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Health Care Reform Provisions 2012

Angelica Wedell

February 2012

Health care in America has been looking a little bit different ever since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010.  With today’s wavering political climate and Supreme Court decisions yet to be made, the end result of health reform is still subject to change.  Even so, this will be a big year for Affordable Care Act provisions already set in motion.  There are five major provisions coming in to play this year with the goals of “improving quality and lowering costs” according to


Accountable Care Organizations


The new law began providing financial incentives to physicians, hospitals, and other providers to voluntarily join together and form Accountable Care Organizaions (ACO).  These groups are geared towards Medicare recipients and share information to better coordinate patient care. states that patients who have multiple doctors would have their medical information readily available, fewer duplicated medical procedures, and would not need to explain their medical situation over and over again.  ACOs that provide high quality care at a lower cost can share in the savings with the Medicare system.


Dealing with Disparities in Health Care


“Not all Americans have equal access to health care—or similar health care outcomes. Low-income Americans, racial and ethnic minorities, and other underserved populations often have higher rates of disease, fewer treatment options, and reduced access to care. They are also less likely to have health insurance than the population as a whole,” states.  To begin addressing these types of disparities, the law propels the collection of racial, ethnic, gender and language data to research and reduce disparities.  It will also help fund community health centers and encourage diversity among health care professionals.  The goal is to make health care affordable for all by 2014.


Rebates on Insurance Premiums


Some consumers may see an insurance rebate this summer.  As a result of the medical loss ratio initiative (MLR), health insurance companies and HMOs must spend the majority of their collected premiums (80-85 percent) on actual medical care instead of profits. Companies who do not meet the profit requirements are to send the extra money back to the consumers.


Value-Based Purchasing


The Value-Based Purchasing program will link a hospital’s payment to the cost and quality of services that they provide in the Medicare system.  Hospital performance statistics must be made public for measures relating to heart attacks, surgical care, patients’ quality of care and more.  The law aims to reward hospitals with better payment for quality care.


From Paperwork to Electronic Records


Health care is one of the few industries still dependent on paper and ink.  In the fall the law will kick off a series of changes to implement electronic health records as the new standard.  By moving away from paper, the plan is to reduce paperwork, cut costs, and reduce errors.


When looking for the right health insurance plan for your individual needs, it may be more important than ever to have an experienced agent on your side.  Your Nevin and Witt agent will tell you exactly what you need to know to make an educated decision on what health insurance plan is right for you.  And as the tide of health care reform ebbs and flows, our full-time customer service agents will be there to answer any questions about your policy.  If you would like to speak with an agent about health insurance plans, call us at 1-800-247-9889.

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Shawntel Newton, "The Bachelor" contestant and funeral director, introduces book

Angelica Wedell
March 2012

“There she is!” members of the audience hummed when Shawntel Newton appeared from behind a column of shelves for her book signing event at Lyon Books and Learning Center Wednesday night.  At standing room only, the bookstore was brimming with an estimated 80 fans, friends, and family members.  Although they had all seen Newton on “The Bachelor” TV show, some of them knew her better as the funeral director who had orchestrated a funeral for their family.  While “The Bachelor” may have brought Newton national fame, her book mostly focuses on her career as a funeral director and embalmer, and her life growing up in Chico.

“I never thought I’d be a funeral director and embalmer.  I never thought I’d be on a reality TV show.  And never once in my life did I ever think I would be standing here telling people about a book I wrote,” the 26-year-old said with a laugh as she debuted her memoir, “Final Rose.”  Newton shared a few stories from her book about growing up in a Christian household and her experiences in college.  “My first year in college was a struggle.  My boyfriend broke up with me and my fish, Fred, died.”

As a teenager Newton never thought she would take up the family business at Newton-Bracewell Funeral Homes.  In college she took a Myer’s-Briggs test to see what her calling in life would be.  She was surprised by the result:  Funeral Director.  “Ok, my dad must have rigged this computer,” she joked.  Newton then began to seriously explore the family profession and learned there was a lot more to it than she had originally thought.  Mortuary school soon followed. 

Newton’s excursion on “The Bachelor” started when her sisters signed her up for the show.  As Bachelor Brad Womack (season 15) stated, Shawntel Newton was “the hottest funeral director” that the show had ever met. 

Newton recalled her shopping spree in Las Vegas and travelling around the world.  The book-signing audience seemed most eager to hear more about bringing “The Bachelor” home to Chico.  “You’re laughing because you saw [Brad] lay on the prep table,” Newton said as she described the funeral home tour that aired on the show.

Fans were happy to see their town on national television.  “Shawntel represented Chico really well,” said Chico resident Judy Fales.  “And some people may think a funeral home is boring, but Shawntel showed that’s not the case.”

“It was so fun to see our town on TV,” said bookstore owner Heather Lyon.

Being sent home from the show was difficult for Newton.  “I came home and I grieved for several weeks.  I felt like an idiot.”  It was especially difficult for her to see negative posts about her on the Internet.  But she said that the overall reaction in Chico was positive.  “People on the street would want to take pictures with me.  Mom’s would say I’m a good role model for their daughter,” she said.

More recently, Newton thought she’d give “The Bachelor” another shot.  She had been in contact with season 16’s Ben Flajnik before he became the next Bachelor.  “We wanted to meet up but then he became the Bachelor and it never happened.”  To the shock of the other season 16 contestants, she came back to the show hoping Ben would give her a chance.

“It was awful,” Newton said.  “The girls called me bad names and it definitely wasn’t easy.”  She was sent home that very same night.  After reflecting on that evening, Newton was glad things panned out as they did.  “Now I feel like I dodged a bullet … and I mean that in the best possible way,” she laughed.  “Ben told me it wasn’t fair.  But the whole show’s not fair.  I want a man who is willing to put up a little fight for me.  But he wasn’t.”

“I’m so glad I did it because [otherwise] I would have wondered, what if,” Newton said.

The second time she left the show, Newton’s book was well underway.  She poured into the memoir for three months.  “I think I’ve been to every coffee shop in Chico,” she said.

Her father Ric Newton said, “She never let me look at the book until it was published.”  Reading his daughter’s completed book for the first time was a moving experience for him.  “When I read 'Final Rose', I read it as her diary.  I could relate to the real life experiences and 'The Bachelor'.  I connected with her emotionally.  I got a lump in my throat and the next moment I’d smile and laugh,” he said.  “I did not realize the parental influence I had in my daughter’s life [before].  It really touched me when I read it.”

“[This book-signing event] was really nice and personal because it was a small setting,” said Nina Zamudio, who had seen Newton speak at a women’s conference.  “It was like a hug.”

Fans of “The Bachelor” were happy to meet Newton in person.  “I thought it was really cool that she came to support Chico at the local bookstore.  I watched every single episode with my mom,” said Jennifer DeWitt.

Jennifer’s mother, Wendy DeWitt, agreed.  “It was great to support Shawntel and hear her in person without the cameras.  I think it’s great to have something as big as ‘The Bachelor’ in Chico.  She’s our local hero!”

Newton said that she has no intentions of becoming The Bachelorette in the future.  She met this year’s Bachelorette, Emily Maynard, during Brad’s season.  “Emily is great.  I wish her the best of luck.  But no thanks for me.  I’m retired from roses.  Daisies are my favorite flowers.”  Now she plans to succeed her dad at the funeral home, along with Dane Bracewell.

Shawntel Newton’s book is on sale at local booksellers around Chico, and Online at and  So far Lyon Books has sold more than 80 copies of “Final Rose”. 

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The Little Red Hen serving children and adults with developmental disabilities

Angelica Wedell
February 2012

The Little Red Hen locations in Chico are more than just a Plant Nursery, Kitchen Store and Gift Shop.  Every purchase made at this non-profit organization goes to benefitting children and adults in the community living with developmental disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and others.

Executive Director Teresa Wolk Hayes has made the Little Red Hen her life’s work.  It all started about 20 years ago when Hayes’ son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.  “All of a sudden my focus was on him and helping him heal,” Hayes recalled.

At the time, there were little to no resources in the community for autistic children, so she started a small group with some other parents.  “We now know that behavioral intervention is the only thing that really works for autism,” Hayes explained, thinking back on the humble beginnings of her program.  “But back then not a lot was known.” 

Early on Hayes hosted a swim program at her home, where children with developmental disabilities had one-on-one swimming instruction and their parents could provide support.  The swim program garnered attention from larger groups in the state.  Representatives from Far Northern Regional Center had heard about Hayes’ swim program and came by for a visit.  They were so impressed that they gave support and funding, and the program lasted for 15 years.

With a natural talent for nurturing and helping things grow, Hayes also began using plants for therapy and started selling them around town.  “We had a whole bunch of plants,” she laughed.  “They were all over the place.”  Hayes credits the plants for giving her the idea to name The Little Red Hen after a folk tale about farming, hard work, and community.  Hayes thought of this story while digging holes for the plants.  She realized she was doing the work alone, when it would be better to have the involvement of families to truly benefit children with disabilities. 

The Little Red Hen program soon branched out and grew successfully.  A plant nursery was founded ten years ago, and since then The Little Red Hen has sprouted a gift shop and a kitchen store.  The programs for disabled children and adults now reach into the Chico Unified School District, and a college scholarship is provided.  Funding from The Little Red Hen stores, donations, and the Far Northern Regional Center goes to numerous programs and opportunities designed to help disabled children transition into adulthood.  “It takes a village,” Hayes said about raising a child with autism.  “And it took everybody involved to do all this: teachers, kids, and parents.”

“Everything about The Little Red Hen is about quality,” Hayes said.  The company has won best plant nursery five years in a row, best gift shop, and received state recognition.  The three shops employ about 100 workers, 60 of whom have developmental disabilities.  The Little Red Hen creates a positive work environment by recognizing the employees’ abilities and instilling a sense of self-worth.  “We don’t pay below minimum wage,” Hayes emphasized.  “You can’t teach self esteem by paying less than another human being.” 

Hayes shared the story of when one employee was first hired.  They had special computer equipment set up for the woman, as she had three fingers.  After a while, the new employee asked to see her paycheck.  “She kept wanting to see her paycheck over and over again,” Hayes recalled.  “I wondered why.  Then I realized that she used to only get less than 25 cents an hour [at a previous job].  She wanted to look at the paycheck again because she was amazed at the wages.”  Now the very same employee regularly does computer work for The Little Red Hen.  “She does everything, and she does a great job,” Hayes said with a smile.

Teresa Hayes recognizes how essential it is for disabled children and adults to have a safe haven.  She remembers moments when her son might bump into a stranger as a child.  “Out in the big environment people who yell and complain are the first to say something.  But for someone with autism, The Little Red Hen gives them the chance to say ‘Come into our environment.’  And that’s an environment of quality.”

Hayes’ son and inspiration, Alex, is proof that a parent’s dedication works.  “I was a monster,” Alex said with a huge smile as Teresa shared stories of his childhood.  Now at 21-years-old he studies business at Chico State University and has big plans for the future.

The Little Red Hen is currently hosting community programs for the holidays.  There are also plans to open an interactive park and garden in the spring.  For more information about the Little Red Hen and store locations visit their Web site