STATE EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
Avera addresses changes to SD employees benefits
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Avera Health says state employees can still access some of its specialty services without being charged higher out-of-pocket costs due to recent changes to benefits.
Recent changes to state benefits classify certain categories of health care as "Tier 1" with limited options for the most affordable treatment.
Avera says state employees can still access its cardiology, orthopedics, bariatric surgery and gastrointestinal services without being charged higher out-of-pocket costs.
The changes went into effect July 1. They put more of the burden on the insured and relieve pressure on the state.
The new benefits also mean that state employees, many of whom are based Pierre, will have to travel more than three hours to Sioux Falls and other cities to the east for the most affordable specialty health care.
Food writers subpoenaed in 'pink slime' lawsuit
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Several food writers, including a New York Times reporter, have been subpoenaed as part of a company's $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC related to the network's coverage of a meat product derided as "pink slime."
Court records show that Times reporter Michael Moss, noted food writer Michele Simon and three reporters from the Food Safety News have been asked for any communications they had with ABC in 2012.
Beef Products Inc. sued ABC in 2012 alleging that its reports led to plant closures and layoffs because it misled consumers into believing the product was unsafe.
A Food Safety News attorney says the online publication will fight the requests and a Times spokeswoman says Moss' subpoena has been stayed.
Simon says she doesn't keep emails dating back to 2012.
General Counsel says prison reform working
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota's General Counsel says legislation passed last year in an effort to reduce the prison population and save money is working.
Jim Seward says the Public Safety Improvement Act has tripled the number of nonviolent offenders in the state's DUI and drug courts, increased the number of criminals on probation and decreased the number serving parole.
The legislation passed in 2013 brought about sweeping reforms that changed the state's focus to allow nonviolent drug offenders to seek treatment via drug courts instead of prison. It also allows cooperative parolees to reduce their time on parole.
Seward says the state's prison population was 3,624 on June 30. That's an increase over the 3,576 from last year. Seward says the reforms helped keep the increase down.
South Dakota police say vehicles were set on fire
ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota officials say they believe someone set the fires that destroyed two vehicles.
The Aberdeen American News reports (http://bit.ly/1rCQqiK ) that Aberdeen Fire and Rescue and the Aberdeen Police Department responded to a local trailer park around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Police say no one was injured, but several residents were evacuated.
The fire chief says the owner of both vehicles also lost a van to a fire in May. He says that fire was attributed to an electrical issue, but it will likely be re-evaluated.
The investigation is ongoing.
South Dakotans asked to make flood recovery plans
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota officials have asked residents affected by flooding to begin making recovery plans.
Heavy rains caused flooding throughout southeastern South Dakota last month. Rainfall was at record levels in parts of the region.
The Lincoln/Union County Long-Term Recovery Team tells the KELO-TV (http://bit.ly/1o9JuFS ) that people can call 211 to make an appointment with a disaster-recovery case manager.
The team also asks residents to file a claim through their homeowners' insurance, even if they think it will be denied, or apply for a low-interest disaster loan.
For their appointment, residents should bring the square-footage of their home, a description of the damage and copies of proof of ownership, insurance award or denial letter, verification of monthly income, verification of bank accounts, receipts for disaster-related repairs and estimates for repairs.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INVESTIGATION
Former economic development head was to be charged
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota's attorney general says he was ready to file charges and seek an indictment against the state's former economic development director days before the man committed suicide last fall.
Marty Jackley briefed lawmakers Tuesday on his investigation into potential financial misconduct at the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
That probe stemmed from allegations that former commissioner Richard Benda double-billed the state for three flights and redirected $550,000 in economic development money for his own use.
Jackley addressed members of the Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee in Pierre.
Lawmakers rejected a motion by Democratic Rep. Susan Wismer to subpoena Joop (yohp) Bollen, who had been handling the state's role in the federal EB-5 program.
Benda was found dead in October near Lake Andes with a fatal shotgun wound.
ND hospital, national nonprofit talk affiliation
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck is pursuing an affiliation with the Catholic Health Initiatives nonprofit.
The hospital and nonprofit say the goal would be to enhance services and improve care. Officials say that if a final agreement is reached, the affiliation could occur by the end of the year.
Catholic Health Initiatives is based in Colorado, with a division based in Fargo. It has several facilities in North Dakota, but none in Bismarck.
St. Alexius serves residents of central and western North Dakota, eastern Montana and northern South Dakota through its Bismarck hospital and facilities in several other cities. It is associated with the Benedictine Sisters of the Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck.
Man receives 11-plus years for role in drug death
FARGO, N.D. (AP) - One of two men accused of supplying methamphetamine that led to the death of a Mandan woman has been sentenced to nearly 12 years in prison.
Fifty-three-year-old Joseph Senger pleaded guilty earlier for the February 2013 overdose death of his girlfriend, 59-year-old Cheri Bettis of Mandan. Brock Fish also has pleaded guilty in Bettis' death and is scheduled for sentencing in October.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland on Monday sentenced Senger to 11 years and seven months in prison.
The federal case involves 13 defendants in North Dakota and South Dakota. Fish and Billie Jo Kirkpatrick also are charged in the December 2012 overdose death of 39-year-old Douglas Peterson, of Pollock, South Dakota.
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