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Board of Education approves computer standards

CASPER — It’s now up to Gov. Mark Gordon to approve Wyoming’s first computer science standards, after the state Board of Education approved the guidelines at its meeting late last month.

“The state board consistently supported the adoption of new standards for Computer Science, that (they) would be rigorous and help prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Walt Wilcox, the state board’s chairman and an administrator in the Natrona County School District, said in a statement.

The board voted unanimously to adopt the standards at its Nov. 22 meeting. The standards had previously been approved by the board in the spring, and the board opened up the guidelines to public comment. In June, the body also asked the state attorney general’s office for guidance on some of the standards.

Computer science is the latest edition to the state’s educational “basket of goods” — meaning the group of content areas that must be taught to Wyoming’s students. Computer science was created as part of legislation during the 2018 session and is the first new addition to the basket since it was created in the 1990s.

The standards had a small hiccup earlier this year, when the state board sent them back to a review committee because there was concern that they put too much of a burden on teachers.

“The teachers are tasked with some pretty heavy lifts, especially in those early grades because you’re getting a huge variety of where those students are,” Ryan Fuhrman, a Sheridan County junior high teacher and member of the state board, told the Star-Tribune in May. “We’re holding (teachers) accountable as a state to their reading and math scores. When we’re essentially creating a whole new standard, teachers were rightly like, ‘We’re already working to get this reading and math score, it’s not like we have some extra time in the day where we’re sitting around.’”

But the state board’s approved in the spring and vote last month sends the standards to a final hurdle in the form of Gordon. The governor will have 75 days to review the standards. The standards include some that are priority — meaning required — while others are set as “enhanced” or “supporting” standards.

The state’s 48 school districts have until the 2022-23 school year to implement the standards, which must be finished and submitted to schools by Jan. 1, 2022.

To support the effort, multiple grants and programs have started over the past year to support computer science. The University of Wyoming has hosted a training camp for teachers, while Microsoft provided a grant to help jump start the new content area.


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Hospital developing cost estimator for patients
Using it to get authorization from insurance companies will reduce number of write-offs

Campbell County Health plans to debut a cost estimator for medical procedures within the next three months for patients in the Gillette area.

The system, called Care Pricer, is for patients and staff and is expected to be available online on the hospital’s website Feb. 3.

It also may help patients who need prior authorization from their insurance companies for certain medical procedures, according to discussions Monday afternoon at the hospital’s monthly finance committee meeting.

“We had a little over $2 million in write-offs last year because we didn’t have prior authorization,” said Chief Financial Officer Mary Lou Tate.

As a result, the hospital is forming a centralized unit to seek approval for medical procedures ahead of time from insurance companies, she said.

Denials have occurred over infusion therapies “because of high-dollar drugs,” and MRIs and CT Scans, Tate noted.

“Last year, we didn’t have a centralized prior authorization,” she added.

At the same time, the cost estimator tool for out-of-pocket expenses will help patients know just what a medical procedure may cost them specifically, based on their insurance.

The tentative online start-up date is Feb. 3, although Campbell County Health trustees likely will be invited to try out the system in demonstrations before that kickoff date.

The cost estimate will ping a patient’s health insurance so it will be specific to that person. It also will cover the technical cost of a procedure, but won’t include professional fees.

The Care Pricer also will let customers know the calculation is just an estimate and may not cover all the costs of a procedure.

“We’ll have to make sure that scripting is really clear,” said trustee Adrian Gerrits

“We hope to go live in February with this Care Pricer implementation. … I can put in that I’m going to have a colonoscopy at Blue Cross, here’s my Blue Cross number ID, and the system can go out and say, OK you have this much out-of-pocket, so this is how much of your deductible, this is your co-insurance and they can give me an estimate as far as how much out-of-pocket I will have,” said Yvonne Robinett, the CCH revenue cycle director.

“The staff also will have access to that. ... If they get prior authorization, they can run a patient’s information through Care Pricer and they can let them know this procedure has been authorized and they can let them know this is their estimated out-of-pocket,” she said. The hospital can then ask patients to pay a deposit on those estimates before or when they come in for the medical procedure.

“That will help that conversation a lot,” Gerrits said.

“Right now it’s hard to collect because it’s like well, we need a $500 deposit or a $200 deposit and sometimes it’s as low as $25,” Tate said. “Patients don’t like the fact that they’re putting a deposit down. They want to know what their personal cost is. That’s one reason we invested in this product, so we can have that financial conversation with a patient.”

The system also will use a lot of claim information provided by the hospital to come up with a common charge for some procedures, Tate added.

That’s why the scripting has to be very clear about the estimates, Gerrits said, “because that’s what people get mad about.”

“Nobody gets upset when we refund them money, but they do get upset if it’s a little bit more,” Robinett said.


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Museum, Pizza Carrello celebrating anniversary of end of Prohibition

The Campbell County Rockpile Museum and Pizza Carrello have partnered for a special event on Thursday.

They’re inviting the community to celebrate the passing of the 21st Amendment with a History Pub event from 6-8 p.m. Thursday in the museum’s annex building.

Museum educator Stephan Zacharias said he asked museum director Robert Henning if they could do a Prohibition event, using the museum’s saloon and bar exhibit as an anchor point for the event.

Pizza Carrello will be catering hors d’oeuvres and serving Prohibition Era drinks from the Rockpile Museum’s saloon and bar exhibit.

The event will feature Sheridan Beer by Black Tooth Brewing Co., and Pizza Carrello will incorporate the beer into some of the appetizers.

The event is open to everyone, but alcohol is restricted to those 21 and older.

Mark Demple, a great-grandson of one of the co-founders of Sheridan Brewing Co., will give a presentation about the history of the company and how Prohibition affected Wyoming.

The social hour begins at 6 p.m., followed by Demple’s presentation at 7 p.m.

Zacharias is encouraging people to dress up in their best 1920s and 1930s attire.

“I do have (my outfit) picked out,” Zacharias said. “Robert promises me he’s going to be dressed up too.”

Pizza Carrello staff also will be dressed up, he added.

On Dec. 5, 1933, the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the use and sale of alcohol, was repealed with the ratification of the 21st Amendment.

Companies in Wyoming were affected, including Sheridan Brewing Co. It stopped making alcohol for about 15 years. During Prohibition, the company switched to making soft drinks, Zacharias said.

The soft drink side of the company was eventually put out of business “by a little company called Coca-Cola,” he said.

Zacharias said Prohibition affected people and businesses all over the country, and this is “our local story attached to it.”