guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” as the Constitution requires for impeachment?
A Billings lawyer who asked not to be identified said that the House of Representatives initiates the impeachment process and the Senate prosecutes the impeachment via a trial. After the president is removed from office, another court would be required to continue the legal action by another trial and conclude with conviction or acquittal or another appropriate punishment.
Mr. Daniels said that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “Fast and Furious” operation, which resulted in the death of an ATFE agent – via U.S. guns that they shipped to Mexico in an attempt to determine which gangs were trafficking in guns - should be prosecuted as murder.
Other items that the group cited included 33 witnesses under gag orders (a judicial order not to speak about an issue under investigation) crucial to the outcome of the ongoing Benghazi investigation, the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative 501 (c) 4 political organizations given special tax benefits, the collection of information belonging to private citizens by the National Security Agency, the refusal of the Drug Enforcement Administration to reschedule cannabis from a drug with no medical value to a drug for medical use in appropriate circumstances and, finally, raids on a slew of Washington state dispensaries, where voters approved the legalization of cannabis. Possession, distribution and intent to distribute cannabis remain illegal under federal law.
Mr. Daniels said, “This is in response to blanket spying on U.S. citizens, the recording of their private phone calls … . Under the Fourth Amendment, [the clandestine monitoring of] U.S. citizens requires a search warrant from a special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. If you don’t have a warrant, that’s a crime.”
He added, “I am furious that the DEA has not rescheduled cannabis and has raided 18 dispensaries in the state of Washington, where voters passed by 55 percent the complete legalization of marijuana.”
A Billings cannabis activist, Elizabeth Pincolini, said that authorities in Washington, D.C., are circumventing the Constitution.
Cannabis should be rescheduled from a Schedule I narcotic (a highly addictive dangerous drug with no medicinal value) to something with medical significance, she said.
“Instead of going through proper channels, they just put the DEA in charge,” she said. “Back during Prohibition, a constitutional amendment was required to make alcohol illegal [on a federal level]. It is ridiculous to make a plant that grows wild illegal.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 August 2013 16:58
Eleven people saw jarring images of the atomic bomb hurtling through the air toward Hiroshima in a video shown at a lecture organized by Will Crain of the Peace and Justice Forum last Friday night.
The Rev. Sam Smith, a traveling pastor for Fellowship of Reconciliation Chicago, addressed the rapt audience, composed mostly of Billings Unitarian Universalist Fellowship members.
He said that the military industrial complex, via its recruiters, improperly influences youth, and he played commercials that he said depicted military life as glamorous in order to attract naïve young people to enlist in the armed forces.
Finally, he showed photos of the “Baby Marines,” boys about age 6-8 years old dressed in camouflage and marching in formation, and said that the myth of redemptive violence (e.g., might vs. right) must end.
Although Mr. Smith presented the lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, his presentation was not associated with the well-known Wednesday Evening Community Lecture Series.
Mr. Smith showed other materials that he says trick young people into thinking they are invincible once they put on a military uniform. For example, to demonstrate that military recruiters give today’s youth a sanitized version of military life, he pointed to “An Army of One,” a commercial accompanied by breathtaking classical music and words that promise, “There is no one on this green earth stronger than a U.S. soldier.”
Smith pleaded for listeners to pay attention to youths, who people in the audience said get advice from their high schools that military enlistment is a more viable career path than less risky, more conventional careers.
Statistics about the dangers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the consequential increased likelihood of suicide, exposure to chemical and biological warfare germs and poisons, vaccines soldiers receive, physical disfigurement and other serious permanent injuries are conspicuously absent from the discussion.
Ms. Farnum said the Hiroshima video shocked her. “The thing that comes to mind readily are the views of Hiroshima,” she said. “I don’t think people in the United States have ever come to terms with the fact that we did so much damage with the atom bomb.
“The effect was so much greater than that … the nuclear fallout … the cancer, radiation sickness that followed. The bomb detonated in the sky - not on land – it was like a dust cloud and it went every place.”
Interspersed between flashing images of the bomb’s long journey to earth were shots of a 5-year-old Japanese boy with straight black hair and dressed in a tiny blue blazer, white shirt and striped tie, cringing and covering eyes with his hands.
Violence is inherent in our culture, said Ms. Farnum. “The childhood game, cowboys and Indians … we have John Wayne, we think we can engage in violence for the right reason.”
But Mr. Smith aims to destroy what he called the myth of redemptive violence. The main campaign Mr. Smith encouraged is entitled, “I will not kill,” an initiative created at his Chicago FOR chapter.
In the campaign, students from that fellowship and DePaul University’s peace studies department pledge that they will resist recruitment into the military and encourage other young people to do the same.
Dressed in a black T-shirt, on which was written in both white English and Arabic letters, “I want peace,” Mr. Smith said his back pain and his exhaustion from driving all the way from Chicago, stopping at various locations to publicize the “I will not kill” message, prevented him from standing up to deliver his presentation.
Why is he taking a position staunchly opposed to militarism? “There is a peace component to all theology,” he said. “I just could not see Jesus in a rice paddy with an AK-47 … . I want to teach kids that to join the military is to join a killing machine.”
Will Crain agreed. He said, “Every kid that I get not to join the military, I tell them to join the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, some kind of peace organization.”
The Peace and Justice Forum’s next event is at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 3 at the Frank Little Memorial in Butte.
At the park, peace-minded individuals plan to sing songs, deliver impromptu speeches and otherwise commemorate the accomplishments of the lynched worker and the Industrial Workers of the World, of which Mr. Little was a member.
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 July 2013 12:42
Win cash prizes, blue ribbons or those coveted bragging rights by “showing your stuff at MontanaFair,” Aug. 9-17. Now’s the time to begin planning your entry.
Anyone and everyone is eligible and encouraged to enter. MontanaFair has an exhibitor category for everyone and at every experience level including: fine arts, photography, decorative arts, horticulture, heritage arts, art needlework, culinary arts, hobby hall, youth art and livestock.
Also sought are singers, dancers, rockers, magicians, comedians, jugglers and more; you can put your act on center stage at MontanaFair.
MontanaFair is the region’s largest event. During this weeklong event, nearly 10,000 people will earn prizes for their exhibits, the Thomas Carnival will thrill the young and the young at heart alike, and family and friends will come out to enjoy top notch food and entertainment.
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 July 2013 15:03
The fourth annual Big Sky State Games National Anthem contest winner is 12-year-old Anthony Cox of Great Falls. He said in a news release that it was a “great honor” to be chosen to sing at this year’s opening ceremonies.
Anthony Cos attends the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind in Great Falls as a blind student. His interests are in the direction of music. He sings in the Great Falls Young People’s Choir and in the Visually Impaired Performers singing group at his school.
He also plays the violin and is a percussionist. He likes to play on the iPad, listen to books on tape and watch descriptive videos. Anthony and his family thank everyone who voted for him, the news release said.
The fourth annual National Anthem contest began in March. Over the course of six weeks contestants posted videos of themselves singing the National Anthem to YouTube or Facebook.
A panel of professional judges together chose the top five singers, and voting for the winner was open to the public May 8-15.
Anthony Cox will sing the National Anthem at the 28th annual Big Sky State Games Opening Ceremonies on Friday, July 19, at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium in Billings.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the Parade of Athletes begins at 7:30 p.m.
To register for the Big Sky State Games visit www.bigskygames.org or call (406) 254-7426 for more information.
Big Sky State Games Major Sponsors are Kampgrounds of America, First Interstate Bank and Montana Cycling and Ski. Wendy’s sponsors opening ceremonies.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 12:10
May 7, 2013: a day that will live in infamy. Well, not really. But I’ll never forget it.
The phone rang that morning at about 8:15. I’m a night owl, so I usually skip those early calls. But this time I struggled out of bed, read “Billings Clinic” on the caller ID, and answered the phone.
It was my dermatologist, Dr. Reck, calling to tell me that the small lesion that he had snipped off my head 10 days earlier was lymphoma and that his nurse would be calling back shortly with an appointment with an oncologist.
Lymphoma. Cancer. The Big C. Something that happens to other people. Right? This time, wrong. I was booked in with an oncologist that same afternoon.
“How are you?” Dr. Muslimani asked as he entered the exam room. How am I? Well, Duh! Why do medical people ask you that? Would I be there if I were fine?
“Scared,” I said, which was the truth.
“Don’t be scared.” He then explained to me that I had a rare form of lymphoma that he’d only seen once before at a big teaching hospital back East. When I find a piece of 19th century porcelain at a secondhand store, rare is good. But who wants a rare cancer? But, lucky for me, the doctor had seen this before.
He then outlined The Plan. If the cancer had not moved from my scalp to other places in my body, it was not only treatable but curable. I’d have a cat scan, then a bone marrow biopsy, and then, if it was “so far, so good,” I would have radiation treatments.
And so began my journey of discovery. May felt more like a month of months rather than just 31 days. It was a time of faith and questions. We all know that we’re born, we live and we die. Was this how my life would end? Was it better to know for sure, ahead of time or to just fall asleep and not wake up? And always with cancer, “Why me?”
On May 9, two days after my diagnosis, and on my 65th birthday, my father died. Are coincidences God’s way of remaining anonymous? One friend said that my dad had given me a birthday gift.
So just what kind of a gift was this? Lymphoma and my father’s death within 72 hours? The angels should be floating down from the Great White Throne with instructions and explanations.
My father’s funeral was on May 17, just 10 days later. I arranged with Smith Funeral Chapels to have a private time with dad the day before. I had a very small floral token that I placed in his hands. Then I sang to him, prayed and read my Bible.
“See you soon, Dad,” I whispered. Truly, our few years on earth, in comparison to eternity, are nothing.
But then I realized that with this weird lymphoma, our reunion might, indeed, be soon. Or sooner than I would have thought just 10 days earlier. Looking at my father in his casket, I was facing my own mortality. But at the same time I could feel his presence with me. The body in the casket was not my father. A great sense of peace came over me, a peace that had nothing to do with the results of my medical tests.
Still, cancer is cancer. Many obituaries include the phrase, “A courageous battle with cancer.” It always makes me think of Dylan Thomas’s poem. “Do not go gently into that good night ... Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Would I be waging a courageous battle with cancer?
And are you only courageous if you die? If you live on without the drama of a hard-fought decline and death, are you still considered courageous?
My older grandson, Trey, has often commented on how many people I know in Billings. “Every time we go out to eat, Grandma, you see someone, and they’re always somebody different.”
But if I know a lot of people, so does God. Every day, one or two friends or acquaintances would call me or cross my path.
“I just felt the Lord wanted me to call you,” said a friend the day of my dad’s funeral. She had not known until then that my father was gone. I thank everyone for the kindness, caring and prayers.
I have now safely passed both the CT Scan and the bone marrow biopsy and have begun radiation treatment on the site of that first lesion on my scalp. Dr. Goulet, my radiation oncologist, explained to me that I may have permanent hair loss in that area. For me, it was a no-brainer. I signed in three places to give my OK.
But Dr. Goulet said that people actually decline treatment for that reason. I imagine their obituary: “died of cancer, but their hair was beautiful; not a strand out of place.” What’s a small bald spot in exchange for, in my case, a 95 percent recovery rate?
And the Clinic cancer center even has a wig boutique. Maybe I’ll end up with a collection of hair pieces in different colors.
I am now a cancer survivor. I was the too-smart girl with the glasses who didn’t go to the senior prom, not a clique that I enjoyed. We cancer survivors belong to another special club that I would also have preferred to skip.
There are many platitudes about the superiority of the spirit over the body. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma invaded my world and has made me revalue what days and years I may still have. I intend to cherish every moment I have between now and lights out.
My Aunt June, an eight-year survivor of ovarian cancer who has since died, told me that she started every day with this verse: “This is the day which the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24). My grandmother taught her, and then she taught me. I think of my aunt every morning as I say it myself. Today is the only day we truly have.
I will walk proudly around the West High track on July 12 at the Relay for Life with my fellows. You are a cancer survivor if you are alive. If you can walk. If a friend can push you in a wheelchair.
I look forward to receiving my survivor’s T-shirt, for me as significant an award as an Olympic gold medal or a Purple Heart. To join us at Relay for Life, call the American Cancer Society at 256-7150.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 11:31
An 84-year-old Glendive man has been honored as the Montana winner of the Home Instead Senior Care network’s Salute to Senior Service award, a news release said.
Bus Morris is being recognized for his dedicated community service, including his work at the Eastern Montana Veterans’ Home.
He has been volunteering there since the home opened in 1996 and now spends close to eight hours a day, seven days a week helping the residents. Early each morning he delivers newspapers, a task that would otherwise get put off until late in the morning.
In a given week, he runs errands for residents, has coffee and toast with them, serves as an escort for community outings and acts as a translator for individuals with communication challenges.
As one of 50 state winners, Morris earned $500 for his charity of choice – donated by Home Instead Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network and contest sponsor.
Morris also will have a spot on the Salute to Senior Service Wall of Fame on SalutetoSeniorService.com where his nomination story has been posted. As a state winner, Morris now will be considered for the national Salute to Senior Service award.
The Salute to Senior Service program was launched last year by the Home Instead Senior Care network to honor seniors’ commitments to their causes and communities.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 11:30
HARDIN – In the United States, there are few battles more famous or controversial than the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Fought on the plains of present-day Montana (then a territory) on June 25 and 26, 1876, the battle saw Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors, led by dual legends Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, clashing with Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the U.S. Army Seventh Cavalry.
Nicknamed Custer’s Last Stand, this famous battle comes to life every year on a plain six miles west of Hardin, Montana. Now in its 24th year, this reenactment features more than 300 reenactors on foot and horseback.
“This is open-air theater at its best,” says Bill Joseph, chairman of the Custer’s Last Stand Reenactment and a former portrayer of Sitting Bull. “We give people a taste of what it was like on that day and during that time in history. In addition to the Indian warriors and cavalrymen, we have people who portray settlers, we have an Indian village with tipis, and there is a fort set up.”
Also this weekend, a reenactment is held on the Real Bird Ranch near the Little Bighorn Battlefield. The reenactment takes place at 1 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
The reenactment script for the Hardin reenactment is based on the notes of Crow Tribal historian Joe Medicine Crow, whose grandfather, White Man Runs Him, was Custer’s Indian scout. Medicine Crow, who lives south of nearby Lodge Grass and turns 100 on Oct. 27, 2013, used his grandfather’s passed-down accounts to craft the story through the eyes of his forefathers.
He has also attended the reenactment since it began, singing “Son of the Morning Star,” a Native American warrior song, to all those engaging in the battle.
“Each performance begins with the cavalry riding in military formation from the west, and the Indian warriors riding in from the east,” says Joseph. “They meet in front of the grandstands while Lee Greenwood’s ‘Proud to Be An American’ plays over the PA system. After the battle, the scene is repeated. It’s very powerful and it gives many people chills.”
Joseph says seeing the battle reenactment provides a deeper understanding of America in the 1870s, and especially of Native Americans as they dealt with the wars, treaties, relocations and other difficulties resulting from America’s westward expansion.
He says people travel from around the United States and the world to experience the annual event.
This year, one performance of the Custer’s Last Stand Reenactment will occur at 2 p.m. each day on Friday, June 21, Saturday, June 22, and Sunday, June 23. Visitors will be able to meet and take photographs with many of the reenactors as well as participate in other Little Big Horn Days events.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 11:28