Tag Archives: health

Answers to Your Health Insurance Questions

Vantage Point: Time to Answer Important Health Insurance Questions

It’s that time of year again. My husband comes home with a huge packet of healthcare information. Yep, it’s open enrollment for his employer health plan. It’s time for us to look at the options and choices that best suit our family in the coming year.

Every year, Medicare beneficiaries get this kind of event too. It’s called the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). Each year from October 15 to December 7, they have the opportunity to look at the options available in their service area and choose which plan is the best for them and their health.

This is an important time for everyone. As we age, our health may change too. Understanding and knowing what coverage is best for you can be a daunting task, so you should ask yourself some very important questions each and every year.

Am I happy with my current plan? What’s changing for the new year? Is the premium going up on the plan I currently have? Do I need more coverage?

I understand that as Medicare members, you’re sent an enormous amount of marketing material during this time of year. All the Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, and prescription drug plan companies are trying to get your attention and your business.

How do you weed through all the material? And even more important questions come up for you each year. Do I know the difference between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement? Is the prescription drug plan I’m currently on the best value for the prescription drugs I’m taking? Finding the answers can be confusing and frustrating.

The answers you seek can be found quickly and easily. Visit our website or call us directly for answers to your health insurance questions. There are also independent brokers available to you, like GHB Insurance located right in Olympia, to help you with all the plan information you receive. In the Thurston County area, there are also SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefit Advisors) representatives who volunteer their time to help you understand Medicare and all the parts associated with it. They can be found at both the Lacey and Olympia senior centers.

So never fear, your Medicare questions can be answered here. Or at least, we can assist you in getting the answers you need. Remember, you have resources available to you. All you have to do is use them.

Joy Stanford is a community liaison with Health Alliance, serving Thurston County. She’s been involved with Medicare for 20+ years and truly enjoys it. She enjoys gospel, R&B, and country music, and she owns over 100 pairs of shoes.

A Healthy A1C Level

Long View: What Does A1C Mean to Me?

Our community liaison team has never met a health fair or expo they didn’t love! Health fairs and expos are great places to learn about the abundance of services available in our communities to support seniors and their families.

With brightly colored, free shopping bags in hand, visitors gather pens, lip balms, and hand sanitizers, along with informational brochures and contact information for everything from beautiful, new living communities to financial planning. I’ve never seen so many butterscotch hard candies in one place since my grandmother’s candy dish in the 1970s.

Many health fairs and expos offer free checkups for various parts of your body and health. Participants aren’t the only ones taking advantage of a little free TLC. So far this summer, I’ve had the kinks rubbed out of my neck, the skin on my face analyzed for sun damage, and my blood pressure checked.

But one of the most interesting tests I’ve done recently came from my friends at Memorial Hospital in Carthage, IL. They measured my A1C level.

“What is A1C?” I asked, with a donut in one hand and a cup of coffee with cream in the other.

A1C is the measurement of the average blood sugar levels for the past 3 months, they told me. “Oh no,” I said. “I can’t get that done today. I’m eating a donut!”

The kind nurses assured me to sit down and relax. No fasting is required. In the blink of an eye, my finger was (painlessly) pricked, and a small amount of my blood slipped into a tiny little tube. The tube took a 5-minute spin in the centrifuge, and bingo, my A1C for the past 3 months is…. I’ll keep you in suspense until the end.

The National Diabetes Education Initiative recommends that diabetics have the A1C measurement taken at least twice a year. Everyone else should measure A1C once every 3 years. The nurses from Carthage recommended that most people should have measurements below 5.7%, since measurements between 5.7 and 6.4% indicate a greater risk for becoming diabetic.

The daily measurement of glucose levels is very important for diabetics who need to keep their levels within healthy ranges. Knowing your 2- to 3-month average can help you determine your overall glucose health, which in turn can help you make healthy choices throughout each day, like about sleeping, playing, working, eating, and more.

And if you don’t have diabetes, knowing if you have a higher than average A1C level can be a valuable piece of information to help you make healthy changes to curb your chances of getting diabetes at some point in your life.

Those who are already diabetic should strive to lower their A1C to at least 7% when possible. This could be a struggle for those who suffer from the disease, but the research points toward a much lower risk of developing diabetic complications like eye, heart, and kidney disease the closer you can get to 7%.

To tell you the truth, waiting for my blood to spin around for those 5 minutes in the centrifuge had me sweating a little. This could be the year my chickens come home to roost. I’ll be having one of those special birthdays next year where everyone wears black. I’m not exactly the healthiest eater. Leggings and stretchy-fabric pants have become my best friends.

This A1C measurement was an important wake-up call for me. The good news is that I measured well below 5.7%.

While I could have spiked the football, declared myself invincible, and grabbed a second donut, I didn’t. I decided to really pay attention to this information and be grateful for my health today, maybe take an extra walk around the block every week. Next year, I’m setting my sights on something in the high 4s.

Pass the kale.

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.

Safe Travel Each Step of the Way

Safe Travel

Summer travel season is upon us, and preparing for safe travel is important, especially if you have an illness.

First, learn about your destination to check for any local health notices or immunizations you might need first.

Safety Wherever You Go

 

Think about your health before you book. From illness and surgery recovery to pregnancy, check if you’re safe to fly.

Fly Smart

 

See a doctor before you take off to make sure you’re up-to-date on key shots or healthy enough for planned activities.

Vaccines for Travel

 

Pack carefully to protect yourself, especially if you need medicines or care while you’re traveling.

Pack for Your Health

 

Be prepared for the signs and what to do if you know you’re at higher risk of health issues while traveling.

Healthy and Prepared on Vacation

 

Make sure your family or friends (and government entities depending on where you’re traveling) know your travel plan.

Share Your Travel Plan

 

Know you’re covered with a copayment or coinsurance for ER and urgent care if you get sick while traveling.

And check out Assist America, which helps connect you to services when you get sick while traveling.

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Your Preventive Care

Your Yearly Preventive Care and Physical

Getting your yearly physical, where you can get covered preventive care and screenings, helps you be your healthiest. It’s important that you not only know what’s recommended for your age and what you need to stay up to date, but also that you get to the doctor for this each year!

What Happens at Your Physical

Each year, you should schedule a physical with your doctor to focus on your health and wellness. At the appointment, you can:

  • Keep track of your health habits and history
  • Get a physical exam
  • Stay up-to-date with preventive care
  • Get education and counseling and set health goals

Health Habits & History

One of the first things that happens at your annual appointment is a nurse or your doctor will ask you to answer some questions about your health and family history, including questions about:

  • Your medical history
  • Your family history
  • Your sexual health and partners
  • Your eating and exercise habits
  • Your use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
  • Your mental health history, including depression
  • Your relationships and safety

This info can help you in the future. From getting diagnosed to being protected and helping you in an emergency, this information can help save your life.

Physical Exam

At your yearly physical, you can expect your doctors or nurses to:

  • Measure your height and weight
  • Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to check if you’re at a healthy weight
  • Take your blood pressure and temperature

From there, your doctor may give you your regular preventive care screenings and shots or refer you to a specialist for certain screenings, counseling, or care.

Preventive Care

As an adult, certain preventive care and screenings are covered for you, depending on timing and what your doctor recommends.

Immunizations (Shots)

Doses, recommended timing, and need for certain immunizations can vary based on your case:

  • Diphtheria
  • Flu shot
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Herpes Zoster
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis
  • Pneumococcal
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)
Condition Screenings & Care
  • Aspirin use – To prevent heart disease for adults of a certain ages
  • Cholesterol screening – For adults of certain ages or at higher risk
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Type 2 diabetes screening – For adults with high blood pressure
  • Colorectal cancer screening – For adults over 50
  • Depression screening
Weight Management
  • Obesity screening and counseling
  • Diet counseling – For adults at higher risk for chronic disease
Alcohol & Tobacco Use
  • Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
  • Tobacco use screening – For all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users
  • Lung cancer screening – For adults 55 to 80 at high risk for lung cancer because they’re heavy smokers or have quit in the past 15 years
  •  Abdominal aortic aneurysm – A one-time screening for men of certain ages who have ever smoked
Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Screenings
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention counseling  – For adults at higher risk
  • Hepatitis B screening – For people at high risk, including people from countries with 2% or more Hepatitis B prevalence, and American-born people not vaccinated as infants and with at least one parent born in a region with 8% or more Hepatitis B prevalence
  • Hepatitis C screening – For adults at increased risk and once for everyone born from 1945 to 1965
  • HIV screening – For everyone ages 15 to 65 and other ages at increased risk
  •  Syphilis screening – For adults at higher risk

Women also have some additional covered screenings and benefits. Get more details about this specific preventive care while learning about your well-woman visits.

And learn more about what preventive care the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends you get and when.

Education, Counseling & Health Goals

Your doctor can help you manage your conditions or diseases and prevent future problems by talking to you about your life and health each year.

Your doctor might have valuable handouts, websites, advice, and information to help you take care of yourself or might want to refer you to a specialist who can help you further.

Your doctor is also the perfect person to help you set goals to maintain or improve your health. From quitting smoking and knowing how to self-check for cancer to changing your diet and exercise for your weight, cholesterol, or blood pressure, your doctor can help you plan to be your healthiest.

Prepare for Your Visit

Preparing yourself with questions to ask and answers to your doctor’s questions can help you make the most of your visit.

Know Your Family History

Your family’s history of health and wellness is an important part of your own health record. Histories of illness and disease can help doctor’s look out for issues that run in families and more.

This family health history tool can help you track your family’s health, so that you’re always organized to talk to your doctor. Not sure about your family history? Filling this out is the perfect time to talk to family members for firsthand details.

Talk to Your Doctor

Prepare for your appointment by knowing any questions or issues you want to talk about ahead of time. Some things you might want to ask:

  • What immunizations or shots you need
  • Your diet and eating healthy food
  • Advice for exercise and getting active
  • Mental health concerns, like depression and anxiety
  • Specific issues you might be having, like sore joints, back pain, migraines, and more

Know What’s Covered

Learn more about your covered immunizations. And log in to Your Health Alliance or search by your member number to see what preventive care your plan covers.

You can use our general preventive care guidelines and prescription drugs or our Medicare preventive care guidelines 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 check your coverage and preauthorization lists at Your Health Alliance.

Now that you’re ready to go to your annual physical, log in to Your Health Alliance if you need to set a Primary Care Provider (PCP) and find a covered doctor, or start searching for doctors in our network.

Eating the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet Recipes

It’s National Mediterranean Diet Month, and research has proven that it’s great for not just weight loss but also your heart and brain.

Get started by focusing on fruits, veggies, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats.

Mediterranean Diet
Image via Health..com

 

A hearty side to try the Mediterranean Diet is Mediterranean Barley with Chickpeas.

Mediterranean Barley with Chickpeas

Whip up tasty Lemon Chickpea and Tuna Salad for a light lunch.

Lemony Chickpea and Tuna Salad

Make these Greek-Style Turkey Burgers with Yogurt Sauce and skip the beef.

Greek-Style Turkey Burgers with Yogurt Sauce
Image and Recipe via The Iron You

 

This simple Baked Salmon with Dill is a showstopper for parties or any day of the week.

Baked Salmon with Dill
Image and Recipe via My Fitness Pal

 

One-Pot Lemon Pasta with Greens and Sun-Dried Tomatoes is quick and delicious.

One Pot Lemon Pasta with Greens and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Make Baked Cod with Chickpeas for a heart-healthy and hearty dinner any night.

Baked Cod with Chickpeas
Image and Recipe via Clean Eating Mag

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Last week was Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Olympians Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt helped raise awareness about children’s mental health.

Happy, Healthy Children

 

Your children may seem healthy, but you never know what’s happening in their heads.

 

Community members can help young adults by knowing the signs.

 

You can help a young adult with mental health issues by being a source of support.

 

Communicating with your doctor and family about your mental health is an important lesson to teach your kids. Teach them to share their feelings.

Children and young adults with mental health problems need real care and support.

 

Social health, which could include friendships and bullying, is an important part of your kids’ mental health. Learn more and talk to them.

Their Emotional and Social Support System

Aging with Your Pets

Long View: Aging With Our Pets

My grandparents had a Chihuahua that lived to be 20 years old. Suzy had her own knitted sweaters to wear when she went outside. Every night, Grandma cooked and cut up liver in tiny, bite-sized pieces for Suzy’s dinner.

I’m not sure what the life expectancy and living arrangements for most dogs were in the 1950s and 1960s, but I would wager that Suzy’s life was particularly plush for that era. When I came along in 1968, my parents gave me the middle name of Sue. I often wondered if this was a happy coincidence or a tribute to that beloved Chihuahua.

Today, I have a yellow Labrador retriever puppy named Harvey. Grandpa’s name was Harvey. Touché.

Americans love their pets. Take a stroll through your local big-box pet supplies chain, and the number of things a person can buy for their animals will amaze you. Strollers, raincoats, probiotics, gluten-free and vegan dog food, and even memory foam mattresses. Within just a few miles of my house, Harvey can go to a doggy day camp, swim at an indoor pool just for pooches, and later have his hair and nails done at the pet spa.

Your pet pampers you in different ways. Owning a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and raises mental sharpness. A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that petting a dog for 15 minutes releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, while also lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

Pets can open up a lonely world and get you out of bed in the morning. Walking a dog (or a cat, if you are particularly brave and the cat is extremely cooperative) is good exercise. Those of us with an empty nest find a new sense of purpose. And nurturing a beloved animal gives us unconditional love in return.

An older person with a pet companion can be a heartwarming love match. I reached out to Stacey Teager, from the Quad City Animal Welfare Center, for some advice for those who are looking to add a pet to their home in later years.

  • Make sure your pet gets regular checkups and immunizations. Have your animal spayed or neutered.
  • Never give your pet “people” medications. Always consult a veterinarian before medicating your pet.
  • Have a plan in place with your family or close friends for caring for your pet should you become sick and need to be hospitalized or stay in a nursing facility.
  • Match your pet with your physical capabilities. My 50-pound Labrador retriever puppy can drag my mother down the sidewalk. This is dangerous for both her and the dog. A quieter, smaller animal is a better choice for her to walk around the neighborhood.
  • Despite my grandmother’s loving intentions, don’t feed your pet table scraps or human food. Animals can get overweight and unhealthy with just a few added ounces. If you like to bake, there are lots of recipes for animal treats that use ingredients found in your pantry.

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.