Category Archives: Benefits

An App for Better Dental Health

Long View: Dialing In to Better Dental Health

I have a confession to make. My toothbrush talks to my cellphone, and I’m pretty much OK with that. I’ve brushed my teeth well over 36,000 times in my time on this planet, and suddenly now, in my 50th year, I need my phone to tell me if I’ve been doing it correctly.

Having good teeth is a genetic gift I inherited from my grandmother. She grew up in an era before there was fluoride in the drinking water, and her father didn’t believe in traditional medicine. I wonder if she ever even went to the dentist as a child. And yet, when she passed away, well into her 90s, she didn’t have a single cavity.

I’m lucky to have inherited her teeth DNA. I’ve only had two cavities in my life and both came after a pregnancy and were so shallow I didn’t even need Novocain. So they don’t count.

This is good news because I have a very low gag threshold and can’t stand having any kind of metal dental instrument in my mouth. Just getting X-rays at the dentist once a year is traumatic for me. I have to give myself a pep talk while biting down. “Just breathe and don’t throw up, just breathe and don’t throw up.” If I had to withstand anything more exotic than a quick cleaning, the dentist would probably have to sedate me.

Getting back to my talking toothbrush, thanks to Bluetooth technology, an app on my phone tells me if I’m brushing long enough, too hard, too soft, or not long enough in a certain area. How my phone knows this is pure sorcery in my opinion, but I’m taking my phone’s advice and trying to do a better job of brushing. After all, good oral hygiene is a part of our overall health and well-being.

In my line of work, I get a lot of feedback from seniors on Medicare. Time and time again, one of their questions is, “How am I going to pay for my dental care?” This is a valid question because original Medicare does not pay for dental care. Without purchasing a separate dental insurance policy, the expenses of cleanings, X-rays, cavities, root canals, crowns, partials or even dentures must come out of your own pocket. (Whew, just typing those procedures made me queasy.)

Some people get to remain on their company’s dental insurance policy when they retire. Others will decide to purchase private dental insurance as part of their overall retirement health insurance expenses. Many people that don’t have these options are kind of left wondering what to do now.

There are many Medicare Advantage plans that offer members a set-amount dental benefit along with medical coverage to help offset some of the expense of dental care. It won’t provide as extensive of coverage as a private dental insurance policy does, but the benefit does help offset some (or all if you have teeth like my grandmother’s) expenses of good dental care.

If keeping your pearly whites in working order is a priority for you but the extra expense of full-blown dental insurance isn’t, a Medicare Advantage plan might be a solution. While you’re at it, you can consider looking into one of those high-tech toothbrushes like mine. As your mother always told you, the best dental care starts with good brushing habits.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Homesickness in College Students

How to Deal with Homesickness in College

One of the main causes of distress in students is homesickness. According to the UCLA Higher Education Institute, over 30% of college students experience low-level homesickness, and about 69% of first year college students experience severe homesickness.

Homesickness is more than the concept of missing home or missing family — it’s the feeling of longing and feeling out of place. Whether they’re nearby, out-of-state, or studying in a foreign country, college students are not only experiencing a new phase of life, but they’re also at a new school, in a new place.

Although it’s normal to feel homesick, wanting to enjoy a home-cooked meal with family or not wanting to deal with adult responsibilities and academic pressures may quickly make homesickness grow. Homesickness builds in waves and can turn into more serious mental health issues if not taken seriously.

Last year, Assist America worked on a severe case of homesickness, helping an 18-year-old student from Germany who was hospitalized after his homesickness transformed into serious depressive episodes.

In the weeks leading up to his hospitalization, the student had shown increased signs of homesickness, including mentioning that he wanted to go home, a decrease in the desire to participate in activities and social events, and suicidal thoughts.

After a while, his roommates told the university staff about his behavior, and he was later admitted to the hospital. Once he was stable, Assist America arranged for transportation supervised by a medical escort to take him back to Germany.

Tips for Overcoming Homesickness

Some preventive measures can be taken by both parents and students to help overcome homesickness.

For Parents

  • You can help your child prepare for college life by visiting the campus ahead of time so they can familiarize themselves with its surroundings.

  • In the years before college, consider sending your child to summer camps, activities, or to visit family away from home , so they can gradually learn to deal with separation anxiety.

  • Avoid expressing your own anxiety about your child leaving for college in front of them. Instead, talk optimistically and positively about their new experiences to come.

  • Encourage your child to find trusted friends and adults on campus. These relationships will help them build connections in their new community and ease the transition.

  • Consider sending little surprise care packages to your child. Include their favorite cookies or candies, a new book, gift cards to their favorite stores, a letter, and a funny family photo.

  • Make the most of technology. Staying in touch on the phone or through video chat is easier than ever and can help the whole family feel connected.

For Students

  • Stay engaged in campus activities. Many colleges organize welcome week events to help students get used to college culture.

  • Establish and stick to a daily routine, even if it’s difficult to stay on track with exams and events around every corner. Routines are good for dealing with stress and anxiety and will help you adjust to your new community and class schedule.

  • Feeling homesick is normal, as long as you can handle the situation. To help battle feelings of loneliness, keep a family picture on your study table, video-chat often, or go old-school and write letters to family and friends back home.

  • Find ways to reward yourself as you make gains in your new routine. For instance, after submitting an important assignment or taking a big exam, take some time to do something fun or treat yourself with something you like.

  • If campus is only a drive away, you and your parents and friends can plan a few weekends throughout the school year to visit each other on campus, at home, or to meet at a halfway-point.

  • When packing for college, take some of your favorite decorations from your room to make your new room feel more like home.

  • Know what services are available to you to help you cope with homesickness. Too often students don’t realize all the things their college has ready to help them with exactly these issues. Never shy away from seeking advice from a trusted adult on campus about these services. Or you can look into these services privately on your school’s website.

While Studying Abroad

  • Students who study abroad are even more likely to feel homesick since they have to adjust to a whole new culture and lifestyle, learn to speak a new language, and meet all new people from many backgrounds.

  • A challenge while studying abroad is knowing who you can ask questions and how and where to get help. Before leaving, create a reference list with the names, contact details, and roles of people that will be helpful during your stay. Once you arrive, be sure to add anyone important you meet to your list. 

  • Schools often have an international student department who will organize welcome events and get-togethers. Be sure to attend those activities, especially at the beginning of your time abroad.

  • Many international programs also have Facebook groups where former and new students can exchange tips and experiences. Joining these groups to make connections and prepare before leaving home.

  • Make friends with people from the same country as you. When you’re missing home, spend time together. Your shared experience of studying abroad can make you feel a little closer to home.

How Assist America Can Help

Assist America provides useful services that can reassure parents and students studying out-of-state or abroad.

For example, Assist America can help students find where and how they can refill certain prescriptions before they even leave home, so they can plan their departure with peace of mind.

Students who know they will need to see a doctor while away from home can call us or Assist America for referrals. Assist America also provides emergency trauma counseling for students on the phone, with referrals for follow-up sessions with specialists.

Finally, students going to a foreign country can use the Pre-Trip Information tool on Assist America’s website and the mobile app to familiarize themselves with their destination.

App Store Google Play

 

 

 

App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

Wedding Planning: From Ceremony to New Life

Vantage Point: Wedding Season Brings Many Changes

Summertime is here, which means wedding season has arrived.

Weddings are filled with so much love and anticipation. These magical ceremonies take so many months of planning and preparation, like figuring out the date, color scheme, invitations, venue, photography, bridal shower, and of course, the guest list.

As the special day arrives, you get to see all of the hard work and planning come together. As the day goes on, the happy couple gets together and dances the first dance, enjoys delicious cake, and takes pictures with all the guests.

As you wind down and look into the future, the next phase of planning begins. This is a new life as you are no longer only thinking about yourself but also about your significant other. Many new married couples move into a new home, which means you might have a new address.

Before putting your new last name on the mailbox, you need to officially change your name. The first step is visiting the Social Security Administration office or mailing in an application for a new Social Security card. Once that is complete, the next stop is the Department of Licensing. This will give you a chance to retake that driver’s license picture you probably didn’t like anyway. It will have a new name and your new married smile, plus your new address.

Once you have changed your name with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Licensing, changing your name with other companies should be a breeze. Places to contact would be your employer’s office, credit card companies, banks, and insurance companies. Now that you are married, your insurance options might change. This is a great time to take another look at your current coverage.

Another very important part of this is to update your Power of Attorney (POA). Since you are officially a new couple, you’ll need to complete a new Power of Attorney. With all the changes in your life, you might want to reconsider who your POA is.

It all seems like a lot of paperwork, but once it is complete, you won’t have to think about it anymore. You can put it behind you and start your new beginning.  Then, you can sit back, relax, reminisce about your wonderful wedding day, and look into the bright new future.  

Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in the Wenatchee Valley, is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance Northwest, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and infant son.

Spring Break with Assist America

Enjoy Spring Break with Peace of Mind Thanks to Assist America

The spring break travel season has arrived! Each year, more than 65 million Americans travel for spring break, and this number continues to grow year after year.

When planning our next trip, the last thing we want to think about is the risk of getting sick or injured and whether good medical care will be available at our destination. We bask in the sun on white-sand beaches, zipline in the jungle, ski in the mountains, camp in the woods, and explore new countries. But the truth is that when getting away from it all, we are usually also away from quality health care.

This is why we offer Emergency Travel Assistance Services, provided by our partner, Assist America. The Assist America program is designed to get you to the best possible care provider in the shortest possible time.

Let’s take a look at how this program works:

A college student from North Carolina was driving to meet his friends for spring break. While jet-skiing, he got into an accident with a sailboat and suffered multiple fractures and a severe concussion. The local hospital he was admitted to at the time of the incident was not capable of appropriately treating such serious injuries. Assist America was notified and evacuated the student via private jet ambulance to an excellent facility capable of treating his injuries. Once he was in stable condition and released from the facility, Assist America arranged and paid for a first class return trip home with a medical escort.

What happened to his car? Assist America looks at all the elements involved in any case. The travel assistance company arranged and paid for an agent to drive the vehicle to the student’s home, so that it would be available to him upon his return and recovery.

As a general rule, remember that Assist America provides the following services:

  • Medical referrals
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Hospital admission assistance
  • Medical monitoring
  • Medical or non-medical escorts
  • Compassionate visit
  • Care of minor children
  • Repatriation
  • Return of mortal remains
  • Prescription assistance
  • Lost luggage assistance
  • Language assistance
  • Return of vehicle
  • Legal referrals
  • Pre-trip planning

Travel Assistance plans are not all the same, and here are the reasons why we partner with Assist America to offer the right plan that works for our members:

  • With Assist America, members will not be charged for the services provided. Assist America pays for all of the services it arranges.
  • Members can travel anywhere in the world, from the most remote places to areas at risk, Assist America has no geographical exclusions.
  • While some plans have strict exclusions for pre-existing conditions, Assist America will not exclude a member because of past or existing health issues.
  • Members can be adventurous with peace-of-mind, knowing that Assist America will be there if needed, no matter what sport or activity members do.
  • Many plans have dollar limits on how much they will pay for a service, such as a medical evacuation – Assist America does not.

Make this year’s spring break memorable by having fun and helping yourself and your family stay safe and healthy. When leaving for your spring break vacation, remember to download the free Assist America Mobile App for Android and iPhone for immediate connection with Assist America’s 24/7 Operation Center and access to a wide range of services.

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App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

Your Ultimate Guide to Holiday Travel with Kids

The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Travel with Kids

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, after Thanksgiving, the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period is among the busiest travel periods of the year. During this time of year, the number of long-distance trips increases by 23% compared to the rest of the year’s average. We can help your family have smooth travels with our ultimate guide to holiday travel with kids.

Traveling during such busy times is usually stressful, especially if you add children into the mix. Whether you’re planning a long drive to the grandparents or traveling across time zones this holiday season, these suggestions from Assist America, our emergency travel assistance partner, will keep your family safe, sound, and sane.

Entertainment

  • Apps – Make sure you download kid-friendly apps before the journey.
  • Toys – Coloring books, finger puppets, stacking cups, magic markers, make-believe computer or phone, and sticker books are great options.
  • Games – Our favorites include Bananagrams, Spot It, Mad Libs, Rubberneckers, Melissa and Doug Travel Hangman, and Travel Blurt.
  • Headphone Splitters – Headphones splitters allow two kids to share a device. They’re very practical in situations where it’s inappropriate to use speakers, like on a plane.

Safety and Comfort

  • Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes – Kids get dirty very easily when traveling. Eliminate these germs fast by being prepared with wipes and sanitizer, and improve your chances of avoiding a holiday bug.
  • Child Locator – Busy airports and train stations can quickly turn into a nightmare if your child gets lost. Many companies offer small tracking devices and smartwatches to help you locate them quickly in such a situation.
  • Medicine and First Aid Kit – It’s very important to be able to attend to your child quickly when they’re hurt or sick. Make sure you’re prepared before you leave by putting together a first aid kit and packing must-have medicine.
  • Ease Ear Pain – During takeoff and landing, give your kids a gummy candy, chewy food, chewing gum (if they’re old enough), or a drink to get their jaw moving and ease their ear pain.
  • Temperature – Layers are essential for the comfort of your children, especially on the plane where it can often be cold.

Planning

  • Passports – Keep in mind, children’s passport expiration periods are different than adult passports. Make sure you renew them 6 months before you plan to travel.
  • Monitor What Your Children Pack – Chances are they’ll want to bring many unnecessary things, which will make traveling uncomfortable for everyone.
  • Carry-On Tips – Pack at least one extra outfit for each child in case an accident happens. If you lose your luggage, the extra outfits will also help you avoid buying new clothes for the entire family. In the meantime, remember that Assist America can help you locate and retrieve your lost luggage. Finally, plan on bringing snacks like granola bars, cheerios, individual cheese and crackers packs, applesauce, or individual hummus cups.
  • Bring Surprises – Children love surprises and unwrapping things, and an early holiday gift could be used as a reward for good behavior.

About Assist America

Our plans include Assist America, a unique global emergency assistance program. They serve more than 40 million members worldwide. Their services include medical and non-medical services, like medical evacuations and repatriations, prescription assistance, medical referral, lost luggage assistance, and pre-trip information. Visit AssistAmerica.com or download the Assist America Mobile App on the Apple App Store or Google Play to access a wide range of travel assistance services directly from your phone.

Covered Pregnancy Preventive Care

Your Pregnancy Preventive Care

If you’re pregnant or may become pregnant, you also have access to specific pregnancy preventive care as part of your health insurance.

If you’re not pregnant, you can talk to your doctor about this care at your yearly well-woman visit.

If you think you’re pregnant or have a positive home pregnancy test, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to confirm your pregnancy and get started with prenatal care. Your OB-GYN, who will be your primary doctor for your pregnancy, will help you with pregnancy-specific preventive care.

Preventive Care If You May Become Pregnant

  • Anemia screening – On a routine basis
  • Syphilis screening
  • Gonorrhea screening – For all women at higher risk
  • Urinary tract or other infection screening
  • Contraception – FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling as prescribed by a healthcare provider for women who could get pregnant

Pregnancy Preventive Care

  • Child birth
  • Breastfeeding comprehensive support and counseling from trained providers and access to breastfeeding supplies – For pregnant and nursing women
  • Folic acid supplements – For women who may become pregnant
  • Expanded tobacco intervention and counseling – For pregnant tobacco users
  • Gestational diabetes screening – For women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes
  • Hepatitis B screening – For pregnant women at their first prenatal visit
  • Rh Incompatibility screening and follow-up testing for those at higher risk – For all pregnant women

Know What’s Covered

Log in to Your Health Alliance or search by your member number to see what preventive care your plan covers.

Or use our general preventive care guidelines and prescription drugs to get an idea of what our plans cover.

If you’re not sure what’s covered and what you’ll need a preauthorization for, you can also check your coverage and preauthorization lists at Your Health Alliance.

Log in to Your Health Alliance to find a covered doctor, or start searching for doctors in our network.