Tag Archives: insurance

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.

Change in the Air

Vantage Point: Change Is Near

As our days get shorter, our nights get longer, the temperature drops, and the cool crisp air hits our faces, we know winter is approaching. It’s also a reminder that the year is about to end, and a busy time is coming.

Our grocery lists start to get longer as we start preparing for Thanksgiving. We begin our research for recipes to outdo our dessert from last year. Then, we gather with our family and friends, share what we’re all thankful for, and of course, enjoy a delicious meal.

I personally start to reflect on the year I’ve had. Was this a good year? What would I do differently? Did my health change? Do I need to look at my coverage?

As you all know, we’re in the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. This is the time for you to reassess what type of coverage you might need for the upcoming year.

In September and October, Medicare beneficiaries’ mailboxes were full of marketing materials from many different insurance companies. So much information is provided that it can be hard to keep track of everything that’s coming in. Each company has different prices, networks, copays, and perks.

It’s hard to handle all of this alone. Your family might be able to try to help sort everything out, but even then, it is a hard task to take on without any background knowledge. You want to make sure you’re making the right decision for the year ahead and that you’re not missing out on the perfect plan for yourself. Who should you turn to?

Luckily, Health Alliance Northwest has a local office in Wenatchee with a staff ready to assist current or future members. Our local office is a great asset to our community. We know insurance is already hard, and getting help over the phone can be an added barrier. We’re able to sit down with you and your family to answer and explain any questions you might have.

Our Wenatchee office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and no appointment is needed to sit down with our representatives. We want to help educate you, put you at ease before the holidays begin, and make sure you’re ready for a new year.

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

Chronic Back Pain

My Healthy Journey: Chronic Back Pain

The Opioid Epidemic and Chronic Back Pain

Over the last year, the leading news story in health care has been the opioid epidemic. And chronic pain, particularly chronic back pain, has been at the top of the list of reasons why people use opioids long term. 

Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks, and for many, it’s pain that can last the rest of their lives. Chronic pain can happen because of a genetic problem or disorder or an injury or accident. Many people who survive serious car accidents or workplace accidents deal with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. 

And back injuries are a leading cause of chronic pain. Business Insider took a look at a study that dug into the relationship between chronic back pain and opioid use disorder:

Amino - Chronic Back Pain and Opioid Use Disorder

Having back surgery increases your chances of relying on opioids to manage pain by over 7 times! Other back problems raise your chances by over 2 times. 

Obviously, these are also people who are likely to get long-term opioid prescriptions from their doctors.

How Doctors Treat Chronic Pain

For decades, the standard for doctors has been to treat this kind of ongoing pain with opioids. Now, with opioid drug overdoses skyrocketing, doctors are making changes.

Early estimates show that opioids took 53,000 American lives in 2016, more than those killed in car accidents.

Opioids don’t just turn off your pain receptors. They also let your brain release more dopamine, which can help relieve stress and anxiety and make you happier.

But when you take an opioid permanently, you can build a tolerance to it, which means you need more and more to manage your pain and to feel good. Both the pain relief for chronic sufferers and the way it makes you feel can become addictive.

Not to mention, opioids can change how often certain neurons in your brain fire, which means that when you’re not on opioids, you actually get more anxious and unhappy until you take more, causing serious withdrawals. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised their guidelines to help doctors try other treatments first, and doctors are hard at work to find new ways to treat pain.

Waiting for Chronic Back Pain

So why is this part of my healthy journey? I have my own chronic back pain.

I’m lucky. I’ve never taken opioids for my back pain, so I’ve avoided those issues, but I do understand what it’s like to live with pain as a part of your daily life and why people would be willing to take opioids to stop it.

My father has had a slipped disc in his back my entire life. I’ve always known what back pain looks like. I also always thought it might happen to me. Not only can these issues be hereditary, but I also take after my father physically.

Combine that with the slouch of someone who hated always being the tallest in her class as a child and now sits in front of a computer all day, and I always suspected that back problems were coming for me.

My Chronic Back Pain

The pain started for me in college, when I was no longer playing sports or working out in P.E. every day. One year, I chose to live in the loop in Chicago instead of by my campus, so as part of my daily commute, I walked about an hour and a half. That was when I really started to throw out my back once in a while.

But it wasn’t until I worked at Starbucks after college that I really started to have serious problems regularly. Being on my feet all day and bending up and down with milk jugs all the time really started to take a toll on my back.

I’ll get building back pain on one side of my lower back. It can switch sides, and one side is usually worse than the other. And when it fully goes out, my knee on that side can sometimes buckle, which if I’m not ready for it, can actually knock me down. And sometimes it’s so bad that getting out of bed, getting up and down, or just falling asleep, is a challenge. 

Getting Help

I’ve always known this pain might hit me one day, and when it started, I talked to my dad a lot about what was going on. My symptoms match his exactly.

Since I knew what the issue was from my father’s medical history, I wasn’t really worried about getting an official diagnosis.

I also already knew that I didn’t want to take opioids or painkillers long term. I’m one of those people who rarely takes even Tylenol. And when I had serious opioids after I had my wisdom teeth removed, they made me feel disoriented and nauseous.

My older brother had a serious workplace injury when I was in high school. He broke his pelvis and some of his spine. He’d seen a chiropractor, among many other specialists, when he was recovering, and he still sees one sometimes to cope with his own chronic pain.

I decided to explore that as a treatment option instead. My new chiropractor ran some X-rays and told me that my pelvis is tilted, which lets my disc slip back and forth instead of holding it in place. 

Through a series of adjustments, he worked to bring my pelvis back in line, and brought me some real relief. 

Unfortunately, I’ve done some state-hopping since then, and while I’m still in better shape than I used to be, I haven’t had time to find a new chiropractor yet. 

Starting to Deal with Your Pain

So what can you do to tackle your chronic pain? 

  1. First and foremost, go see your doctor, especially if you’ve been injured or don’t have a family history of back issues. You might need surgery or other serious help.

  2. Consider your treatment options. Surgery can be an option for many chronic back problems, but it has costs. It’s expensive and can cause its own set of pain problems. Opioids are highly addictive. Talk to your doctor about other options, like chiropractic treatment or acupuncture.

  3. Talk to your insurance company. Insurance companies want to stop the opioid epidemic too, and more plans are covering alternative therapies like chiropractic visits than ever before.

  4. Talk to your employer. If you have insurance through your employer, talk to them about making sure other therapies are covered on your group plan.

  5. Work with your care team on a treatment plan to cope with and manage your pain.

Learning to Manage Pain

So how do I manage my chronic back pain without drugs?

  • Set expectations. Knowing I would probably grow up to develop chronic back pain means I’ve always been ready for it. Accepting that pain will be a part of my life helps me feel in control.

  • Find a treatment that helps. For me, this has been regular chiropractic adjustments that help relieve tension and keep my disc in place. 

  • Get massages. I get the occasional massage to help relieve tension in the muscles in my back too. Many people with back pain get regular massages and swear by them.

  • Exercise and eat right. Even just a few extra pounds can put enormous stress on your spine if you already have back problems. And exercise can strengthen the muscles in your back. Focus on low-impact activities and strengthen your core if you’re already in pain.

    And choose your cardio wisely. Running outdoors or on inclines can be really hard on your back and pelvis. Try running on a treadmill, walking, or biking instead.

  • Try yoga, pilates, or tai chi. Yes, these are technically forms of exercise, but they’re more than that too. A new study found that yoga can actually help relieve back pain itself, but recommends gentle poses. And the routine they used is free online. I find it highly relaxing and a nice way to stretch and wind down, and you can do it as often as you want.

  • Get plenty of sleep. You’d be surprised how sleep affects other parts of your life. When I’m sleep deprived, my back is much more likely to go out. And since I struggle to sleep once my back’s out, it makes for a long sleepless week in that situation.

  • Try little treatments and tricks. I ice my back and use heating pads. I also take over-the-counter pain meds before bed if my back feels like it will go out during the night. If my back’s already out, lying on the floor (if I have someone handy to help me get up later) can help. Putting a pillow between my knees can also help while I’m trying to fall asleep.

  • Meditate. Meditation can help you clear your mind and refocus, and mindfulness can be surprisingly helpful in overcoming pain. There are easy apps you can try to get started too.

  • Talk to someone or journal. Chronic pain can be emotional. You hurt. You can’t escape it, and it can feel hopeless. Talk to a close loved one, journal about what’s happening, or visit a therapist. It can help you blow off steam, lighten your mental load, feel heard, and document your pain’s progression.

  • Practice self-care. Stress and tension can tighten up everything in your back. Find ways to reduce and fight stress in your life. And find little pleasures that you can focus on each day, like your favorite coffee, trading back rubs with your significant other, or cuddling your pet.

Most importantly, get help when you need it. Never let your pain push you so far that you can’t handle it or you fall into depression. Talk to your doctor to keep your mind and body healthy, even in the face of chronic pain.

Organize Your Medical Information Month

Organize Your Medical Information Month

October is both Long-Term Care Planning Month and Organize Your Medical Information Month, so it’s the perfect time to get organized for your health.

Start by creating a healthcare notebook with important medical details.

Organize Your Health

 

Organize info for everyone in your family and plan to keep it up to date.

Stay Up-to-Date

 

Don’t forget to compile insurance info and mark emergency contacts and doctor.

If you have a serious disease, this cancer checklist can help you organize your critical information.

Prepare for Serious Illness

 

Prepare and get help talking to your loved ones about planning for future healthcare decisions.

Talk to Your Loved Ones About the Future

 

Start thinking about long-term care and how you should plan for it.

Planning for Long-Term Care

 

Plan ahead with legal documents called advance directives to make sure your wishes are honored.

Advance Directives Planning

Time for Change

Long View: Is It Time for a Change?

“Everyone appreciates the long, light evenings. Everyone laments their shortage as Autumn approaches; and nearly everyone has given utterance to regret that the clear, bright light of an early morning during Spring and Summer months is so seldom seen or used.”

This was written by a London builder named William Willett, who proposed daylight saving time from an idea conceived by Benjamin Franklin.

“Spring forward. Fall back,” was how I learned it! I remember daylight saving time when I was a child was a big deal. The Saturday night before the official time change would take place, my entire family worked together to make sure that all the clocks and watches in our household were set, not to mention the clocks in my parents’ cars. It never failed. There was always that tiny clock on the top of our stove that we would miss. My mom always caught it when she went to set the oven timer!

Then, once the clocks were all set, my sister and I pondered whether we lost or gained an hour of sleep. We always had to sit there for a minute or 2 and do the math before coming up with the answer.

For most of us today, time changes are not nearly as complicated as they used to be. Our world is much more hurried, and automation is everywhere. It’s accepted that almost every clock, watch, appliance, iPhone, and computer is programmed for daylight saving time. We really don’t have to worry about making sure all of our timepieces make the change. With our schedules so full, we don’t even realize we’ve gained an hour or lost an hour of sleep.

Just like the time change happens each November, Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) happens each October. Medicare beneficiaries can review their current plan and make any changes they feel are needed from October 15 through December 7.

Every year, the AEP is a good time to check your drugs and review upcoming services with your doctor, then make sure the plan you’re on is still the best fit. You might even want to get your family together to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Some resources available to help you this AEP include Medicare.gov, which is easy to navigate and packed with information, and Illinois’ very own Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP). The Illinois Department of Insurance offers this free, impartial counseling service for people who are Medicare-eligible. Visit Insurance.Illinois.gov or call them at 1-800-548-9034. You can also find the nearest SHIP office in this directory, or, in Iowa.

And don’t forget to check out your current insurance info at HealthAllianceMedicare.org. If you need to research plan options, you can “fall back” on us! We’re ready to help with any questions you may have for the upcoming plan year.

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

Insurance Awareness

Insurance Awareness

Wednesday was National Insurance Awareness Day, so we helped raise insurance awareness this week with education and info about your plan.

Insurance may seem like a luxury, but without it, the cost of a broken arm is typically more than $2,500 dollars. If you have to stay in the hospital, it’s around another $7,400.

Broken Arm Costs

 

Under the ACA, you have certain benefits that are always covered, like yearly checkups and more.

Essential Health Benefits

 

If you’re on an HMO, you have to see doctors in your plan’s network, and if you’re on a PPO, you’ll save when staying in-network.

Choosing a primary care provider (PCP) gives you personal care, and your yearly visit keeps your preventive care up to date.

Your Yearly Preventive Care and Physical

 

The average ER visit costs more than the average American’s monthly rent. Know where to go when you’re sick and save.

Know Where To Go

 

Not sure what your insurance does after you get care? See a claim’s journey and make sense of what you get in the mail later, the EOB.

A Claim's Journey

 

Are you getting ready for Medicare? Learn about the parts, your eligibility, and enrolling.

Prepare for Medicare

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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.