The Health Care marketplace has been open since the beginning of October, and although applicants faced early challenges enrolling, the process is moving ahead. As one of 32 states that opted to default to the federally-run exchange, uninsured and eligible North Dakotans go directly to the www.healthcare.gov website to find a policy that best fits them. Darrold Bertsch, CEO of Sakakawea Medical Center and Coal Country Community Health Center, said it could be prudent for those without insurance to wait a brief period. “It’s still our mindset to encourage people to ‘hurry up and wait’ until the bugs get worked out,” Bertsch said. “You’ve got until Dec. 15 to enroll in a plan and be eligible Jan. 1.” Although Dec. 15 is the deadline to enroll to receive coverage starting with the new year, open enrollment will continue until March 31. After that those not enrolled who remain uninsured will receive a penalty of $95 per adult, $47.50 per child or one percent of their income. Megan Dierks, the Outreach/Enrollment Specialist at CCCHC, went through specific training to walk people through the application process. “It is fairly lengthy and some people might need guidance in using the computer or who don’t know about health insurance,” Dierks said.
The dollar gauges at fuel pumps are taking a dive and are expected to hit their lowest prices in almost a year. North Dakota motorists are paying the cheapest gas prices since January, said Gene LaDoucer of North Dakota AAA in Fargo. Fuel pumps across the state dropped an average of 17 cents in the last month, settling at $3.28 per gallon Monday. “It’s a culmination of things including the fact that we haven’t seen any active hurricanes affecting oil producing regions of the country,” he said. “It’s a nice mixture of positive news for a change, which is helping in lowering prices for consumers.” Local drivers are also seeing a drop in price. Hazen averaged $3.29 per gallon, a 10-cent decrease from a month ago. That’s also 35 cents down from last year. Beulah saw a slightly larger decrease, hitting $3.27 a gallon. The price is 14 cents down from a month ago and 37 cents from last year.
North Dakota schools will all fail to meet national standards next year, according to Department of Public Instruction officials. “We expect all of our schools will be in a (Annual Yearly Progress) failing status,” State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said. “It’s just the reality. We are in pretty good company because some of the best states in the (country) will have school districts that are 100 percent failing.” Students across the state are sitting down for hours taking the test for AYP, a report that determines how school districts are performing academically. The test that was intended to help “close the gap” between high and low performing schools, but it has been a headache for school officials, Baesler said, adding the requirements have gotten more unrealistic with each year. DPI has called on congressional help to overturn NCLB, but Baesler agreed that Congress is focused on farm bills and presenting a budget to prevent another government shutdown. “We continue to work with our congressional delegation,” she said. “Education seems to take a back seat. It can be frustrating for educators.”
When it comes to the Center-Stanton High School choir and band students, there are few things as treasured as a chance to go to Europe as a Northern Ambassador of Music. “This is something we were all looking forward to doing,” senior Tristina Hintz said. “It was surreal. It didn’t feel real until I was holding the letter in my hand (for the trip).” Hintz was one of eight students handpicked by music teacher Lacey Hanson to go on the 16-day trip, an honor that only 350 students from North Dakota and Montana were awarded this year. Katie Windhorst, Cassidy Fitch, Tristen Henke, Megan Schwalbe, Carly Benjamin, Danny Henke and Quentin Bergstadt also attended the program. Students from CSHS are chosen once every two years to go on the trip in the summer, Hanson said. The school has participated in the program since 2001.