Monday, February 29, 2016

Health Insurance and Your Taxes

Nora Rhoades, Family & Youth Development Agent

Since 2014, nearly all Americans are required to have health insurance. The Affordable Care Act, which made having health insurance mandatory, requires that you are insured for at least nine months out of every year, or you will have to pay a penalty at tax time for being uninsured. There are some exemptions to the requirement. These could include certain hardships, financial status, life events and membership to some groups.

In the current income tax season, taxpayers now have to show proof of health insurance enrollment – for at least nine months of the year in 2015 – on their tax documentation. For those without the required amount of coverage in tax year 2015, the penalty is 2 percent of household income, or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child under 18 up to a maximum fine of $975 – whichever is the greater amount. For those without coverage in 2016, the penalty will be the higher amount between 2.5 percent of household income, or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child to a maximum fee of $2,085. Each year, the fines will continue to increase.

Do you still need health insurance for 2016? Consumers who did not enroll in the marketplace before the open enrollment deadline may have other options to meet the nine-month legal requirement for health insurance coverage if their plans begin by April 1, 2016. Options available now typically have certain requirements for consumers to meet to enroll in coverage.

The marketplace is still available for those who experience a qualifying life event this year. Qualifying events include losing job-based or other insurance, moving out of state, or changing family composition such as getting married or divorced, losing a spouse, or adding a child. Enrollees with a qualifying life event have 60 days after the event to sign up for insurance through the marketplace. This is considered a special enrollment period. Visit for details.

Job-based health insurance is an option if the employer provides coverage. Talk to your employer to learn about options that may be available.

KanCare, Kansas’ Medicaid program, is available to low-income U.S. citizens and lawfully present immigrants who are over 65, up to age 19, or disabled. Children and pregnant women might be eligible for KanCare if their household incomes are less than 245 percent of the federal poverty level. Visit for details.

For adults age 65 and older, Medicare remains the health insurance option. Certain younger people with disabilities and people with end-stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, will continue to get their health insurance through this federal program. Visit for details.

Other public programs include TRICARE, Veterans Affairs (VA) or the Indian Health Service (IHS) for eligible enrollees.

Enrolling in private health insurance is another option available at any time, though an open enrollment period may apply.

To learn more about how to enroll in the marketplace or KanCare, call the marketplace, available 24/7, at 800-318-2596. The Kansas Health Institute also has numerous resources on its website at

Reference: Health insurance enrollment numbers higher overall in Kansas, K-State Research and Extension News,

Monday, February 22, 2016

What is the Outlook for Diseases in your Wheat Crop?

Sandra Wick
District Crops Production Agent

Well we have certainly been experiencing some warm temperatures this past week and you

may have been out in the fields looking at your wheat crop. You may be wondering if we need to be concerned about any wheat diseases and if any of them have shown up in the states south of us yet.

February and March are critical months for the wheat crop and strongly influence the outlook for the 2016 production season. Mild temperatures and adequate moisture during these months will increase yield potential of the crop, but could also increase the risk of severe disease.
Stripe Rust in Wheat

According to Erick DeWolf, K-State Research and Extension Plant pathologist, university reports around the region indicate that stripe rust is active at low levels in Texas. There are also low level reports of stripe rust in southern Oklahoma, as well as leaf rust was detected at low levels near Stillwater, Oklahoma. These reports are important because severe outbreaks of stripe rust and leaf rust in Kansas are often proceeded by outbreaks of disease in states to the south of Kansas. Weather conditions in Texas and Oklahoma over the next 6 weeks will certainly have a major effect on the development of disease in those states. If the disease continues to develop in the south, the risk of Kansas experiencing wheat diseases increases dramatically. 

Leaf Rust in Wheat

Research plots near Manhattan a couple weeks ago, already found trace levels of leaf rust. This is not unusual for this time of year but it is still too early to know if leaf rust will survive the winter this far north. In many years, leaf rust is detected in February; however, dry conditions may limit the spread of the disease to new growth in March and the disease could die out locally. Low levels of powdery mildew were also observed in the research plots at Manhattan. For more information on wheat diseases, contact your local office of the Post Rock Extension District.

There is no need for management activities at this point. However, growers should be listening for more reports of disease in Texas and Oklahoma. Scouting for overwintering leaf rust in Kansas can begin anytime, but is most useful in late March and early April. K-State Research and Extension has excellent publications on each of these diseases with more information at the following links, Wheat stripe rust - and Wheat leaf rust -

There is still time to register for the Post Rock Extension District upcoming meeting, “On-Farm Research and Cropping Systems” scheduled for Thursday, February 25, in Mankato at the Community Center starting at 10:30 a.m. and concluding at 3:00 p.m. A FREE lunch will be served at NOON, sponsored by the State Exchange Bank. Topics will include how to establish on-farm research along with past and current projects in addition to providing information on crop rotation considerations and addressing the economic budgets of each rotation. Pre-registration is requested by Monday, February 22 and a minimum of 10 producers is required to hold the meeting. For more information or to register, be sure to call or stop by any of your local offices of the Post Rock Extension District in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Walk Kansas 2016 April 3rd - May 28th

Ashley Goudey, Nutrition, Food Safety & Health Agent

Want to feel better and have more energy? Maybe you need to blow off some steam from a stressful day or need to get better sleep. Regular exercise can help you achieve this and more. The health benefits from regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore, and they are available to everyone, regardless of age, sex, or physical ability. Another fantastic thing about exercise — it’s fun! Walk Kansas is based on Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. In 2016, we want you to walk tall and walk strong as you and your team journey across the state.

Begin by gathering a team of 6 individuals and select one of these challenges.

Challenge 1) Each person reaches the minimum goal for physical activity – 2½ hours of moderate/vigorous activity per week. Collectively, the team would walk 423 miles – the distance across the state.

Challenge 2) Take a meandering trek diagonally across the state from Troy to Elkhart. Each person logs 4 hours of activity per week which would take the team 750 miles.

Challenge 3) Walk the perimeter of Kansas – 1200 miles -- with each person logging 6 hours of moderate/vigorous activity per week.

What activities count toward Walk Kansas Minutes? You can report all activity you do at a moderate and vigorous level, as long as the activity is performed for at least 10 consecutive minutes. You can also include minutes you spend doing strengthening exercises. If you wear an activity tracker (wrist tracker or pedometer) you can start counting steps after you reach 6,000 steps in a day. Report 15 minutes of activity for every 2,000 steps you take above 6,000.

To register for Walk Kansas, contact your Local Extension Office. Cost per participant is $8 and Walk Kansas T-shirts are available at an extra cost. Registration will soon be open! Contact your local Post Rock Extension Office to receive your registration packet when they become available! Lincoln 524-4432, Beloit 738-3597, Mankato 378-3174, Osborne 346-2521, or Smith Center 282-6823.