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Guest Opinion
Thank you from Mississippi

by Hobson Waits

The cooperative spirit is alive and well across this great country.

After Hurricane Katrina churned through Mississippi, 488,000 electric co-op meters were left without service, approximately 50,000 poles were destroyed, and thousands of miles of line lay on the ground.

Before Katrina left the state, our phones were ringing with offers of assistance from our co-op friends in Kentucky and other states. In less than a day, hundreds of emergency crews headed to Mississippi to restore electric service.

These individuals did not enjoy the comforts of home here. They slept in tent cities, co-op offices, school gyms, and churches. Undoubtedly, some slept in their trucks. They ate meals in makeshift dining areas and on tailgates. They suffered through limited communications and traveled in unfamiliar areas where road identification signs were gone. But they did not back down.

Words cannot express the gratitude the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi has for the assistance Kentucky electric cooperatives provided.

While the media focused on the destruction and misery in urban areas in Mississippi and in New Orleans, rural Mississippi also suffered. Thousands of our rural residents suffered lost or damaged homes, the lack of communications, and the loss of basic necessities, including electricity.

On that front, there’s good news to report: Mississippi’s 25 consumer-owned electric power associations worked together in a massive emergency power restoration effort to repair and re-energize lines in the fastest, most efficient manner with help from electric cooperative work crews from 21 other states, including 129 workers from Kentucky.

Our systems had a peak outage of more than 70 percent of the 702,000 total meters they serve.

Electric cooperatives routinely join forces for emergency operations. The total work force involved in the restoration of service to electric power association consumers comprised more than 10,000 employees of Mississippi electric power associations and other electric cooperatives throughout the nation. This work force did an incredible job of restoring electricity within a relatively short period of time, considering the magnitude of the destruction.

Katrina’s historic and profound impact on rural Mississippi will not soon be forgotten. The cooperative spirit shown by Kentucky and all states that assisted in the restoration effort will also not be forgotten. We want to extend our sincerest thanks and gratitude. The cooperative spirit is very much alive in this country and very much appreciated by the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi.

Hobson Waits is CEO/executive vice president of the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi

Sorting through Medicare Part D plans
Medicare’s new prescription drug benefit–Part D–goes into effect January 1.

Most likely, you have been receiving information from private health plans and insurance companies providing Part D plans in your area, as well as from your former employer(s) if they offer retiree benefits.

Open enrollment for Medicare Part D starts November 15 and you need to make a decision soon in order to be covered on January 1. But how do you sort through all the information?

Here are some tips for evaluating and comparing the plans:

Review the options.

  • Do you have a choice of plans with the same provider?
  • Can you easily change from one plan to another in the future?

Look at the formulary, which is the list of drugs covered by each plan.

  • Are your medications covered?

Check the pharmacy network.

  • Is your pharmacy included in the plan’s network?
  • Can you get your prescription filled when you are away from home?

Find out what costs you have to pay and when.

  • Do you have deductibles or coverage gaps?
  • How much is your coinsurance?
  • Do you pay a coinsurance for catastrophic coverage?

Compare the premiums.

  • Do you really save money if you choose the plan with the lower premium, once you pay for any drugs not covered on the formulary?
  • Does the plan with the higher premium save you money by offering no deductibles or by spreading out your costs?

Calculate how much you currently pay for prescription drugs.

  • If you have prescription drug coverage, contact the plan and ask for the total amount spent last year and/or this year on your prescription drugs.
  • Make sure you ask for the total cost–the amount you paid plus the amount paid by your current plan for your prescriptions.

Ask about the plan’s customer service.

  • Is there a toll-free number that you can call with questions?
  • Is a live person available when you call?

Consider whether it’s a plan you can trust.

  • Are you familiar with this organization or insurer?
  • Have you been covered in the past by this organization or insurer?

Whatever you decide, make sure you do it before it is too late. Open enrollment ends May 15. If you are eligible for Medicare and do not enroll by this date, and you are not covered by another plan providing equivalent or better prescription drug coverage, you could face a penalty when you do enroll.

Medicare requires that you pay a penalty of 1 percent of the national basic premium for each month you are eligible for Medicare and do not have prescription drug coverage.

For more information on Medicare Part D, go to www.medicare.gov or call (800) 633-4227.

Ann Smith, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Healthy holiday eating tips
Some Americans believe they gain 4 to 5 pounds during the holiday season. It’s really closer to 1 pound. However, this extra weight accumulates over the years and is likely a major cause of obesity later in life.

Discovering how to prevent holiday weight gain is important to preventing obesity and associated diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, and other serious health problems, says Sandra Bastin, Extension food and nutrition specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

“To keep from feeling deprived during the holidays, fix traditional favorites, but eat smaller portions,” Bastin says. “Look for ways to reduce the calories in side dishes. For example, use low-fat soup in a green bean casserole, and sugar and butter substitutes in candied sweet potatoes. Also, consider alternatives such as steamed green beans, mashed sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, or unglazed carrots.”

It is not necessary to serve many high-calorie foods when entertaining at home. In fact, guests may appreciate lighter fare such as raw vegetables or fruits with low-fat dips and reduced-fat cheese and crackers. Replace fruit punch and eggnog with spiced tea, 100-percent juice spritzer, club soda, or ice water with a lemon or lime slice. Offer fruit or vegetable juices instead of carbonated beverages.

Bastin suggests taking along a small package of cut-up vegetables or fruits to curb your appetite when doing errands or shopping, instead than eating in a mall food court or a fast-food restaurant.

“Never skip meals all day to be able to go to a holiday party,” she says. “Instead, eat low-fat, nutritious meals and drink plenty of fluids all day. Before leaving for the party, drink a large glass of water and eat a snack like yogurt or whole-grain crackers with peanut butter. You may also offer to bring nutritious party foods such as lean meats, low-fat cheeses, fresh fruits, or vegetables.”

To reduce calories, yet still enjoy a holiday event, plan what and how much to eat beforehand.

Bastin says, “Put food on your plate instead of eating directly from the buffet or food tables. Focus first on healthy foods; then choose bite-sized samples of several desserts and appetizers rather than a whole piece of chocolate cake or plate of fried chicken pieces or meatballs. This will enable you to enjoy many different foods without overeating. To keep from nibbling on food without thinking about it, move away from the table after putting food on your plate.”

Sit down and concentrate on conversation rather than food. Practice being a slow eater. Wait 20 to 30 minutes after eating to allow your brain to tell your stomach you have had enough to eat before going back for another helping.

To keep from feeling forced to eat foods offered to you, learn to politely say “no,” while complimenting the host or hostess on how good everything tasted.

Ellen Brightwell, UK Extension

Holiday home tour
The Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass has another of its unique fund-raisers coming up this month with the first Holiday Showcase to be held at Maxwell Place in Lexington. Normally the group has local designers renovate a noted house, but this time, instead of a renovation, the house will be decorated for the holidays. Maxwell Place is the residence of the president of the University of Kentucky. It was built in 1872 for Judge James Hillary Mulligan and named for the Maxwell Springs, located on the property.

The showcase is open to the public on November 25-27 and December 2-4, and will feature more than 22 interior designers, florists, and landscape professionals. Tours of the house will be Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. Admission to the house is $10 a person. All proceeds benefit NHOA. For more information, call (859) 277-0870. NHOA provides a trained, certified ombudsman for residents of long-term care facilities in the Bluegrass area. For questions regarding long-term care facilities in and around central Kentucky, contact (859) 277-9215.

Country Highway tour
Eastern Kentucky’s U.S. Hwy. 23, the Country Music Highway, is the subject of a new heritage driving tour produced by the Kentucky Folklife Program, a program of the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Arts Council.

More Than Music: A Heritage Driving Tour of Kentucky’s Route 23 is a driving tour package that includes three compact disks narrated by country star Ricky Skaggs. A fourth CD features songs performed by famous natives who grew up close to this National Scenic Byway.

A 60-page guidebook that accompanies the CD set contains maps, travel tips, and information about accommodations and attractions. The price is $24.99.

To buy the CD set or get more information, go to the Internet’s 1792 Store at http://store.kentucky.gov/kyhs/ or contact Sarah Milligan at the Historical Society, (502) 564-1792.

Kids Farmer’s Almanac
The Old Farmer’s Almanac is releasing The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids. The full-color, 192-page book is designed for children ages 8 and older. Features include facts about the moon, fishing tips, the history of basketball, and how Roy Sullivan has been hit by lightning eight times. The almanac is available for $9.95 at retail outlets and in the children’s section of bookstores. Get updates at www.Almanac4Kids.com.

Fiction contest
Arts Across Kentucky, a magazine covering the visual, performing, and literary arts in Kentucky, has teamed up with The Giles Society to present The Janice Holt Giles Fiction Prize. This short story contest offers a first prize of $300 and publication in Arts Across Kentucky, which has a readership of 90,000.

The winning story must be suitable for a general audience. Manuscripts must be postmarked by January 1, 2006.

Send two copies, typed double-spaced on white, 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper. Photocopies are acceptable. Do not send originals as manuscripts will not be returned. One entry should not exceed 3,000 words. One entry per writer. Entry should include a cover page with writer’s name, address, and other contact information and story title.

The judge will be novelist and short story writer Silas House.

Send two copies of your manuscript and cover page, along with a $10 entry fee, to: Arts Across Kentucky, Attn: Fiction Prize, 2009 Family Circle, Lexington, KY 40505. Make checks payable to Arts Across Kentucky.
For more detailed guidelines, visit www.gilessociety.org.

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