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Brandon Pollock, Waterloo Courier 

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UnityPoint: Contract with Amerigroup Medicaid health plan set to expire Dec. 31

SIOUX CITY | Some patients of UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's could be impacted if UnityPoint Health fails to reach an agreement with Amerigroup of Iowa, one of the state's two remaining Medicaid managed care organizations. 

West Des Moines-based UnityPoint Health announced Wednesday it is notifying approximately 54,000 patients in Iowa that its contract with Amerigroup may end on Dec. 31.

If an agreement is not reached by the end of the year, UnityPoint Health will no longer be part of the provider network for Amerigroup, meaning UnityPoint will no longer provide care for Amerigroup members beginning April 1, except for emergency care as required by law. 

UnityPoint will continue to be in-network for Iowa's only other existing MCO network, UnitedHealthcare. 

"We are disappointed that our contract issues with Amerigroup are not yet resolved and know the announcement of a possible change may cause confusion for our Amerigroup patients," Sabra Rosener, UnityPoint vice president of government and external affairs, said in a news release. "We feel an obligation to inform our patients now about this possible change so they can begin to think about what's best for them and their families if the change occurs."

A news release issued Wednesday stated UnityPoint Health will for the moment continue to provide care for Amerigroup members as usual, but if the change occurs, members will need to either change their MCO to stay with a UnityPoint Health provider or change their medical provider to stay with Amerigroup. 

UnityPoint Health will notify patients regarding any additional changes, the release said. Patients can also visit unitypoint.org/IowaMedicaid for more information and updates or contact Iowa Medicaid Member Services at 800-338-8366. 

UnityPoint Health provides care throughout Iowa, western Illinois and southern Wisconsin through relationships with 290 physician clinics and 38 hospitals. 

UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's operates a Sioux City hospital at 2720 Stone Park Blvd., an outpatient center at 5885 Sunnybrook Drive, and several clinics in the metro area.

Amerigroup and UnitedHealthcare are the two remaining MCOs after the announcement that Amerihealth Caritas Iowa — the Medicaid insurer with the largest concentration of the state’s special-needs population — will withdraw from the Medicaid program, which covers one in four Iowans, at the end of November.


Govt-and-politics
top story
Love of books, community brought library director Rigdon to Sioux City

SIOUX CITY | Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Kansas, Helen Rigdon savored the weekly trips she would take into the nearby town of Coffeyville with her mother during the summer months. Because they typically meant a stop at the public library. 

"We'd go down to the kids area, and we would be down there, and I just loved it," she said. "I read every book I could, practically."

Even in those early years, Rigdon remembers wanting to someday work at a library. Today, after holding a handful of positions at libraries in Kansas and Missouri, Rigdon has taken the helm of the public library system in Sioux City. 

Rigdon, 57, started Oct. 9 as director of the system, which includes three branches, a $3 million operating budget and more than 210,000 physical books and recordings. She succeeds Betsy Thompson, who retired in August after 22 years as director and a total of 35 within the library system. 

Rigdon's most recent position was as a branch manager at the Wichita, Kansas, Public Library. But she said she's glad to be in a director's position again and in a city more the size of Sioux City. 

"I think you get to know your patrons more," she said of Sioux City's size. "You get to make, I feel, a bigger change because you have that direct (contact). You're not so removed from the everyday business." 

Rigdon's childhood plans to become a librarian sat on the back burner for a few years. It was 20 years ago, in 1997, that she began working toward her childhood career goal, completing her undergraduate degree through a Friends University program in Coffeyville and then studying library science at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas. 

Rigdon would spend time working at Coffeyville Community College and Wichita Area Technical College before moving back to Coffeyville, where she earned her first experience as director of a public library. 

She then was hired in Kansas City, Kansas, as a branch manager at the public library system and was then promoted to assistant manager, where she was in charge of budgeting. 

Rigdon then worked for three years as director of the Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson, Missouri, then moved to Wichita, where she served as a branch manager. 

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

Helen Rigdon, the new Sioux City Public Library director, stands in the children's section at the Wilbur Aalfs Library in downtown Sioux City. Rigdon said she was inspired to be a librarian while visiting her hometown library as a child. 

Sioux City Library Board of Trustees president Rick Moon told the Journal Rigdon's "impeccable credentials" and variety of experience helped her stand out from other applicants during the screening and interview process

"Of equal importance, we found that she has a good sense of humor," Moon said in an email. "We all agreed that this combination will aid her in the difficult tasks of leading the library staff, as well as ensuring the Sioux City Library system meets the needs of the community for the years to come."

Rigdon said she believes she inherited a solid staff from Thompson and looks forward to working on the challenges ahead. 

As libraries and technology continue to change, she said she feels the next few years will involve continued decisions for the library to help "bridging the digital divide" -- offering ebook, audiobook and music downloads for internet users while providing free internet and educating others how to use new technology.

She said promoting children's reading initiatives, such as the library's 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, will also remain important. 

"I just think we have to keep being very relevant to the community, and just make sure that everyone knows what we have," she said. "I hear a lot of 'I didn't know the library did that,' and so I think just getting that out there, doing a lot of outreach." 

The library also will be seeking funding through a mix of city dollars and private fundraising to repair the aging Morningside Branch Library, which faces a possible $1.65 million in facility upgrades. A 2016 study deemed $1.2 million of those fixes as "critical," among them heating and cooling, plumbing and power issues.

"We’re still hoping to move ahead with it and at least get the necessary things done," Rigdon said. "They said it’s probably got another 15 or 20 years, the building. It’s a good location and there’s plenty of free parking."

Rigdon has two sons -- one who works as a tech analyst and consultant for Charles Schwab in Phoenix, and another who lives in New York and works in stage management for opera companies. In her spare time, she said she enjoys reading books -- she's a fan of thrillers -- along with cross-stitching and collecting antiques. 


Local
top story
New Facebook wind farm to cost $430M

WAKEFIELD, Neb. — A new Facebook supported wind farm being built in Dixon County should give local residents a few million reasons to like it.

The upcoming Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project will distribute $80 million in property tax and landowners payments over the first 20 years of its existence, according to officials at Enel Green Power North America Inc.

Additionally, Enel Green Power is spending $430 million to build Rattlesnake Creek and it'll be the second largest wind farm in the Cornhusker State upon completion.

The 320-megawatt wind farm is being built southwest of Sioux City, across 32,000 acres between the towns of Allen, Emerson and Wakefield.

The Andover, Massachusetts-based renewable energy company, a subsidiary of the multinational Enel Group, purchased the rights to wind farm from Lenexa, Kansas-based Trade Winds Energy shortly after the Facebook deal was announced in late October.

Slightly more than 100 local landowners are involved in the project and the landowner payments and tax payments are almost evenly split down the middle.

Enel Green Power also revealed that construction has started on Rattlesnake Creek.

“It’s mainly sight surveying and pre-construction activities; trying to get the roads in before winter,” said Mark McGrail, Enel Green Power’s associate vice president of energy management. “We’ll probably start full construction probably in the spring after the thaw. We’ll start out with foundations and some of that type of work and turbine delivery starts in June.”

The 101 turbines necessary to build the wind farm will come from Acciona, a Madrid, Spain-based renewable infrastructure company that Enel Group has worked with on multiple projects overseas. 

During the peak construction period, the Dixon County project will create 300 construction jobs and establish 12-16 full-time jobs. McGrail predicts Rattlesnake Creek will be operational by the fourth quarter of 2018.

Of the 320-megawatts of power Rattlesnake Creek will create, 200 of them will be allocated to Facebook’s data center — located about 100 miles away from the farm in Papillion, Nebraska — while the remaining 120 megawatts are available for other buyers.

Once fully operational, Rattlesnake Creek will be able to generate about 1.3 terawatt hours annually, which is enough energy to meet the equivalent annual consumption needs of more than 105,000 U.S. households, while avoiding the emission of around 940,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Prior to Facebook’s involvement, the Rattlesnake Creek project had been stagnant since 2013 after its former owners Trade Winds failed to find buyers for the energy the wind farm would have produced. Nebraska law at the time required wind farms to sell 10 percent of its output to in-state utilities and the rest out-of-state.

This updated version of the project came about due to a partnership Facebook, Trade Winds and Enel formed with the Omaha Public Power District to create a tariff that provides companies access to renewable energy sources.