Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) is poised to start a new health insurance provider search as a backup plan to a potential contract flop between regional medical provider Valley Health and insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
“Both parties continue to work toward a solution, but at this point, a resolution may not be inevitable prior to the contract expiration on December 31,” WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith told Warren County School Board members during their Wednesday, October 21 work session. “The longer the two parties take to find a solution, the more difficult it becomes to wait and see.”
Winchester, Va.-based Valley Health and Anthem are locked in ongoing negotiations over costs associated with renewing their contract. The Warren County School Board, the Front Royal Town Council, and the Warren County Board of Supervisors are closely monitoring the situation as thousands of area school- and government-employed residents carry Anthem health insurance and receive services at Valley Health facilities.
In fact, the Town Council on October 19 voted 5-0 to pass a resolution urging Valley Health and Anthem to continue negotiating toward an acceptable contract. The council’s resolution states that if the contract lapses, then roughly 40,000 people in the Valley Health regional healthcare region, including those who use Warren Memorial Hospital in town, could be impacted.
At the same time, Valley Health is currently building a new Warren Memorial Hospital off Leach Run Parkway in Front Royal, supported by a Town and County-approved, $60-million loan through the County-Town Economic Development Authority.
On Wednesday, Smith and Ed White, a consultant and senior vice president at McGriff Insurance Services Inc., detailed the current situation for School Board members to spur some proactiveness by the board should contract negotiations fail.
White said that McGriff and WCPS staff — who have been in discussions with representatives at both Anthem and Valley Health — have devised a preliminary plan, which he and Smith presented to the School Board.
If accepted, the plan timeline would direct WCPS to submit a notice of termination for the Local Choice program on October 29; to gather Census and Claims data November 1-6; to publish a request for proposals (RFPs) November 6-8 toward finding companies interested in providing insurance coverage to WCPS employees; to evaluate the RFPs on November 30; to receive presentations from the RFP finalists and to select a new provider December 2-5; to hold local meetings with WCPS employees on enrollment and begin the enrollment process December 9-13, and to submit data to the selected insurance provider December 18-26.
Health insurance ID cards then would be delivered on January 15, 2021, with new insurance coverage scheduled to begin on February 1, 2021, according to the plan timeline.
School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr. asked what other carriers Valley Health currently takes and White said that in addition to Anthem, the major providers are Aetna, Cigna, and United, among some smaller Medicare supplement companies, for example.
In reviewing the plan details, Williams noted that if a WCPS employee opted to stay with Anthem, then the closest facilities they would be able to go to if the Anthem-Valley Health contract lapsed, would be Warrenton, Va., or Haymarket, Va. White answered yes, but said that Anthem would make allowances for emergencies.
“I wish I knew the numbers; I wish I knew the difference between Anthem and Valley Health, how far apart are they” in dollars, Williams said. “We didn’t cause this problem. We’re just the poor folks trying to have health insurance for all of our employees.”
Williams also said that he felt like the school division was “being forced to have to do something and I don’t know what the right decision is.”
Nevertheless, Smith asked the board for “some guidance, some sense of direction” on what to do about the situation going forward. “Is it fair to ask that we start an RFP to at least find out what else is out there,” he asked School Board members. “We have to have a plan B. We need to be able to have something else to fall back on. If not now, when?”
Williams said he did not “have a problem with a resolution” being introduced during the board’s Wednesday night meeting, while WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger asked if a termination letter should be drawn up as recommended in the McGriff plan.
The School Board members — Williams, Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, and members James Wells, Kristen Pence, and Ralph Rinaldi — all seemed agreeable to Ballenger’s idea. Wells summed it up by saying that while he hoped Anthem and Valley Health would make a decision soon that benefits the population they serve, he thinks the School Board “still has to move forward.”
When Williams asked board members about taking action regarding a termination letter, Smith interjected and told board members that their discussion was the start of a process and that the board was not bound to end WCPS’s relationship with Anthem. The discussion, he said, was more about putting a plan B in place.
“And we are in control of when and if we need to send a letter,” Smith said.
The Warren County School Board’s next regular meeting is on Wednesday, November 4.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for October 18 – 22, 2021
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Front Royal Main Street eatery changes ‘Yappy Hour’ day from Friday to Monday, updates menu
One of Main Street’s popular restaurants recently underwent a name and menu change and also switched the day it devotes to “Yappy Hour.”
During the past couple of years, ViNoVa owner Rachel Failmezger and executive chef Chris Kenworthy featured a tapas menu similar to a Spanish favorite, now moving along to an Italian-Mediterranean style of cooking and changing its long-running “Yappy Hour” from Friday evenings to Mondays (4-6 p.m.). Restaurant hours of operation also have been amended, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday (closed Tuesday) and noon to midnight Friday and Saturday.
The restaurant’s new name retains its original “ViNoVa” with the added words “Mediterranean Bistro.” The property seats about 50 and each Friday, off and on for the past decade, has helped donate thousands of dollars to the Humane Society of Warren County’s Julia Wagner Animal Shelter.
Rachel, noting differing (earlier) eating habits since the pandemic struck, suggests closing earlier than 2 a.m. better meets the needs of an expanded staff and earlier diners, as would the changed menu.
“Overall, we will be more flexible, more accommodating,” Rachel opined in a recent interview as nearby regular customers appeared to be in agreement with the menu changes. “Whatever restaurants did two years ago, they cannot do today. It’s a new age for us,” she said, mentioning that the entrees will be larger, and there will be an emphasis on lunches, particularly the quick “take out” type featuring the “Viva Bowl” in which you choose your own ingredients for an affordable $9 “to go!”
Something to remember by early birds at the Bistro: beer and wine prices are staggered starting at $3 per glass for a beer at 3 p.m., rising to $4 at 4 p.m. and then on to $5 at 5 p.m. for the rest of the evening.
Linden man arrested, charged for child abuse
On October 12, 2021, at approximately 8:20pm, Warren County Sheriff’s Office received a call about an 8-year-old juvenile walking on Freezeland Road, Linden, Virginia. The caller stated the juvenile advised them they were running away from home due to being abused by their father. Deputies responded to 78 Lookout Point Way, Linden, Virginia, where the juvenile resides to perform a welfare check. Upon arrival deputies spoke with Matthew Steven Lewis, the juvenile’s father, and made contact with the juvenile. During the welfare check, deputies observed that the juvenile had sustained multiple injuries. Deputies had Warren County Fire & Rescue respond to the residence, and the juvenile was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital for further treatment.
After the initial investigation Matthew Steven Lewis was placed under arrest for Domestic Assault (M), Child Endangerment (F), and Strangulation (F). Matthew Steven Lewis was held without bond at RSW Regional Jail, preliminary hearing is set for November 4, 2021.
Warren County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank Front Royal Police Department, Virginia State Police, and Warren County Department of Social Services for their assistance.
Social Security announces 5.9 percent benefit increase for 2022
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 5.9 percent in 2022, the Social Security Administration announced today.
The 5.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2022. Increased payments to approximately 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2021. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits). The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $147,000 from $142,800.
Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail starting in early December about their new benefit amount. Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their personal my Social Security account. People may create or access their my Social Security account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Information about Medicare changes for 2022, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov. For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2022 are announced. Final 2022 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed COLA notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
Wildlife biologist to explain changes to deer hunting season during October supervisors meeting
BERRYVILLE, VA — A wildlife biologist from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has been invited by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors to talk about the significant changes to the 2021-22 deer hunting season in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren counties. Fred Frenzel makes his public presentation during the Supervisors’ evening session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19. The session includes public hearings on proposed code changes. The presentation and public hearings are in the second-floor meeting room of the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center at 101 Chalmers Ct.
DWR made changes to this year’s deer season because of chronic wasting disease, Frenzel said. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease that can pass between deer through saliva, feces, and urine as well as through water or contaminated soil. CWD was first diagnosed in deer in West Virginia in 2005. It was first detected in Virginia in 2009, and has been reported in Fauquier, Frederick, Clarke, Culpeper, Loudoun, Madison, Montgomery, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, and Warren counties.
“As a result of chronic wasting disease, DWR made drastic changes to deer season in four of the counties I cover,” said Frenzel, the DWR district wildlife biologist for Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren, and Page counties. He said the changes were made to mitigate the spread of CWD, noting only minor changes were made to deer season in Page.
Supervisor Doug Lawrence, who represents the Russell District, requested the Supervisors host a public presentation to address questions about the current deer season. “When they changed deer season, it caught a lot of people by surprise,” Lawrence said. “I thought our hunters should understand the rationale behind the changes.”
Clarke Supervisors have also asked Frenzel to discuss coyote bounties, game bird preserves, and Clarke’s prohibition of hunting within 300 feet of public roads.
Read about Virginia’s 2021-22 deer season at dwr.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations/deer/.
For more information about the Oct. 19 public presentation on deer hunting and/or the public hearings, contact County Administration at (540) 955-5100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RMA Interact students help clean up our community
Our local RMA Interact Club had a great experience cleaning up Kendrick Lane last week. 17 RMA middle school students participated with our very own Nancie Williams, Arnold Williams, and two faculty members. One of the most interesting items they collected was a old piece of metal, featured in a picture below!
Do you have a student in one of our local schools and want to learn more about Interact? Contact us: www.warrencountyrotary.org