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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Obama-care costs a lot more in western Wisconsin, than in Minnesota

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Pierce County Herald
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Obama-care costs a lot more far in western Wisconsin, than across the Saint Croix River in Minnesota. Insurance agent Dennis Conger said premiums on the new health exchanges in Pierce, Polk, and Saint Croix counties are almost twice as high as in Minnesota's Twin Cities' region. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press said it found the same disparity. The paper says it's not because Minnesota set up its own exchange, and Wisconsin didn't. Instead, it's because of the premiums created within the 400-plus geographic rating areas of the Affordable Care Act. The Twin Cities has the nation's lowest benchmark premium for a 50-year-old non-smoker -- while that same non-smoker in western Wisconsin has the nation's second-highest benchmark premium. Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation says it's one of the nation's highest cost disparities for neighboring regions. Cox says there could be several reasons -- including less competition between insurers on the Wisconsin side of the border. New Richmond insurance agent Linda Skoglund said the Twin Cities has plans in which consumers pay less, with more limits on the doctors they can see. She said those plans are not available in the Badger State. The Pioneer Press says the price difference could also be the result of state Medicaid costs, each state's high-risk pool programs, and renewal dates for various policies.

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Eleven sky-divers who survived after their two planes collided at Superior on Saturday were scheduled to tell their stories on national T-V this morning. The 11 took to the air again yesterday, to appear in New York on N-B-C's "Today" show. The Duluth News-Tribune said they might share footage from video cameras mounted on their helmets, showing the collision of the two planes at 12-thousand feet in the air. Officials said the skydivers had either jumped, or were about to do so, when the collision occurred. They were planning to jump in formation. Skydiver Dan Chandler said it was a "minor miracle" that the 11 walked away relatively unscathed. One of the pilots had non-life-threatening injuries when his craft broke in pieces before falling to the ground. The other made it back to the airport in Superior. Federal investigators began combing the wreckage yesterday. Many of the divers were instructors at Skydive Superior, which is closed because the damaged aircraft were the only ones the company had. Instructor Barry Sinex said it would take about 150-thousand dollars to resume its local sky-diving operation. He hopes the national T-V exposure will help raise the funds needed to get back in business.

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Much of northern Wisconsin could get another coating of snow this week. The National Weather Service says a cold front will push a new low-pressure system into the Badger State tomorrow afternoon into Wednesday. It's expected to produce widespread rain throughout Wisconsin -- but a few inches of snow are possible in the far northwest part of the state, stretching eastward at least into Vilas County. It's the same region where an early-season snow dropped up to three-and-a-half inches in late October. That's been long gone, however. Meanwhile, a cold front that brought cloudy skies and light precipitation during the weekend is about to fizzle out -- but not before giving us a chance of some more scattered light showers today. The Weather Service in Green Bay says rain might linger into early this evening, as Packer-and-Bear fans get ready to watch their teams play at Lambeau Field in a 7:40 kickoff. The current weather system brought strong southerly winds to parts of Wisconsin yesterday, but the gusts diminished after leaving Minnesota. Gusts of 46 miles-an-hour were recorded in Rochester Minnesota. The biggest Wisconsin gusts from that system were in at La Crosse, at 35-miles-an-hour.

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Sheriff's investigators in northeast Wisconsin say they want to catch more child sex predators, by stepping up Internet sting operations. Last month, 15 people were arrested in six northeast and central counties in a sting conducted by several law enforcement agencies. Door County investigator Jim Valley tells W-L-U-K T-V in Green Bay that the largest numbers of arrests showed that either the sting was a rousing success -- or more needs to be done to address the problem. The October sting was the first in the region to include a weekend, with the busiest activity on Friday and Saturday nights. Valley said he'd like to see future stings run for at least seven days. Brown County Sheriff John Gossage said he's working on ways for adding officers to the multi-jurisdictional Internet stings. 

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For the fourth time, a new trial date has been set for a man accused of killing his girlfriend's two-year-old son while babysitting him in central Wisconsin. 27-year-old Reymundo Perez is now scheduled to have his jury selected February 26th. A week-and-a-half of testimony and arguments are expected to begin February 27th in Portage County Circuit Court in Stevens Point. Perez is charged with reckless homicide and reckless child abuse in the death of two-year-old Felix Espinosa-Villa at his girlfriend's mobile home in Bancroft in late October of 2011. Prosecutors said Perez threw the toddler to the ground twice, because the youngster would not stop crying. He died two days later at a Marshfield hospital. Among other things, the trial delays involved the availability of expert witnesses. Perez is being held at the Lincoln County Jail in Merrill.  

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The Grinch That Stole Christmas showed up early in north central Wisconsin. Authorities said about eight-thousand dollars worth of holiday decorations were stolen in the past month from a semi-truck parked in the Lincoln County town of Russell. The trailer had materials for making wreaths and ribbons. Its owner said the unit was not locked -- and it was parked at two different spots around Bloomville around the time the theft occurred. Anyone with information is asked to call the Lincoln County Crime-Stoppers program.

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Female bone fragments were found in the burning pit of a home at Evansville in Rock County -- and they could be those of an 18-year-old Fitchburg woman missing for over a week. Sheriff Robert Spoden said yesterday the bone fragments were tested at the State Crime Lab, and were found to be those of a woman he believes to Aprina Paul. She disappeared last Sunday night after getting into a man's car outside her home. Spoden said information from Fitchburg Police led officials to the Evansville home, where a 29-year-old man was interviewed and then held for violating a previous probation. He said more lab tests of the bone fragments and other evidence would take place today.  

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Wisconsin dairy cows were about as busy as their national counterparts in September. New federal figures show that Wisconsin's milk output was one-percent higher than the previous September, at just over two-point-two billion pounds. The state's increase was the same as the national jump -- and it was slightly lower than the one-point-one percent milk increase in the 23 major dairy producing states. California, the nation's top milk producer, had a four-tenths-of-one-percent increase in September, six-tenths smaller than Wisconsin's. The Badger State added a-thousand cows to its dairy herd, which now totals just over one-and-a-quarter million head. The state's production per cow went up by about 15 pounds, to 17-hundred-45.

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One person was killed last night in an S-U-V that got rear-ended by a semi-truck in southern Wisconsin. It happened around 9:45 p-m on Highway 51 north of DeForest. Columbia County authorities said a northbound semi struck the oncoming S-U-V as it was turning left in front of the rig. The fatal victim was a passenger in the S-U-V. Its driver was taken to a Madison hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The semi-driver was not hurt. The State Patrol continues to investigate. 

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Jason Schulte
Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 
(715) 243-7767 x243
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