Category Archives: Health

The Flu: How to protect yourself

flu shotHere are some basics you should know about the flu.

Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get a flu shot (vaccine) every year. The seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.

For many people, the seasonal flu is a mild illness. But for some people, the flu can lead to:

  • Serious infections like pneumonia (“noo-MOHN-yah”)
  • Hospitalization
  • Death

The flu spreads easily from person to person. When you get the flu shot, you don’t just protect yourself – you also protect the people around you.

What is the flu?
The flu is caused by a virus that infects your nose, throat, and lungs. It’s easily spread from person to person.

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches

Am I at high risk for complications from the flu?
For some people, the flu is more likely to lead to serious illness. If you are at high risk from the flu, get a flu shot as early as you can each year. Groups at high risk from the flu include:

If you spend time with someone at high risk from the flu, you can help protect both of you by getting a flu shot.

When should I get the seasonal flu shot?
Get the flu shot as soon as it’s available in your community each year. After you get the shot, it takes about 2 weeks for your body to develop protection against the flu. That’s why it’s a good idea to get the vaccine before flu season starts.

Flu season can be different from year to year. It can start as early as October and last as late as May.

Can I get the nasal (nose) spray instead of the shot?
The flu vaccine can be given in a nasal spray or a shot. You may get the nasal spray if you:

  • Are between ages 2 and 49
  • Aren’t pregnant
  • Don’t have certain health conditions, like asthma or diabetes

Are there any side effects from the seasonal flu vaccine?
Some people may have mild side effects. These side effects begin soon after the vaccine is given and usually last 1 to 2 days. Most people don’t have any side effects after getting the flu vaccine.

Flu shot
People who get the flu shot sometimes feel sore where they got the shot. You can’t get the flu from the flu shot because it’s made from killed flu viruses.

Flu nasal spray
People who get the nasal spray may have a stuffy nose or headache afterward. The flu viruses in the nasal spray are weakened and can’t cause the flu.

source: Healthfinder.gov

CT Receives $9.7 Million in Grants for Health Centers

Connecticut is getting $9.7 million in federal grants for community health centers as part of a series of capital investments related to federal health care reform. The new Affordable Health Care Act includes $9.5 billion to expand services nationally over a five year period and $1.5 billion to support construction and renovation projects at community centers. Thanks to this grant, the health centers will be able to serve thousands of new patients.

Funding includes two types of grants.

1. Building Capacity

2. Improve Facility’s Program

Recipients include $5 million for the Community Health & Wellness Center of Greater Torrington; $3.5 million for East Hartford Community Healthcare Inc.; $485,850 for Cornell Scott Hill Health Corp. in New Haven; $500,000 for Generations Family Health Center Inc. in Willimantic; and $232,098 for Staywell Health Care, Inc. in Waterbury.

Community health centers, for many Americans, are the major source of care that ranges from prevention to treatment of chronic diseases. This investment will expand U.S. Health and Human Services’ ability to provide high quality care to millions of people while supporting good paying jobs in communities across the country.

For information on the health center program, click here .

Source: Courant

$1.3 Billion Health Insurance Rebates

Rebates totaling $1.3 billion from health insurance companies should go to more than 3 million individual policyholders and thousands of employers this year because of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Here’s how the law works:

– Insurers covering individual consumers and small employers must spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect on medical care and quality improvements. The benchmark is 85 percent of premiums for insurers covering large employers.

– Insurance companies must provide rebates if they do not meet those standards.

Who gets refunds:

– Almost one-third of consumers in the individual market will get rebates averaging $127. These are consumers who are not covered by an employer and purchase their policies directly from an insurance company.

– Average amounts will vary significantly by state. The highest will be paid to consumers in Alaska (average of $305), Maryland ($294) and Pennsylvania ($243). On the opposite side of the scale, no individual market insurers in Hawaii, Maine and Washington, D.C., expect to issue rebates.

– Nationwide, rebates to individual consumers will total $426 million.

– In the small employer market, 146 insurance plans covering nearly 5 million workers and dependents will issue $377 million in refunds. Employers do not have to pass those on to workers. They can also opt for a discount on next year’s premiums.

-In the large employer market, 125 plans covering 7.5 million workers and dependents will issue $541 million in rebates.

Source Seattle Times

Affordable Health Care – Is it Really Affordable?

The new Obama Care Law also known as Affordable Health Care Act is the hype nowadays. The bill hasn’t been passed yet, the Supreme Court will make a decision in June, but how this is going to play out in the next two years is going to be great for some or hinder many others with a burden.

There are obviously pros and cons to this act. The pros: preventative care, free wellness visits with doctors, insurance companies can’t deny coverage on pre-existing conditions, putting caps on deductibles, and the lower the income the lower the cap. Sounds good so far. Let’s look at the cons: shortage of doctors, supply doesn’t meet demand, the dreaded fine that everyone is worried about. That’s right. There will be a fine of $695/year if you don’t have health insurance (if the act was to pass).

This new health care law can go both ways. People living in poverty won’t be able to do much if they can’t afford it and it seems a bit unfair for them to pay the fine when they couldn’t do anything about it in the first place. I had mentioned a month before how young adults aged 18-26 were without health care and some are now on their parent’s healthcare because of the law passed in 2008-2009. The ones that aren’t on their parent’s healthcare can’t afford them on their own either and instead of saving the money, the government plans to rob them of it by fining them for failing to maintain insurance. The young adults that are living on their own have other responsibilities to take care of too such as housing, food, gas, etc without having to worry about paying the fine.

Overall, the government isn’t taking into consideration the poor and elderly in this whole Affordable Care Act. The ones that have much to lose with this new act are the ones who are unemployed (currently at 8.2 percent), living in poverty and the elderly. I wonder if Obama is trying to pass this just to get another term. Wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. After all, the government hasn’t thought about the people in a long time. It’s all about “What’s in it for me?”

What are your thoughts about the new Healthcare?

Courtesy of News-Leader

Health Insurance: Where Does the Money Go?

No matter what type of insurance you’re buying, the question of everybody’s mind is “Why is insurance so expensive?” In this topic, I will explain where and who the money goes to in health insurance.

It’s not a surprise that Americans are worried about the rising cost of healthcare. Most young adults aged 18-26 were without health insurance up until the health care act went into place. Yet, it seems every year the costs for the premium keep on rising. Let’s take a look as to why the premiums are on the rise.

When it comes to insurance, almost everybody thinks that insurance companies make big profits from these premiums but the truth is, only 3 cents of every dollar goes towards the insurance company profit. The rest? It’s divided into hospital, doctors and other medical services. To get a better understanding, see picture below.

According to government data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the country’s two largest healthcare expenditures last year were hospital care (31% of all expenditures) and physician care (20% of all expenditures).

What does all that have to do with the rising cost of health premiums? Well, when there is an increased utilization of such services as hospital care and physician care, the price tend to increase as well and that causes the premiums to rise.

Here’s a breakdown of what caused the prices to increase since 2008. One quarter of the reason for the rising health insurance was increased use of medical services (because of population increase). Thirty percent of the rise in premiums was due to increase in the price of healthcare services as well as the use of new technology and those prices increased because the competition decreased between medical service providers. The remaining 45 percent increase was due to inflation.

Here’s a short video to explain it better.

All we can do now is hope that in the future the price would come down but knowing the new mandates and taxes are going to be included in the healthcare law, I doubt the prices will be going down anytime soon.

Health Care Tax Deductions

Did you know 81 percent of respondents had out-of-pocket health care expenses in 2011 but only 34 percent plan on deducting those costs from their taxes? The following infographic will help consumers understand that they can deduct out-of-pocket health costs and provide steps to file those health care expenses.

Deducting Health Care Costs
Courtesy of GoHealthInsurance.com

Droughts and Heat Waves: Be Prepared

These two natural disasters weren’t a threat to mankind up until recently. Sure, they still occurred but not as worse as they are now. What might be the cause of increase heat waves and droughts? My best guess would be global warming. (See Chart Below)

Heat Waves and Droughts, 1980-2010

Heat Waves And Droughts, 1980-2010

The symbols show the most affected regions as of March 2011

Droughts and heat waves accounted for two of the deadliest natural disasters in the world since 1980, including a 2010 heat wave in Russia that caused 56,000 deaths and nearly $2 billion in economic losses, according to Munich Re. The major part of the direct economic losses of heat waves are secondary effects such as drought, subsidence and wildfires, according to Munich Re.

Europe is witnessing a dramatic increase in property damage as a result of drought-induced soil subsidence, according to a 2011 study from Swiss Re. Prolonged dry spells can cause the ground to sink by so much that cracks appear in the earth, tearing apart the foundations of houses, bridges, factories and other structures. In France alone, subsidence-related losses have risen by more than 50 percent in the last two decades.

So, how do heat waves form?

A heat wave is an extended interval of abnormally hot and humid weather, usually lasting from a few days to over a week. Heat waves form when an air mass becomes stationary over a region. In the Eastern United States a heat wave occurs when a high pressure system originating in the Gulf of Mexico becomes stationary just off the Atlantic Seaboard (typically known as a Bermuda High.) The SW winds on the back side of the High continue to pump hot, humid Gulf air North-eastward resulting in a spell of hot and humid weather for much of the Eastern States.

The dangerous heat wave spreading across the United States the third week in July 2010 caused at least 22 deaths and prompted NOAA’s National Weather Service to issue a heat alert affecting approximately 995,000 square miles and 150 million people.

Be Prepared – – Heat Wave Tips:

  1. If a heat wave is predicted or happening – slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you have to do strenuous activity the recommended hours are between 4 am and 7 am.
  2. Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine. Remember electric fans do not cool air, but they do help sweat evaporate which cools your body.
  3. Wear lightweight, light colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy.
  4. Drink plenty of water regularly and often, even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool.
  5. Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They can make you feel good briefly, but make the heart’s effects on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which actually dehydrates the body.
  6. Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.

As long as you stay in a cool place and keep yourself hydrated, you’ll be fine. And remember to check up on elderly friends and neighbors.