Tag Archives: Health Alliance

Blaze a Trail as You Age

Vantage Point: Blaze a Trail

An excerpt from North Central Washington Museum’s “The History of a Thriving Anomaly” describes how the local community thought the Wenatchee Valley Clinic, which opened on April Fools’ Day 1940, wouldn’t last 6 months. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

The tiny clinic was founded by a surgeon, Albert Donald Haug, a radiologist, Lloyd Smith, and an internist with a knack for keeping patients happy, Lumir Martin Mares, and it brought together specialists at a time when most doctors worked alone.

Haug and Mares believed that their little clinic could meet the same standards as those in the East, and they brought together a range of specialists and cutting-edge equipment and training to become the second-largest clinic in the region.

“We knew it would grow,” Dr. Smith said, “but none of us had any idea it would grow to what it is now.”

The clinic brought together its doctors then, and it brings together patients and doctors now. Because of their dream, its nearly 170 doctors treat people from around the world today.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy decided that every May, we would honor older Americans and their contributions to our communities and country. This year’s theme, “Blaze a Trail,” celebrates older adults who are taking charge of their health, engaging in their communities, and positively impacting the lives of others, just like Wenatchee Valley Clinic’s remarkable founders.

Health Alliance will honor older Americans this month by partnering with Confluence Health to hold an educational event about the treatment and prevention of hypertension and strokes on May 25 and by teaming up with community agencies and businesses in planning the 3rd annual senior-focused health fair at Pybus Public Market on June 4.

Health insurance can be challenging, but as I think about those trailblazing doctors, I remember that hard work, progressive thinking, and the camaraderie of partners like you can help turn the dream of making a positive impact through quality care within this wonderful place we all live a reality.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

National Influenza Vaccination Week

National Influenza Vaccination Week

This week was National Influenza Vaccination Week. The flu shot is the best tool to protect you and your family.

Struggling Through the Flu

 

The flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths every season. Get your shot today!

Avoid Getting Sick with the Shot

 

More than 132.7 million people have already gotten their flu shots. If your kids are over 6 months, protect them now!

Protect Your Kids From the Flu

 

Flu shots are the best way to avoid seasonal doctors’ visits, missed work and school, and to prevent hospitalizations.

Avoid Flu Season Woes

 

The flu can be a serious danger to your health, especially to those under 6 months old, pregnant women, and the elderly. Protect yourself now!

Our blogger overcame her fear of the flu shot. Let her story remind you why you need yours.

As a Health Alliance member, your flu shot is covered, so there’s no reason not to get yours today!

You're Covered, So Feel Better!

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Team Up for Greatness

Vantage Point: To Be A Star

There is a patch of I-5 South, just as you turn the bend, where The Tacoma Dome comes into view, and the sight always makes my heart jump into my throat. Opened in 1983, The Dome has hosted major concerts, professional sports competitions, and events. Most importantly for me, it’s also the place where Washington state high school athletes compete at the championship level.

My boys got to experience the honor of standing up among their peers as a part of a team of excellence on December 7, 2008, when Cashmere won the 1A High School Football State Championship. It’s a memory that I, and most of the town, which filled one whole side of the dome, will never forget.

This accomplishment started with the players, who had been honing their skills since grade school. It also took a school backing them with quality equipment and coaching, a town believing in them, and parents dedicated to supporting their goals. The second-string players, who only got a few seconds on the field that day, were just as important as the starters. In practice, they were the ones who helped the starters sharpen their skills. To say the least, they were all stars that day.

I am fortunate in my professional work to also be part of an amazing team. A team, which I say with great pride, whose Washington Medicare plans just earned 4.5 out of 5 stars from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.*

These Star Ratings measure more than just customer service. They also measure help managing chronic conditions, member complaints, working with providers to help members stay healthy, and members’ overall experience with the plan.

This achievement means a lot. It validates our efforts at Health Alliance and lets us know we are taking good care of our members. But just like a championship football team, we respect this is not an individual endeavor, and we appreciate all of you for sharing access to your resources and welcoming us into your communities. There is no way we could have accomplished this without your support and collaboration. As we share this esteemed recognition with you, please know, we sincerely count you as a member of our team, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

 

*Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-Star Rating System. Star Ratings are calculated each year and may change from one year to the next.

Composing for Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

Long View: It’s Annual Enrollment Time

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period starts on October 15. It’s the time of year when you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan. Plans can change premiums, copays, and formularies every year, so it’s important to review your coverage and see if it still suits your needs.

Medicare.gov is a great resource, as is your local senior center. You can also call Health Alliance at 1-888-382-9771 or TTY 711 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily from October 1 to February 14 and weekdays the rest of the year) or go to HealthAllianceMedicare.org for insight. Because I know this subject can be a little dry, I turned it into a poem from our vantage point. I hope you enjoy!

The chaos starts in mid-October.
Medicare says, “Think it over.”
The plan choice that you made last year,
It may be time to change and steer.

You stay at home most all the year.
Your children want you safe and near.
You dislike the awful weather.
HMOs might suit you better.

Maybe you’d like a PPO.
The freedom helps the snowbirds go,
To warmer climes away from ice.
So bon voyage! (It must be nice!)

Supplements can come in handy.
If you’re mobile, they are dandy.
Great if you like to get away,
If you are active day by day.

We brace for those who wait ‘til later.
Here’s our next procrastinator,
Frantic, stricken, and full of fear.
(Showing up late year after year.)

My co-workers have lost their voices.
December 7 ends your choices.
(And why’d they pick Pearl Harbor day?
It’s odd, I know, I just can’t say.)

We’re done, all is signed and dated.
You now feel somewhat elated.
No need to worry and have no fear,
We will be back again next year.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

 

Health Alliance Medicare is an HMO and PPO plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Health Alliance Medicare depends on contract renewal.

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Washington Wildfire Season

Vantage Point: Service in Times of Crisis

As I stopped for gas in Cle Elum on my way to Seattle, the store clerk asked me, “How’s the smoke outside?”

“I’m from Wenatchee,” I said.

“So sorry,” she genuinely replied.

The word “sorry,” I have expressed it too many times during this summer’s devastating wildfire season. Everyone at Health Alliance has felt helpless, halfheartedly going about their day-to-day duties, distracted by worry for our friends and neighbors suffering to the north.

One person who’s not feeling helpless is Cindy Marshall, a registered nurse and Health Alliance’s utilization review coordinator. She took the time to become a Red Cross disaster nurse volunteer to help in these kinds of emergencies.

She told me the recent fire crisis has been extremely unique and challenging because the volatile, unpredictable winds keep shifting the fire danger, affecting many towns and causing new evacuation orders.

And it can be hard to help in these conditions. The Greater Inland Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross has 11 stations spread over a large area right now, and many times they have set up a station, only to have to tear it down to move it to safety when the winds change.

Red Cross stations serve as a hub of activity during an emergency, but Cindy described entering a station to volunteer as anything but chaos. She knows exactly where to check in and which duties are most important. The station lead does a tremendous job of organizing priorities and reporting changes, and the team is experienced in troubleshooting solutions to issues as they arise.

Cindy is perfect for this role, as it’s much the same as what she does for Health Alliance. When one of our members has a healthcare emergency, Cindy is also there for them.

But the thing that makes Cindy truly exceptional, what keeps her volunteering weekends and evenings for the Red Cross and successful in her role at Health Alliance, is her caring and humble heart.

“So many people are doing so much more than me,” she said, crediting the firefighters who are putting their lives on the line and breathing in the heavy smoke.

To our members, community partners, and providers affected, please know that the word isn’t enough. We are more than sorry. We empathize with you through this crisis, and we will be here to support you in recovery.

Cindy expressed it best. “My number one priority is taking care of a person’s immediate safety and health care, but afterwards, sometimes the only thing you can do is hug them and let them cry.”

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four adult sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

Protectiion From Traumatic Brain Injuries

Long View: Play It Safe to Help Avoid Traumatic Brain Injuries

Many years ago, I really looked forward to our high school homecoming. Looking back, we were involved in a number of hazardous activities, but at the time, they were the norm.

We pressed in around an enormous bonfire with little or no supervision. We rode on the back deck of a convertible, and sometimes the driver would tap on the gas just to give us a thrill. We consumed enormous quantities of high-fat, high-sodium foods – no wait, we did that all year. And to top it off, most of these activities were at school, which could have been full of asbestos. Our hard-charging football team was known for its defensive rushing, and the crack of the helmets could be heard above the roar of the crowd.

Traumatic brain injuries can be caused by injuries from all kinds of sports, especially the high-impact ones, like soccer, boxing, football, baseball, lacrosse, skateboarding, and hockey, particularly in youth.

Cognitive symptoms can include:

  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Mood changes or mood swings
  • Feeling depressed or anxious

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“The long-term impact of all types of traumatic brain injuries is an area that is receiving a lot more attention and research,” Dr. Jim Burke, a senior medical director at Health Alliance, told me. “The key focus now should be on prevention and treatment options for current patients with this diagnosis.”

Bob Slesinski works in Purchasing at Carle Foundation Hospital. One of his passions for the last 20 years has been coaching high school basketball teams.

“Attitudes have changed since we were playing basketball in high school,” he said. “With prevailing research, we are much more attuned to the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries, and it seems proceeding with caution will be the best course.”

“Carle Foundation offers a seminar for area coaches that helps us be more aware of methods to avoid traumatic brain injuries and gives us useful tips on what to do when we suspect there has been a concussion during a game or practice.”

As usual, the more you learn, the more you know. It was once common not to wear seatbelts, too. It’s hard to believe that was the norm at one time.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.]

Pre-Planning for the End of Life's Stroll

Vantage Point: Pre-Planning Is Key Part of Life’s Stroll

There is nothing like a summer evening stroll—the sounds of people reminiscing on front porches, American flags flapping in the warm breeze, birds chirping, and children’s laughter. Smells of barbecue and freshly mown lawns tickle the nose as eyes feast on the sights of gardens overflowing with flowers and kids riding bikes as their wet swim trunks leave a trail of water from the city pool.

I think back to summers past and family celebrations. These are the nights I want to remember when the days turn shorter, darker, and colder. Walking past the town cemetery, I think about a recent visitor in our Health Alliance office. A distraught spouse tearfully informed us of an unexpected passing. She seemed so lost, not knowing what to do next, and looking over the tidy headstones, I decided I don’t want that experience for my loved ones.

Reaching out to Beth Pent, continuing family care and pre-need counselor at Jones & Jones-Betts Funeral Home, I learned funeral planning can be a lot like wedding planning. There are seemingly unlimited choices to reflect your expressed wishes and unique style, and planning ahead provides peace of mind. Everyone will need to have final arrangements someday, and if you don’t take care of it, the burden of planning and funding it will fall to the grieving next of kin.

Even if you choose not to have a service, there is still a long checklist of responsibilities and state- and county-required documents survivors must take care of, in addition to the transportation and handling of the body. Some choices require authorization, so pre-planning can record everything you think the executor of your estate will need to know to carry out your wishes.

Consulting with a trusted resource, like Beth, not only helps you determine your pre-made decisions, such as final resting place, but it also helps relieve family members from having to guess and possibly argue over what you would have wanted. Pre-planning encourages you to consider your loved ones and is a way you can help them through their grief.

Funerals can be a celebration of life, and I want mine to serve as my last gesture of love by taking care of everything I can ahead of time. I want it to feel like a midsummer-evening stroll that evokes a sense of family, friends, and community.