Tag Archives: Medicaid

Finding Doctors & Personalized Care

Finding Doctors Made Easy

Finding doctors and care that’s covered on your plan, like from a Primary Care Physician (PCP) or a clinic in your service area, is key to helping us pay for the care you get.

For some plans, like HMOs, you must go to a doctor in your provider network. And for some plans, like PPOs, although you can go to out-of-network doctors, going to doctors in your plan’s network can help you save.

Log In

The best way to find doctors in your network is to log in to Your Health Alliance, our one-stop member website. If you’ve never used Your Health Alliance before, you’ll have to register for an account first.

On Your Health Alliance, when you choose Find a Doctor or Hospital from the very top menu on your dashboard, you’ll see a list of all the providers you can use on your plan. From there, you can filter these or search by doctor or hospital name to find what you’re looking for.

Plan Details Search

If you can’t log in to Your Health Alliance, you can also find a doctor by looking at your plan’s network through our Plan Details Search.

You can find this feature by choosing learn how to use your benefits on HealthAlliance.org’s home page. This takes you to our Member Benefits & Forms page. The first bullet under Using Your Benefits, What Your Plan Covers, will take you to the search.

On the search, you just need to enter your member number from your ID card to see a list of all your plan’s documents, which will include your network of doctors. You can find your member number here:

Finding Your Member Number

Finding Doctors

You can also search for doctors on HealthAlliance.org. Choose Find a Doctor from the top menu to start your search.

Once you’re here, you can search for your network or by a doctor’s name, or you can look at a list of all our directories.

The best way to find your network is to search with your member number from your ID card. (The above image can help you find your member number.)

Or you can find your network by choosing your state and plan type and directory. If you have our insurance through your employer, you’ll choose employer groups. If you’re on a Medicare plan, you’ll choose that. If you shopped for and bought our insurance for yourself (and it’s not a Medicare plan), you’ll choose individual and families from the list.

Then you’ll choose your directory. Your directory is based on what type of plan you have. If you or your employer bought your plan from a public exchange, like Healthcare.gov or a state exchange, it will say public in your directory name. If you bought it directly from us, it will say direct.

It will also say your plan type, like HMO, PPO, or POS. If you bought a plan in a specific market, like Riverside or Methodist, it might say that, too. Your plan policy or plan documents can tell you what the name of your plan is to help you know which plan type you have.

Once you’ve chosen one of these, you can also add filters, like doctor or location info, to find certain providers.

Now that you’ve searched and found your network, you’ll see details for each of the doctors in your plan’s network, like address, if they’re taking new patients, and more. You can also add filters at this point to narrow your search.

And if you’re shopping for a new plan, we’ve made it easy to find doctors on those plans by connecting you to their networks while you’re shopping.

Still need help finding doctors or have questions about our providers? It’s no problem! Our Customer Service is here to help! Just contact us.

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Grocery Shopping Fresh

Grocery Shopping Like a Pro

Even after you’ve gotten ready to head to the store, grocery shopping on a budget for healthy meals can be hard. But there are some things you can do to make it easier.

Stock Your Pantry

Keeping your kitchen stocked with certain key things can make cooking easy. This list has some items that are perfect for this. And this article has some healthy foods perfect for your pantry that only cost about $2.

Add one item that won’t go bad, like a spice, grain, beans, or frozen veggies to your cart each shopping trip to help you build your pantry without dropping a lot of money at once. (These are also good things to buy in bulk when they’re on sale if you have space to store them.)

Having this stocked pantry will help you throw together meals fast, help you save on packaged or premade meals you might’ve grabbed in a hurry, and make shopping easier.

Choosing Your Store

Choosing where you shop can also help you save. Besides the grocery store, some great places to find good deals are:

  • Ethnic markets
  • Dollar stores
  • Retail supercenters
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Farmers markets

At the Store

Once you’re at the store, you should try to shop the outer edge of it as much as possible. The outer edge usually has the fresh produce, like fruits and veggies, meat, dairy, bread, and frozen food. It’s typically the inner aisles that are full of boxed and processed foods.

Fruits & Veggies

It’s recommended that you eat 5 servings of veggies a day, so it’s important to really use that part of the store. With that in mind, fruits and veggies, fresh or frozen, should take up about a third of your cart on each shopping trip.

  • Shop in season 

At the farmers market, you have to buy what’s in season, but at the grocery store, there are lots of choices. But when you buy what’s in season, you can save a lot, and your food will be the tastiest and freshest it can be. This list can help you find what’s in season when.

  • Buy bags at the right time

With certain go-to things your family will always use, like apples, oranges, potatoes, and onions, buying them in the big bags when they’re in season can help you save even more.

  • Stock up on canned and frozen fruits and veggies

Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are picked while they’re in season and tasting best, and they’re good for you, too. So instead of buying fresh peas when they’re not in season, stock up on frozen ones to save and get the best flavor. Plus, they last much longer.

Look for frozen veggies without added sauces or butter. Choose canned fruit in 100% fruit juice and veggies with “low-sodium” or “no salt added.”

Canned veggies and broths are perfect for easy soups and stews, and canned fruit makes great fruit salad and snacks for the kids.

Packaged Goods

Avoid a lot of the packaged and processed foods in the center of the store. Cookies, candy, chips, crackers, and soda are all high in things you don’t want, like sugar, salt, and bad fats, and low in things like protein and nutrients. They’re also expensive.

  • Look for whole grains

Be careful you don’t get fooled by things that just call out wheat. Instead, look for whole grains and whole-grain breads.

  • Find high-protein foods besides meat

Yogurt and cheeses are great sources of protein, as are beans and other legumes, which you can find dried or canned.

  • Be smart about cereal

Cereals are one of the top foods for hidden sugar. Look for ones with little or no sugar. You can always add honey to flavor it in the bowl. Also look for cereals high in fiber to start your day right.

  • Try new things in the bulk aisle

If you want to try a new grain, nut, or dried fruit, the bulk aisle with bins is a great way to taste test. Scoop out a small bag for your family to taste before buying bigger servings.

Shopping Tips

Make the most of your trip by paying attention to how your store organizes things, their price tags, and food labels.

  • Don’t shop at eye level

Stores oftentimes stock the most expensive things right where they’ll catch your eye. Looking at the upper and lower shelves can help you find the best deal.

  • Grab from the back

Stores also stock from the back, putting newer things behind the older ones. Grabbing from the back gets you fresher food with better expiration dates, so your food will be good for longer.

  • Look for store brands

Many stores have their own brands of items, and in most cases, you’ll get the exact same or very similar thing at a much better price.

  • Read the label

Reading the nutrition label can tell you a lot about what’s in a food, if it’s good for you, and help you choose between brands.

  • Pay attention to serving sizes

Some things might seem good for you until you check the serving size. Sometimes the serving size is much smaller than what you’d actually eat in a sitting, which makes the numbers on the label look better.

  • Learn how to read unit price on the price tag

Unit price tells you how much something costs per pound, ounce, quart, or other unit of measure. It can tell you which brands are the most affordable. This guide can help you read or calculate unit price.

  • Have a calculator handy

Whether it’s on your phone or you bring a small calculator along to the store, having one on hand can make it easy to compare labels and costs.

Up Next:

Learn how to read and make sense of nutrition labels to get the most out of your food.

Affordable Health Services for National Health Center Week

National Health Center Week 2015

This week is National Health Center Week, so we had more info about finding these resources each day.

The Champaign Urbana Public Health District’s website can connect you to local health resources and info and Board of Health info.

Care

 

The Francis Nelson Health Center in Champaign provides care to those who need it most and can’t afford it. Learn more about their services or help the cause.

If you’re a University of Illinois student, McKinley Health Center is your first stop for all kinds of health information, including online classes.

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The Champaign County Christian Health Center offers free and quality health services. Learn more about making appointments, giving, fundraising, and volunteering.

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Avicenna Community Health Center has been providing health screenings and learning to the CU community since 2009. Learn about what they do and how you can help.

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While Medicaid in Illinois has expanded, there are other ways to get help too. Carle’s Community Care Discount Program helps people get the care they need.

Health Insurance Policy brochure

 

Looking for health centers across the nation? This government database can help!

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Food Expiration Dates and Safety

Decoding Expiration Dates

Did you know the government doesn’t make food companies put expiration dates on most things? They choose to put those dates on their products so that you get the best quality as a customer, which is why there are so many different kinds of labels.

According to the Boston Globe, 3/4 of Americans think eating things after their printed dates is unsafe. That’s not always true.

What Do the Expiration Dates Mean?

“Sell by” Date

This tells the store how long it can sell the product. You should buy it before this day, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad after that date. It really just means that it’s freshest before that date.

“Best if used by (or before)” Date

You should use a product before this date for the best quality and flavor, but it has nothing to do with safety.

“Guaranteed fresh” Date

This is usually used for bakery items. You can still eat them after this date, but they won’t be at their freshest.

“Use by” Date

This is the last date a product’s maker recommends you use it for the best quality, much like “best if used by or before” dates.

“Pack” Date

These are dates that are on many canned or packaged goods. They’re used by the manufacturer and do not tell you if the food is safe. They may also be in a code, usually month-day-year, like MMDDYY. So September 29, 2015, would be 092915.

Other Dates

Federal law says that all baby formula must be dated. It is usually marked with a “use by” or “expiration date,” and after that date, the nutrition of the formula begins to decline from what’s shown on the label.

Some states also make stores pull dairy items off the shelves after their expiration dates.

How Long Are Things Good For?

While these dates will help you eat things while they taste the best, you won’t need to rush to throw most things away by those dates.

You should always try to buy your food before these dates expire, but as long as it’s stored at the right temperature and hasn’t been contaminated during cleaning or prep, it can be good after the dates.

Product Dates and Expiration

And of course, it is important to smell and look at your food before you eat it if it’s past those dates (and before them, too). If something smells bad, tastes weird, has rotten spots, or is moldy, don’t eat it! It’s definitely time to throw it away.

You can see more info about dates and food safety from WebMD and the USDA.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re storing your food safely to keep it good for longer.

Are you always cooking things to a safe temperature to avoid foodborne illness? Our guide can help!

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Flaming Hot

Hot Enough

There’s a good reason to make sure you’re always cooking your meat to the right temps: foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness, or food poisoning, is when you eat or drink foods that are contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or even poisonous chemicals. There are more than 250 different foodborne illnesses. The top 5 are the most dangerous.

Myths vs. Facts

Myth: Food poisoning is rare and not that serious.

Facts:

Foodborne Illness Stats
Statistics via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Myth: I will know if I have food poisoning.

Facts: Food poisoning is often blamed on things like “a stomach bug,” but it can have many symptoms.

The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. You could experience all of these or just one. It really depends on what caused it.

Myth: This happened because my food was dirty.

Facts: There are lots of reasons this can happen.

Fresh fruit and veggies can be contaminated if they’re washed in tainted water or touched by unwashed hands or sick people who help process the food.

Some healthy animals have certain kinds of bacteria to help their digestion. These can come in contact with the meat you eat during processing. Salmonella, one of the most dangerous foodborne illnesses, can infect a hen so that its eggs are infected from the start.

Leaving raw food to thaw out of the fridge or leaving cooked food out for too long, like at a potluck or BBQ, can let bacteria grow.

Food coming into contact during cooking with raw meats or dirty cutting boards and knives can spread the bacteria to things that were clean!

What Should I Do?

First, make sure you’re washing your fruits and veggies after you buy them and storing things safely.

Heat can kill bacteria, so always make sure you cook your food to the right temperature. You can do this by using a food thermometer.

Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food, but it shouldn’t be touching bone or fat. Check the temp toward the end of cooking but before you think it will be done. And make sure to clean it well with hot, soapy water between each use.

Use these handy guides to cook and grill your food to safe temperatures:

Meat & Poultry Temperature Guide
Image via Food Network

 

Grill Master Guide
Image via Visual News

Up Next:

Wondering how long your food is actually good for? We can help make sense of all those dates!

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Enjoying Organic Healthy Greens

Organic 101

You’ve probably noticed in your grocery store that there’s a whole display of fruits and veggies (that usually cost more) labeled organic.

Lots of people just assume that it means they’re all-natural, but everything in the produce section was grown instead of manufactured, so isn’t all of it all-natural?

When something is labeled organic, it actually means that it was grown in a certain way. Organic foods are grown without the use of:

  • Pesticides, which stop weeds and bugs from hurting a crop and are usually made with chemicals
  • Fertilizers, which make the land better for growing crops and are usually made with a town’s sewage, animal manure, or man-made ingredients, like chemicals
  • Bioengineering, when scientists change things about a crop in its DNA or genes to make it grow better
  • Ionizing radiation, when produce is radiated to preserve it, reduce the risk of illness, prevent bugs,  or slow down sprouting or ripening

Before a product can be labeled organic, someone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) checks the farm and any companies that handle or process the food before you get it to make sure they’re meeting organic standards. This means that when you buy organic, it’s guaranteed to be organic.

However, when you buy organic, you’re also paying more because farmers who don’t use things like pesticides, fertilizers, and bioengineering usually get smaller crops from their land than other farmers. Those things were invented to help farmers grow as much food as possible, and when organic farmers don’t use them, it makes their jobs harder.

Each year, a company called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out lists of which fruits and veggies have the potential to have the most pesticides on them and which don’t.

The Clean Fifteen are the fruits and veggies with little to no pesticides on them when you buy them at the store. The Dirty Dozen have the potential to have the most pesticides on them. Plus, they’re mostly things you either eat the peel of or don’t peel at all.

Whether you buy organic or non-organic produce, it’s important to get fruits and veggies in your diet. Just be sure to clean your produce properly before you eat it.

Clean Fifteen

Dirty Dozen

Up Next:

Why should you shop at farmers markets? One great reason is local food!

And make sure you keep your food safe at every stage by practicing safe food prep.

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Safe Food Prep

Preparing Your Food Safely

Safe food prep is key to cooking at home. As we’ve talked about before, storing your food correctly and washing it well are both important parts of safe cooking, but food prep is actually where it’s easiest to accidentally contaminate your meal.

Tip #1

Always wash your hands before and after dealing with food and after each time you touch raw meat (before you touch anything else).

Tip #2

Make sure everything is cleaned correctly and that all bruises or rotten spots have been cut off of your fruits and veggies.

Clean the lids off the top of cans before you open them. You never know how many people or things have touched that can before it touches your food!

Tip #3

The fridge is the best place for slow, safe thawing, especially if you thaw out meat unattended while you’re at work or busy during the day. Make sure that thawing meat juices don’t drip on other foods. You can refreeze meat you’ve thawed in the fridge if needed.

You can also put meat in a sealed Ziploc bag and submerge it in cold tap water for faster thawing. You need to change this water every 30 minutes and cook as soon as you’re done thawing it.

If you thaw meat and poultry in the microwave, always cook it right after that.

Don’t just set food out on the counter to thaw!

Tip #4

Don’t cross-contaminate. This is when it’s easiest to accidentally cause sickness!

Keep raw meat, its juices, and eggs away from other food. Use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meat and veggies.

After cutting raw meat, wash cutting boards, utensils, and countertops  with hot, soapy water or a bleach cleaner (1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water).

Tip #5

Marinate meat in a closed dish in the fridge. Don’t reuse marinade that has touched raw meat unless you bring it to a boil first.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re always cooking your food to a safe temperature.