Tag Archives: doctor’s office

Preventing Colorectal Cancer

Preventing Colorectal Cancer

It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths.

About 1 out of 3 people are not up to date with their colorectal cancer screening, which can help identify precancerous polyps so you can get them removed before they turn into cancer.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Colorectal cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms, which is why screenings are key to diagnosing cancer.

Your Colon and Cancer Symptoms

Those who do have symptoms experience:

  • Blood in stool
  • Persistent, ongoing stomach pain and cramps
  • Unexplained weight loss

Colorectal Cancer Screenings

There are a few different screenings for colorectal cancer available to you. The level of preparation needed for them, invasiveness, and frequency you’ll need them all vary.

Fecal Occult Blood Tests and Fecal Immunochemical Tests

Fecal Occult Blood Tests and Fecal Immunochemical Tests

A fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) or a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) can check for hidden blood in your stool, which can be a sign of cancer. 

These tests are noninvasive and don’t require a bowel cleanse before your appointment. They also need to be repeated each year because they don’t give your doctor a firsthand look at your colon’s health.

You simply collect your stool sample at home and mail it or bring it in to a lab for processing, and they’ll let you know your results.

FIT-DNA Tests

FIT-DNA Test

A FIT-DNA test checks for blood in the stool as well, but it also looks for DNA changes that may be a sign of cancer or precancerous polyps. 

This test is noninvasive and doesn’t require a bowel cleanse before your appointment. They also need to be repeated every 3 years, because they don’t give your doctor a firsthand look at your colon’s health.

You simply collect your stool sample at home and mail it or bring it to a lab for processing, and they’ll let you know your results.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy, but it only looks at part of your colon. 

This procedure may require a bowel cleansing the night before, but its prep is not as extensive as what’s required for a colonoscopy. It’s usually done in your doctor’s office or a procedure room, and it must be repeated every 5 years.

The procedure involves a thin, flexible scope being inserted into the rectum to view the lower third of the colon so your doctor can look at its condition firsthand. Pieces of tissue can also be removed and evaluated for any abnormal cell changes.

Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy provides the best view of the entire colon. 

Bowel cleansing is required the night before this procedure. It’s usually done in an outpatient surgery center, and it is usually recommended once every 10 years. If your provider is concerned though, they can recommend you have them more frequently.

A thin, flexible scope is inserted into your rectum to view your entire colon.  Pieces of tissue or polyps can also be removed and evaluated for any abnormal cell changes.

The Screening That’s Right for You

You should work with your doctor to choose the screening that’s right for you and your situation. No matter which screening you choose, most of our plans will cover 100% of the cost. If more testing or services are needed besides your normal screenings, you may be responsible for paying a copay.

To check your exact coverage, log in to Your Health Alliance to review your benefits or contact us.

Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Reducing Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

A healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. What can you do?

  • Maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Eat a diet that’s high in fiber and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Limit saturated fats and alcohol.
 

This March, talk to your doctor about scheduling your next screening.

Happy Medicare New Year

Steps to a Happy “Medicare” New Year

Winter preparations are done. Winter festivals have ended, and end-of-year holiday celebrations are over. Just when you think you can sit back and relax, there is still one last item you may need to consider.

If you made any Medicare changes during the past Annual Enrollment Period (October 15 to December 7), there are some actions you can take that may help you have a happy Medicare new year.

If you enrolled in a new plan or your plan had changes during the Annual Enrollment Period, you should make sure you’ve received your new member ID card. This card contains the newest info for your 2019 care. Be sure to show your new ID card to the doctor’s office and pharmacist on your first visit of the new year so that they have your newest information on file. It’s also worth mentioning that with the new cards for the new year can come new deductibles (depending on the plan you choose), which start over at the beginning of the year.

If you decided to stay with Original Medicare, you’ll still use your Medicare card for hospital and doctor services. If you have not received the new Medicare card that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began issuing in April 2018, be on the lookout because they are all scheduled to be mailed by April 2019.

If you joined a Medicare prescription drug plan that works with Original Medicare, then the plan will mail you a card so you can fill your prescriptions. If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO, PPO, or POS), you’ll also get a new card to use for both healthcare visits (doctor and hospital) and for picking up your prescriptions.

If you need medical care or need to fill a prescription before you receive the ID card but after the effective coverage date, you may be able to use other proof of plan membership. Some examples are the welcome letter you got from the plan or even your enrollment confirmation number and the plan name and phone number.

If you elected to have your plan premium withheld from your Social Security check, don’t be alarmed if you don’t see it deducted right away. It may take up to 3 months from the time you made the premium withhold request before you start seeing your premium withheld from your Social Security payment.

The 2019 year is a great time to take advantage of your one-time “Welcome to Medicare” or annual wellness visit your plan offers to you. This benefit is usually no cost to you! It is designed as a preventive measure to help you take charge of your health, be advised of future needed preventive services, and establish a baseline for personalized care. And speaking of preventive measures, many Medicare Advantage plans come with a fitness benefit or provide access to physical fitness activities at no cost to you.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2019!

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

HappyHappy, Healthy, Medicare New Year!

Long View & Vantage Point: Steps to a Happy Medicare New Year

Winter preparations are all done, and winter festivals and end-of-the-year holiday celebrations have ended. Just when you think you can sit back and relax, there is still one last item you may need to consider.

If you made any changes to your Medicare plan during the Annual Enrollment Period, here are some actions you can take to help you have a happy Medicare New Year:

  1. Make sure you’ve received your new plan’s member ID card.

If you joined a Medicare prescription drug plan (PDP) that works with Original Medicare, you’ll get a separate card to use when you fill your prescriptions, but you’ll still use your Medicare card for hospital and doctor services.

If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan, like a Health Alliance plan, you’ll get a new card to use when filling your prescriptions and for hospital and doctor visits.

If you need medical care or need to fill a prescription before you receive your ID card and your new coverage has already started, you may be able to use other documents as proof of coverage, like the welcome letter you got from the plan, or even your enrollment confirmation number and the plan’s name and phone number.

  1. Show your new member ID card to your doctor’s office and pharmacist on your first visit of the new year.

If you have stayed with the same insurance company, be sure to replace last year’s card with your new card. If you changed companies, be sure you’re always using your new card.

  1. If you chose to have your plan premium withheld from your Social Security check, don’t be alarmed if you don’t see it deducted right away. It can take up to 3 months from when you made this request to start seeing it withheld from your Social Security payment.
  1. Remember that your deductibles start over at the beginning of the year, so normal copayments won’t start until all applicable deductibles have been met for the year.
  1. Take advantage of your annual wellness visit. This free preventive benefit is designed to help you take charge of your health, learn about preventive services you might need in the future, and establish a baseline for personalized care.
  1. Take advantage of any gym membership benefits from your plan. Many plans offer gym memberships or access to fitness activities, at no cost to you. Our Be Fit benefit helps pay you back for your gym membership or fitness classes, so you can get fit at the gym of your choice.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2017!

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.

Good Health at Any Age

Vantage Point: May Good Health Bless You this Holiday Season

Some of us were lucky to be born with good health, but keeping that health is a challenge, especially as we age. My coworkers recently invited me to do a “Maintain, Don’t Gain” holiday challenge. At first I thought I didn’t want to limit myself during the holidays—when good food, drinks, and sweets are everywhere—but as the days got shorter and I started making excuses to skip my workouts (too dark, too cold, too tired, etc.), the scale and my health started moving in the wrong direction.

Health Alliance Medicare is more than a health plan that covers our members when they get hurt or sick. It offers programs to manage chronic diseases and wellness benefits to help our members stay healthy all winter long—no matter how cold and dark the days get.

One of our most popular benefits is the SilverSneakers® fitness program that gives members free gym access at participating gyms or sends workout equipment right to their home. I have watched a SilverSneakers class at the Wenatchee YMCA. The participants there not only get a great workout that improves strength, balance, and flexibility, but they also have fun, laugh, smile, and socialize.

Health Alliance Medicare works to prevent illness, too. We offer our members flu and other vaccines. At the Ephrata Community Resource Forum, Jeff Ketchel, administrator of Grant County Public Health, highlighted the importance of the flu shot now that flu season is here. The flu shot is key to keeping you and your loved ones healthy through the holidays and beyond. Members can get the flu vaccine at in-network providers or pharmacies.*

Recently, one of our employees was sitting next to a gentleman making small talk, and he learned she worked for Health Alliance. He took her by the arm and said, “Thank you, we absolutely love your plan.”

In that same spirit, I thank all of you for allowing Health Alliance to partner with you to improve the health of the communities we serve, and I wish you and your families a healthy and happy holiday season.

*If a member gets the flu vaccine at a doctor’s office, an office visit copay may apply.

Essential Health Benefits: Get More for Your Money

Upgrading to the Meal

That glorious moment when the server at a restaurant clarifies that your meal comes with a drink … not for an extra cost, but with. Wow, what a moment. As of January 1, 2014, your health insurance plan comes with Essential Health Benefits.

If you’ve been a Health Alliance member before, we’ve covered many of these benefits for years, so you won’t see or feel much change. But if you’re new to us, welcome and enjoy!

Essential Health Benefits stretch across 10 categories. By law, no matter your age, gender, or medical history, you’re covered in these 10 areas.

Essential Health Benefits

Details

Ambulatory Patient Services Care you get at a doctor’s office, clinic, or outpatient surgery center, including home health services and hospice care.
Emergency Services Care provided in an emergency situation where you believe your health is in serious danger, like chest pain, a broken bone, or unconsciousness.
Hospitalization Care from doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, room and board, surgeries, and transplants you receive during your hospital stay, or care in a skilled nursing facility.
Laboratory Services Testing to help a doctor diagnose an injury, illness, or condition, or monitor how well a treatment is working.
Maternity and Newborn Care Prenatal care through newborn care.
Mental Health Services and Addiction Treatment Inpatient and outpatient care to treat a mental health condition or substance abuse.
Rehab Services and Devices Services and devices to help you regain mental and physical skills lost because of injury, disability, or a chronic condition.
Pediatric Services Wellness visits and recommended vaccines and immunizations for infants and children, as well as dental and vision care for children under 19 years old.
Prescription Drugs Antibiotics and medicines to treat an ongoing condition, like high cholesterol.
Preventive and Wellness Services and Chronic Disease Treatment Physicals, immunizations, preventive screenings, and care for chronic conditions, like asthma and diabetes.

*Some services do have limits.

Getting Your Blood Pressure Readings

You and Your Blood Pressure Readings

Choosing an At-Home Monitor

One of the best things you can do to manage high blood pressure is to track it regularly. A home monitor will help you keep track of blood pressure readings between visits to the doctor.

There are many different types of at-home blood pressure monitors, and there are always the booth ones at local pharmacies. While the style may be different, monitors come with the same basic parts. They have:

  • An inflatable cuff or strap
  • A gauge for readouts
  • And some use and come with a stethoscope

Things to keep in mind for good blood pressure readings:

  • It is important to get one with a cuff that fits your arm, because a cuff that is too small will give a high reading no matter what.
  • Your doctor can help you find the best option for you and teach you how to use it correctly.
  • If you already have an at-home monitor, bring it with you to the doctor’s office so they can check its accuracy.

Getting Good Blood Pressure Readings at Home

These tips from the Mayo Clinic can help you get good blood pressure readings at home:

  • Measure your blood pressure twice a day.
  • Don’t take a reading immediately after waking up.
  • Avoid food, caffeine, and tobacco for at least 30 minutes before taking a reading.
  • Sit quietly for a few minutes before measuring.
  • Make sure you are seated with both feet on the floor, with your back supported.
  • Support your arm on an arm rest or table top on an even level with your heart.
  • Don’t talk while taking your blood pressure.

Getting Good Blood Pressure Readings at the Doctor’s Office

According to findings from the University of Virginia Health System, how you’re positioned while taking a blood pressure reading can change your reading by up to 15%. Make sure your blood pressure readings are as correct as possible:

Take a breather.

We’ve all been there. You’re running late for your doctor’s appointment, so you’re rushing into the building at the last second. If you’re called back right away, ask the nurse to wait a few minutes to take your blood pressure so your heart rate has time to return to its normal level.

Assume the position.

Just like at home, make sure you’re sitting in a chair with your back supported with both feet flat on the floor. Support your extended arm at heart level.

One size does not fit all.

Let your nurse know if the blood pressure cuff feels too tight or loose. Just like with your at-home monitor, too tight can give you a falsely high reading.

Compare blood pressure readings.

Check to see how a reading at the doctor’s matches your at-home readings.