Tag Archives: plan

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.

Finding Medicare During the Annual Enrollment Period

Vantage Point: The Season for Informed Choices

It’s October, and folks living in North Central Washington are looking forward to beautiful fall colors and freshly picked apples. For those on Medicare, it’s also the start of the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), when beneficiaries can shop for their 2016 coverage. It runs October 15 to December 7. But because of confusing plan changes and choices, some dread the AEP rather than looking forward to it.

But there are people who can help make these decisions easier. A trusted resource for Medicare eligibility throughout the year is the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program. The SHIBA program was formed to help consumers understand Medicare and their options for supplementing it. SHIBA counselors keep client information 100% confidential, and their main mission is to help clients see Medicare plan comparisons so that the client can choose using unbiased and accurate information.

At educational presentations in the past, I’d learned a lot from Dick Anderson, a certified SHIBA counselor, and recently had the pleasure of meeting with him one-on-one. Hearing Dick describe some of his stories captured what a valuable service he and other advisors provide. Counseling to help others by these trained volunteers truly comes from the heart.

Dick says there’s no Medicare plan that’s right for everyone, so instead he tries to get his clients to talk about their individual needs. This helps him determine what’s most important to them, so they can make a measured choice that meets their personal needs.

The rewards for this work are illustrated by Dick’s powerful stories of people from all different backgrounds, incomes, and educational levels who have come to him heavy with feelings of helplessness and confusion and after meeting with him, left with their cloud of anxiety lifted.

At Health Alliance, we strive to have quality, sustainable Medicare plans, but we agree with Dick that there’s no perfect plan for every person’s needs. Therefore, we value and respect the work SHIBA volunteers do to help people make informed choices.

For current Health Alliance members, we’re holding special meetings the first week of October in Wenatchee, Moses Lake, and Omak about our 2016 benefits and to answer any questions.

If you want to meet with a SHIBA counselor, you can make an appointment by calling Community Choice at 1-888-452-0731 or Aging and Adult Care at 509-886-0700.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four adult sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

Settled Into a Healthier Home

My Healthy Journey: Finally Settled

I finally have something to sit on in my apartment! After 3 months, I’m mostly settled in.

Moving requires a lot of organization, and as I told you before, this was a rushed and unorganized move, which is probably exactly why it’s taken me this long to get settled.

You may not realize how much being organized (or disorganized) affects your life and even your health.

One study showed that you’re more likely to suffer from stress and depression if your house is cluttered and full of unfinished projects. (This was definitely my house for the last 3 months.) Long-term stress is tied to heart disease, digestive problems, poor sleep, obesity, and cancer.

This long to-do list at home can actually prevent the cortisol (a stress hormone) in your system from naturally lowering throughout the day. This affects your mood, sleep, health, and more.

Planning can also be key to a lot of healthy life decisions, and that takes organization. This slideshow from Good Housekeeping highlights what organization is doing for you:

  • It reduces financial stress by avoiding late fees and unnecessary costs.
  • It helps keep good relationships with loved ones by helping you to keep your mood up and avoid arguments over lost stuff, forgotten appointments, and errands.
  • It increase your time for your favorite activities. Imagine every minute you’ve spent looking for your keys going toward your favorite TV show, music, or activity.
  • It protects your health. If you forget to take your meds or schedule doctor appointments, you really could be putting your physical health at risk, so make sure you put things in places you’ll see them, organize your schedule, or even download an app to help remind you.
  • It let’s you exercise more! One of the first things you lose from your schedule when things get crazy is workouts. Plus, when you’re constantly forgetting your gym bag, it’s an easy excuse to skip the gym.
  • It let’s you eat healthier. Healthy cooking takes planning, like finding recipes and buying the right groceries. Snacks you grab on the go and dining out can be huge calorie bombs, so plan ahead!
  • It helps keep your home healthy. One study found that dust can have arsenic, dead bugs, pollen, and dead skin in it. Plus, removing clutter can eliminate up to 40% of your housework.

Many people believe that we are a product of our environment and that a messy environment can affect all areas of your life, physical, mental, and emotional

Rally, our wellness tool, knows that organization can be an important part of your healthy journey, too, so it has a mission that challenges you to de-clutter for 10 minutes every day.

I finished unpacking and organizing all my bookshelves a few weeks ago but was waiting for my new couch to arrive before I shared pictures.

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Tootsie LOVES the new couch.

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Those beautiful watercolor paintings on the wall are prints by Kelly Eddington, my high school art teacher and the wife of one of our Health Alliance employees.

Ignore that lamp on the floor. I just need one more side table in here!

In case you don’t remember, this is what the shelves looked like, before the gold shelf got here:

Book Collection

This is them now:

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Everything is unpacked and on display, and finally getting to a place where I can use my living room feels so satisfying!

And now that I’m to this point, if I stick to the challenge of de-cluttering for a little bit every day, it should be easy to keep things looking nice.

Looking for some clever ways to clean up the messes in your house? Check out this list of 58 organization ideas and DIY projects.

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Treat Yourself During a Move

My Healthy Journey: Another Year, Another Move

Time to Move, Yet Again

My roommate just got a big job promotion and skipped town on me, which means that while I am thrilled for her, it’s time to move again.

I have moved 13 times since I started college in 2008. I went to school in Chicago, and so each year, I moved all my belongings up in the fall and then back down in the summer. Then my senior year, I moved to Manhattan… and then back to Chicago. And since I’ve been back in Central Illinois, it hasn’t been much better.

So you would think I would be a pro at the nomadic life, right? Wrong.

Moving still stresses me out. They say moving ranks high on the list of life events that cause the most stress, among things like death of a family member and divorce. I don’t know if that’s true, but by the time you get to lucky move number 13, it definitely starts to feel like it.

I’ve already signed a new lease and have until April to get everything out, which puts me in a pretty good situation. But I can feel it hanging over me like a storm cloud.

Even though you’d think the most stressful part of the process would be finding a new home, the truth is for me, that physically moving all my stuff is what I dread the most.

So here it is.

My Plan to Stay Sane for My ONLY Move in 2015

(No, really, I mean it. I refuse to move again until 2016.):

1. Make a list.

I’ll make the biggest list you’ve ever seen, so I don’t forget anything. I’m going to make a schedule, so I know which days I need to pack which rooms. Plus, this will remind me to set aside time for things like setting up my electricity, water, and renter’s insurance.

2. Do a little every day.

I’m going to plan it just right so that I get a load of stuff moved in each day when I commute before the big final furniture push. Because moving one load a day sounds totally doable, right?

3. I’m going to burn all my books…

That’s a lie. I love my books. But moving them for the 13th time will make me reconsider my life choices the next time I’m having trouble leaving Barnes & Noble without 6 new hardcovers. It’ll be great for my wallet! Positives people, focus on the positives.

4. Take my time.

I have two and a half weeks to make the switch, no need to go crazy trying to do it all the first weekend.

5. Clear out the clutter.

Each time I move, I swear I eliminate at least 3 boxes of stuff when I realize that half of the things I move, I WILL NEVER NEED AGAIN. What will go this time?! Round and round it goes! Where it lands, nobody knows…. DingDingDing! We have a winner! It’s time for those college notebooks to GO! (It’s wise to do this before physically moving them to the new place and discovering you don’t have anywhere to put any of it, trust me.)

6. Get help.

I’m going to wrangle every innocent passerby into helping me with the offer of cookies and all of the FREE things that I was planning to throw away or donate! Okay, not really. (Warning: Don’t actually welcome total strangers into your new home.) But I will torture all the family members who are still talking to me 13 moves in.

7. Stay fueled.

I’m going to get plenty of sleep and eat well. This means I will not binge on TV shows instead of sleeping. (Must not start House of Cards. Must not start House of Cards…) And I will eat a proper number of (preferably) healthy calories. Then I will have enough energy to move without replacing all bodily fluids with coffee, as I have in past moves.

8. Don’t fight the elements.

I will pay close attention to the weather, which I’m usually really bad about, so that I don’t try to move my mattress in a snowstorm  and so that I do not fall on ice and break my hip.

9. Stay safe.

I will protect my back by packing correctly (heavy items in the right size boxes and on the bottom, not overpacking, etc, etc.), not falling on the ice from #8, wearing a brace when needed, and lifting with my knees. Also by having very little furniture.

10. Control myself.

I will not unpack EVERYTHING the first day I get there. My more obsessive habits usually take over, and I must have everything perfect before I will sit down. It’s exhausting. I will not do this.

11. Focus on the positives.

My, what a wonderful, long workout this is! My new apartment is newer and nicer and will therefore be much warmer than the older house I’ve been in, (my feet will finally thaw!). My complex has a gym! And pools! It is about five minutes from my work, getting rid of my long commute, wasted gas, and added miles on my car. And because I have almost no furniture, this is a wonderful opportunity to reinvent my home. Would I like to pretend I live on the beach? In a Frank Lloyd Wright house? The future? Or perhaps Downton Abbey? The options are endless! (Or, you know, whatever’s cheapest.)

12. Treat myself.

This means that I am buying ice cream post-move. Oh, and a terrarium. What is a terrarium you ask? They’re these awesome little plant ecosystems that you keep in glass jars and bowls in your house that look kind of like this:

Look a Terrarium!

They’re adorable, they never grow too big, and you only have to water them like every two weeks. Much better than a houseplant.

13. Find my normal.

Then I will resume my schedule of working/eating/cuddling my dog in bed to Netflix/sleeping. And then I can focus on my 2015 goals of finishing my novel, getting fit, and actually watching every Oscar-nominated movie of 2015 (and 2014… and 2013…)

So there you have it, the perfect plan, ready to go for your next (now) stress-free move! You’re welcome.

Wish me luck.

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SEP Changes like Moving

When Change Happens, We Can Help

Things change. We understand that the unexpected is a part of life. But there are ways we can help you get covered when the unexpected happens.

If you weren’t able to get coverage during this Annual Enrollment Period, or if something important has changed and you need a new plan, you may be able to get a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

During an SEP, you can buy a new plan or make changes to your current plan.

To get an SEP, you need a qualifying life event (something that has changed your insurance needs). Qualifying life events include:

  • Getting Married
  • Having, adopting, or the placement of a child
  • Permanently moving to a new area offering different health plan options
  • A change in income or household status, which can change how much government help you can get
  • Losing other health coverage because of:
    • Job loss
    • Divorce
    • Loss of eligibility for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
    • Expiration of COBRA coverage
    • Your health plan no longer meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
    • Reduction or termination of employer contributions
    • Significant increase in the cost of your plan

If any of these items describes your situation, you have 60 days after that event to enroll in a new plan. You can shop with us online or call us at 1-877-686-1168 for help finding a plan.

Your new coverage date will depend on the kind of life event you had and what day of the month you enroll. Learn more about when your new plan will start.

Losing your coverage doesn’t always mean you get an SEP. You can’t get one if you lose your insurance because:

    • You didn’t pay your premiums
    • You chose on your own to quit your other health coverage
    • You lost a short-term plan or (in some cases) a Catastrophic plan

If you can’t get an SEP, you can always get covered with a short-term plan at any time. While they do help with your health costs, they aren’t qualified health plans under the ACA, which means you could still have to pay a tax penalty in the next year.

Still not sure what to do in your situation? Call us at 1-877-686-1168 for help figuring out your options.

Coping with Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Awareness Week

This week was Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so we gave you facts about the mental illness each day and advice on how to build a healthy relationship with food.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses that cause unhealthy relationships with food, and approximately 24 million people in the U.S. struggle with one. Find help.

Eating Disorders

 

50% of people with eating disorders also suffer from depression, and only 10% of people with them get treatment. Find help.

Depression and Eating Disorders

 

91% of women said they controlled their weight through dieting, and 22% said they dieted “often” or “always.” Find help.

Unhealthy Dieting

 

Men make up 10-15% of those with anorexia and bulimia, but are the least likely to get help. Find help.

Men and Eating Disorders

 

69% of girls ages 10-18 say that models and celebrities in magazines inspired their ideal body shape, and more than 50% of teen girls will smoke, skip meals, fast, or vomit to control their weight. Find help.

Setting Unhealthy Expectations

 

An estimated 25% of college-age girls binge and purge to manage their weight, and 58% say they felt social pressure to maintain a certain size. Find help.

Food Binging

 

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. For women ages 15-24, the mortality rate of anorexia is 12 times higher than any other cause of death. Find help.

Death by Eating Disorder

 

First up to building a healthy relationship with food was some advice from Lori Lieberman, a dietitian who works with people suffering from eating disorders. She recommends planning in advance. Even if you don’t prepare food ahead, having a mental plan of what you’re going to eat it can make mealtime easier.

Making a Plan

 

Lieberman also recommends mixing in foods you enjoy but think of as forbidden to avoid overeating and make eating enjoyable. See more of her advice for those rebuilding their relationships with food after eating disorders.

Indulge in "Bad" Foods

 

Focus on healthy fats, like avocado, salmon, and olive oil, which fill you up and are good for you.

Healthy Fats

 

Make sure you and your family eat breakfast! It’s good for you, and improves focus during the morning at school and work. See more tips for helping your kids build a healthy relationship with food.

Healthy Breakfast

 

Drink plenty of water instead of soda, even diet. You could eat a filling snack instead for the number of calories in a can of pop!

Drink More Water

 

Take time to chew your food. Studies show that eating slowly actually makes you feel full sooner. Get more tips.

Chew Your Food!

 

Remember that no food is actually bad. Building a healthy relationship with food, one that lets you have anything in moderation, lets you make healthy choices in any situation. Learn more.

Good Foods Vs. Bad Foods

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