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Wedding Day

Kick Wedding Stress to the Curb

Wedding Stress

Stress (including wedding stress) can cause headaches, high blood pressure, and much more.

Planning a wedding is a happy, fun time, but it’s also very stressful. I’m getting married this August, and wedding planning has been one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. I’ve been lucky, though, because my fiancé, Shane, has made planning a wedding a partnership, not a solo gig for me. If you feel like your fiancé isn’t helping enough, or might wrongly assume you want to call all the shots yourself, speak up right away to get everyone on the same page.

I hope these tips help you keep your sanity while planning your wedding.  They’ve definitely helped me keep mine!

Plan according to a timeline.

When I began my planning, I went to a chain bookstore and bought a planning book. It was nothing terribly fancy, just something that offered a timeline and helpful hints.

The planner helped reassure me that I wasn’t forgetting something or waiting too long to do it. You don’t need to spend money on a book or planner to stay organized, but I think it’s important to find or create some kind of timeline to keep you on track.

Knock out the big things first.

Once you tell people you’re engaged, the next words out of everyone’s mouth (after congratulating you) are, “When’s the big day?”

First things first, pick a date and create a guest list, even if it’s a rough one. You’ll need this info when you seek out ceremony and reception sites. The sooner you can find (and hopefully book) a ceremony site, reception site (if different from the ceremony site), photographer, bakery, and band or DJ, the better. The rest, like wedding colors and flowers, will begin to fall into place after that.

Shane and Kristy
(Photo Credit: Seth Carpenter) Shane and Kristy pose for an engagement photo at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet, Ill.

Another big thing to keep in mind is the honeymoon (if you’re taking one). If you’re traveling somewhere out of the country, you’ll want to make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get your passport if you don’t already have it and to shop for deals. Booking our honeymoon is where Shane excelled. He kept his eye on deals for the flight and hotel to make sure we got the most out of our money. He also laid out options he found as to when and where we would fly out and when we would return. I recommend shopping around a bit to get the best bang for your buck.

I’m also glad to have Assist America on my side to lessen the stress of being out of the country. Assist America can help me get medical referrals, replacement prescriptions, hospital admission,s and much more, no matter where I’m at in the world. Visit HealthAlliance.org to learn more about Assist America.

Take a break.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the details involved in wedding planning. Even if you have a small bridal party and guest list, there are still a lot of details. I don’t think I realized the scope of it until I started planning.

In my moments of immense wedding stress, when the planning ride was getting bumpy and I wanted to scream, I took a break. I told myself I wasn’t going to think about it for the next couple of days. After that time off, I jumped right back on the wedding planning horse for a calmer ride.

Ask for help.

Although this is true for most stress, it especially rings true in wedding planning. If you’re struggling with any part of the planning, for example, finding a band/DJ, let someone know. You shouldn’t suffer in silence! Your significant other, bridal party or parents are usually happy to help. That’s what they’re there for!

Delegate.

This tip goes along with asking for help. As hard as it can be to let go, you don’t need to do everything yourself. Surely you can find a few things to hand off to someone else, no matter how large or small the detail. Again, your bridal party, fiancé, parents, and future in-laws are usually more than happy to help out.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be less stressed about your wedding. Best wishes to all the soon-to-be brides and grooms out there!

Summer Relaxing with a SEP

What’s So Special About Summer?

Didn’t buy health insurance by the deadline? Had some unexpected changes since then and need a plan, fast? A Special Enrollment Period (SEP) might be right for you. We have just what you need this summer to take a little of that heat off.

Dog Days

  1. Ice Cream
  2. Humidity More Ice Cream
  3. Getting a Special Chance to Buy Health Insurance

Every year, as summer turns to fall, and fall to winter, millions of Americans buy health insurance. During that season, the government gives everyone a chance to buy the plan they need, but by early spring, time’s up!

But here’s some good news, everyone knows the world doesn’t stop turning during the summer months. That’s why some special rules help you out when life gets interesting.

Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) are special chances to buy or make changes to your health insurance plan the rest of the year. Here’s a quick Q&A on how they work.

Interested in signing up or need to learn more? Give us a call at 1-888-382-9771! We’re here to help.

Q:  What’s an SEP?

A: After March 31, only people with a qualifying life event can change their individual or family plan or enroll in a new plan. That’s called having an SEP.

Q: What’s a qualifying life event?

A: Events include:

  • Getting married
  • Having, adopting, or the placement of a child
  • Permanently moving to a new area with different health plan options
  • Losing other health coverage because
    • You lost your job
    • You don’t work enough hours to stay on your employer’s plan
    • Your employer stops paying for your plan or stops paying as much
    • Your plan doesn’t cover the essential health benefits as required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
    • A big increase in how much you pay for your plan

Q: Is a change in my income a qualifying life event?

A: For people who already have a qualified health plan, a change in income or household status can be a qualifying life event. Both of these events might change how much government help you can get to pay for your plan.

Don’t forget, you can apply for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) any time.

Q: Why don’t I always qualify for an SEP if I lose my coverage?

A: Some events don’t count as a qualifying event:

  • Losing your plan because you didn’t pay your premiums
  • Choosing on your own to quit other health coverage
  • Losing coverage that’s not minimum essential coverage, like a short-term plan or (in some cases) a catastrophic plan

Q: What if I don’t have a qualifying life event?

A: You have to wait until the next Open Enrollment Period (OEP), which will begin during the fall. The government sets the start and end dates of OEP, not Health Alliance.

You can enroll in a Short-Term plan at any time. But remember, they don’t meet the requirements of the ACA for being a qualified health plan, which means you’ll have to pay a tax penalty in 2015.

Q: How long do I have to enroll in a plan after a qualifying event?

A: 60 days.

Q: How do I enroll?

A: You get to choose how you’d like to enroll. Find what works best for you, and if you need help along the way, call us at 1-888-382-9771. Or if you’re in the Champaign area, stop by our office at 206 W. Anthony Drive (near Alexander’s Steakhouse) for help!

Q: When will my coverage start?

A: Your start date depends on your qualifying event.

If you have questions about an SEP or about your situation, give us a call at 1-888-382-9771 or stop by our office—we’re more than happy to help you find the answers.

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Wowed By Washington

Wowed by Washington: The Wild and the Wilderness

Emily Beach, a Health Alliance employee in the Communications Department, visited Washington to learn more about the members we serve and what it’s like to live in North Central Washington. Read about the first part of her trip.

My next day in Washington was as busy as the day before. After grabbing a quick breakfast at the hotel, Ericka and I headed to the Town Toyota Center for a tour and a meeting with some folks with the Wenatchee Wild. We can’t say too much now, but keep your eyes and ears open come hockey season!

Next we visited the Wenatchee Senior Center. I got to watch a S.A.I.L. (Stay Active and Independent for Life) class in action and had just started to immerse myself in the bustling thrift store when I was reminded of our next appointment. My wallet thanks our tight schedule.

The next stop was in Leavenworth, with a drive through Cashmere. Shannon made sure to take me along the charming Cashmere main street and past the Aplets & Cotlets factory. In Leavenworth, we visited the beautifully updated Cascade Medical Center. It almost looked like a cabin with the gorgeous mountain view and natural light. I wish all waiting rooms looked like that one!

Leavenworth

 

We stopped for a delicious lunch at Fresh Burger Café, just down the street. We ate outside to enjoy the sunshine and killer view. Being from the Illinois flatlands, I could just stare at the mountains all day. But that would mean I would have missed exploring Leavenworth. The town is filled to the brim with quaint shops, flower boxes, and wooden signs that bring to mind Bavarian Germany.

Fresh Cafe

The most exciting moment for me? The pretzels! I am from Freeport, Illinois, and our high school mascot is the Pretzels. I have pretty intense Pretzel Pride.

Pretzel Case

Pretzel Shop

Pretzel Decoration

 

Shannon also took me a little way into the Cascades outside Leavenworth. This looked more like the Washington I knew from Olympic National Park. I wish we had time for a full hiking adventure, but I was grateful to be able to snap this roadside photo along the Tumwater Canyon. Views like this inspire me!

Tumwater

 

Sound like a full day? You only know the half of it!

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Service Tailored to You

Candid, Not Canned

Are you looking for a health insurance company that’s happy to hear from you, wants to answer your questions and will treat you like a person instead of a policy? That’s Health Alliance.

We hate to toot our own horn, but not only did J.D. Power recently rank Health Alliance “Highest In Member Satisfaction Among Commercial Health Plans In The Illinois/Indiana Region,” we also have great members who let us know when we’re doing a good job and encourage us to keep making your experience better. Here’s a personal note from Health Alliance member Kathleen W., cheering us on!

Thanks, Kathleen! We’re happy to help!

After hours of frustrating navigation on Healthcare.gov, multiple calls to their 800 number, long hold times of 20 minutes and more, and dealing with agents who did little more than read the script that didn’t apply to me, I made a decision to call Health Alliance.

I was met with a very pleasant voice from a frontline agent who transferred me to the department I needed to answer my questions. I was lucky enough to talk to Char, who was absolutely fabulous!!!  She answered my questions, actually answered the questions I asked and didn’t read the answer from a script!

She was knowledgeable, friendly, and funny, and honestly, Char is why I chose Health Alliance. During a follow-up call to the 800 number I was transferred again to the same department and had the pleasure of speaking with another terrific agent! She too was knowledgeable and funny and made me glad that I chose Health Alliance!

I have over 20 years in call centers, experience in agent training and operations management, and I know great customer service when I hear it!  Keep up the great work!!

-Kathleen W., Health Alliance member

Give us a call at 1-888-382-9771 or visit HealthAlliance.org to discover more!

*Health Alliance Medical Plans received the highest numerical score among commercial health plans in the Illinois/Indiana region in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Member Health Plan Study (SM). Study based on 34,315 total member responses, measuring seven plans in the Illinois/Indiana region (excludes Medicare and Medicaid). Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of members surveyed December 2013–January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.

Washington Beauty

Wowed by Washington: Illinois Native Trades Cornfields for Orchards

Emily Beach, a Health Alliance employee in the Communications Department, visited Washington to learn more about the members we serve and what it’s like to live in North Central Washington.

I was overjoyed at the chance to visit North Central Washington and learn more about the area and the Health Alliance Medicare members we serve.

I had been to the Olympic Peninsula, but knew the other side of the mountain held experiences untapped. My 3-day tour featured a first-time health fair, tours of everything from hockey rinks to senior centers, and a run along the Columbia River.

It was important for me to visit Washington because I knew the population was as diverse as the geography. Health care and coverage isn’t one-size-fits-all, and it’s so important for us to know our members. My goal wasn’t just to see the beautiful sights, but to see what is important to the people living in North Central Washington.

And my goal now that I’m back in Illinois is to translate those hopes, joys and lessons into our communications with Health Alliance Medicare members to support our employees who live and work there, too.

My first day in Washington was cut short. Travel woes struck me and my travel partner, Ericka Williams, who leads the Health Alliance Medicare sales team. A couple flight delays and a missed connection put us in Wenatchee after midnight. The next morning, with the help of some coffee, we headed to the Wenatchee YMCA for the first local National Senior Health & Fitness Day event.

We were both thrilled with how well the Health Alliance Medicare event came together. More than 100 visitors tried new fitness classes, got a health screening and talked with a variety of vendors. Shannon Sims, our community liaison, worked so hard to make the event a success. And we couldn’t have done it without the help of the Wenatchee YMCA.

SS Class

Event participants enjoy a SilverSneakers class at the Wenatchee YMCA.

Emily and Shannon

Shannon and I representing Health Alliance Medicare at the first local National Senior Health and Fitness Day.

HA Booth

 

After the event, we walked to McGlinn’s for lunch. I tried the famous beer bread and enjoyed a white garlic pizza. The pub was inviting and fun, and the food delicious! We were also excited to hear our waitress was a Health Alliance Medicare member. I love hearing what our members have to say about how much they like their plans from us. I’m glad she spoke up on seeing our Health Alliance shirts and badges!

McGlinn's

 

Shannon was the “hostess with the mostess” for the whole trip.

Her passion for the community is truly infectious. She inspired me to kick my jet lag after lunch and head over to Quincy. I loved seeing the orchards along the way. Shannon explained how to tell the difference between cherry and apple orchards and pointed out the signs labeling the different types of apples. I was also surprised at how quickly the landscape changed from the desert cliffs in Wenatchee to the fields of Grant County.

And there were tumbleweeds! My previous trip did not prepare me for that.

After our drive through Grant County, Shannon got me back to Wenatchee, where Ericka and I grabbed some grub at Pybus Public Market. Public markets are not common in Illinois, and I loved the fresh air and atmosphere. I truly think spaces like that bring communities together. We ate at South, where I enjoyed a shrimp burrito with a kick!

Pybus

I loved visiting Pybus Public Market. The open space with local roots is perfect for building community.

Though fatigue was definitely knocking, I knew I had to squeeze in a run on the Loop Trail along the Columbia River. I didn’t brave the full 13 miles, but I enjoyed a nice three-mile jog and sunset on the river. What a beautiful place!

Columbia

How could I not enjoy a run with a view like this?!

This was just day one! Check back early next week for more stories from my trip!

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Air Quality Index

Keeping Track of Air Quality

Just like a stoplight tells you when to go, the Air Quality Index (AQI) tells you when it’s safe to go outside and how clean the air is to breathe.

Across America, the AQI tracks smog, pollution from cars, soil dust, pollen, and ash. Every day, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) gives the air quality a color.

Green is the best, and as it goes from green to yellow to orange, the air gets less clean.

Poor air quality is a threat to everyone’s health, but children, the elderly, and those with breathing problems need to be even more careful. The worse the air, the more likely it will trigger an asthma flare-up.

Green is when it’s perfect to play outside, but as it changes colors, slow down or maybe even stay in.

AQI Color

AQI Status

Advice

Green

Good

Enjoy the outdoors.

Yellow

Moderate

Enjoy the outdoors, but maybe limit how long you’re outside.

Orange

Unhealthy for elderly, kids, and those with breathing problems

Take it easy, and if you’re at risk, think about staying inside.

Red

Unhealthy

Stay inside.

Purple

Very unhealthy

Stay inside.

Maroon

Hazardous

Definitely stay inside.

 

Before you head out, you can check the day’s color at AirNow, and protect yourself from the start.

Health Alliance On-Call for You

Like New Nurse Line, This Director is Always On-Call

Jane Elliott lives and breathes Health Alliance. She has for years.

“My work is my hobby. We have so many great things going on. Leading efforts to help members doesn’t feel like work to me,” said Jane, Quality & Medical Management director.

Jane also loves our new 24-hour Anytime Nurse Line. Beginning July 1, all Health Alliance members can call 1-855-802-4612 to get help:

• Deciding if they need to see a doctor right away or set up a visit
• Coping with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and more
• Finding health care resources

Jane also played a key role in enhancing our wellness benefit. But, she and her team want members to know that if they go in for a wellness visit, they could still get a bill. Adding non-wellness needs into this appointment could result in costs.

”Your doctor might ask, ‘Do you have other things you’d like to talk about?'” she said. “This may lead to topics  that aren’t part of the free wellness benefit.”

To make sure your visit is covered as part of the free wellness benefit, Jane says be clear with your doctor about this appointment up front.

“Tell your doctor you want to focus on your wellness needs. If non-wellness needs come up that aren’t urgent, you can set up a follow-up visit,” she said.

Jane also knows wellness means a healthy work-life balance, even if  the lines blur when she works outside standard work  hours.

“I’m very family-focused, and I feel Health Alliance and our members are part of my extended family,” she said.