Mental Wellness During The Holidays

While the holidays are a joyful time spent with loved ones, they are also a highly busy and stressful time. It may be a busy time of year at work, and running around shopping and decorating can be stressful. You could also be suffering from the Christmas blues. If you are experiencing the blues, know that you are not alone; they can afflict anyone at any age and are usually caused by a life event. Not to mention the stress of trying to impress others with gifts, attend parties, and deal with family or toxic people, all of which contribute to the blues. People also remember individuals who are no longer alive to celebrate throughout the holidays.  Here is what we do to make it past the awkward hugs, the eye-rolls, and weird, invasive questions about your love life.

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Organize and Budget Gifts

Organization will liberate you! Do you believe you have an insurmountable task list? As with the previous step, break them up. It will stress you out much more if you have this cloud of ideas flying about in your head. If your budget is limited, it is okay to decline gift exchanges. Instead of buying gifts for everyone, encourage them to give to charity, make a homemade gift, or organize a low-cost activity for you all to do. If traveling is too expensive for you, ask family or friends to contribute to the cost of the ticket rather than giving you gifts. If you are unable to attend, request to skype or FaceTime with the individual or persons so that you can still participate in the festivities. Plan your budget ahead of time so you know what you can afford. Here’s what to do:

 

  • Make your list – List out the names of people you’ll be seeing during the holidays that you want to buy gifts for.
  • Organize by priority – Once you can physically see the list, rearrange it by priority whether it be kids first, then immediate family, followed by extended family or just by the order that you plan on seeing them in.
  • Pick the presents – You can begin assigning present ideas to each person once you’ve determined who you’ll be buying things for. If the process starts to become stressful , brainstorm with some hot cocoa and/or play some soothing music like jazz or holiday-themed songs.
  • Set realistic goals – You probably have a reasonable estimate of your budget for these things, but price each item separately and sum it up. It is easier to plan when you have specific numbers to work with.
  • Finalize it – Top off the whole process by turning all of your information into a checklist, you can even put the dates you’ll be seeing each person to give yourself a little deadline. This way you can mark off the gifts as you go so you don’t forget anything.

It’s Okay To Say No

The holidays may be stressful, especially if you commit to too many gatherings or have unreasonable expectations. When you say yes when you should say no, it merely leads to a flood of overwhelming and resentful feelings. With work and limited vacation time, your schedule is already packed. Don’t try to be in too many places at once since you won’t be able to appreciate your time. You’ll be too preoccupied with getting to the next party or worrying about hosting your own. Take it at your own speed and learn to say no.

 

You can decline invitations to some gatherings in order to spend more quality time with the people you do prefer to visit. Set priorities and stick to your budget. Take the previous checklist and replace the gifts with family members you want to see. Instead of gift pricing, assign trip prices to each one. If you are unable to accommodate everyone, make plans to visit once the holiday rush has subsided. They’ll probably understand, and also appreciate the break from the hustle and bustle. Visiting after the holidays may end up being more of a gift to everyone involved. 

Don’t Overindulge

Consider all of the pastries and snacks you’ll be eating and drinking throughout the holidays! Our eating habits are tested over the holiday season, with dinners, parties, and cookie tables at every turn.  Overindulging can make you feel tired or sluggish. It can also cause you to gain an unhealthy amount of weight, adding to your mental stress. Take a brief walk to get some exercise. Allow yourself time to be active so that you can appreciate all of the delicious treats.  Attempt to maintain a healthy diet. Consuming whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also aid in leveling out your mood.

Make Self-Care A Priority

This is more than just meditation. If you have a fitness routine, don’t let it slip during family visits. Try to go to the gym or perform some home exercises. Sticking to your routines (whether self-care or otherwise) not only gives you a mental lift, but it also establishes an internal norm. You’re going to dedicate your time and energy to people you care about this Christmas season, but don’t lose sight of yourself in the process. Keep your feet on the ground. Make time for activities that make you happy. It could be reading a book, going to the movies, having a massage, listening to music, or walking your dog. It is okay to prioritize alone time when you need to refuel.

mental health tips graphic

Don’t Isolate Yourself

Some people may experience loneliness during the holidays, but if you don’t want to be alone, you don’t have to be. You can join an organization, volunteer at a soup kitchen, attend community events, and meet new people. Volunteering can be a wonderful source of comfort. You can feel less lonely or isolated and more connected to your community by assisting those who are less fortunate. Start a toy or food drive and invite your neighbors, friends, and coworkers.

Be Present

Have a two-week trip planned to see relatives? Take everything one day at a time. This can work even if you are not staying for an extended period of time. One hour, one minute, one second at a time. Simply concentrate on the subject at hand and give it your undivided attention. Don’t be concerned about the rest of it. It is beneficial to employ these bite-size moments during stressful periods. Pay attention in the present moment. If you spend too much time thinking about future occurrences, you will become more stressed in the present.

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Seek Professional Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, speak with your mental health practitioner. They can assist you in identifying particular circumstances that trigger you and develop an action plan to modify them. Keep seeing your therapist if you’re already seeing one. If you’re not already seeing one your health insurance will actually cover some mental health services due to the Mental Health Parity Act. 

 

The Mental Health Parity Act requires insurance companies to handle coverage for mental and behavioral health and drug use problems in the same way that they treat coverage for medical and surgical care. This includes treating them equally in terms of money. For example, an insurance company cannot charge a $40 payment for a mental health professional’s office visit when most medical office visits only require a $20 copay. 

 

In addition, the Affordable Care Act also provides protection for mental health services. Mental health is covered as an essential health benefit in all ACA-compliant plans. As with other medical illnesses, your plan should cover some or all of the cost of mental health care. All ACA-compliant plans must include the following mental health services:

 

  • Outpatient individual or group counseling and therapy
  • Diagnostic services like psychological testing and evaluation
  • Ongoing outpatient treatment such as treatment programs and medication management
  • Outpatient treatment for alcohol or chemical addictions
  • Detox services
  • Substance abuse recovery treatment
  • Inpatient mental healthcare in a psychiatric facility

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Any visit has the potential to cause family turmoil. You want your parents/relatives to have a good time and enjoy your visit, but the holidays may bring a whole new level of stress to the situation. Maintaining excellent relationships with friends and family has surprising health benefits, so these trips are well worth it in the long term. Just keep these pointers in mind, and you should be okay. As for finding health insurance to cover your mental health, consider us Santa’s helpers. A licensed EZ insurance agent can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each plan, while also helping you in developing the plan that is ideal for you. 

 

Working with an agent saves you time and stress because you won’t have to decipher legal language or read fine text. Agents perform all of the heavy lifting, so you can relax knowing that your coverage is tailored to your specific financial and medical needs. Not to mention that EZ agents can save you hundreds of dollars on health insurance rates each year. We accomplish this by being able to search both on and off the market for the most cheap plans.

 

We can also locate and apply any discounts you may be eligible for. Also,we don’t simply provide you a strategy; we also aid you in maintaining it after the fact! We can assist in filing claims with your provider as well as renewing your coverage when the time comes. To get a quote, enter your zip code into the box below or call one of our qualified representatives at 877-670-3557.

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Telehealth Is On The Rise

Telehealth Is On The Rise text overlaying image of a phoneMost of the time, doctors and other health care workers see their patients in person at a place like a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital. However, doctors and nurses can now diagnose, treat, and keep an eye on their patients’ care online. Thanks to computers, smartphones, and other new digital technologies. Using technology, telehealth is a way of providing health care services from a distance. It can be anything from doing medical visits over the computer to keeping an eye on a patient’s vital signs from afar. 

 

The best part is telemedicine isn’t an expensive luxury like some people believe. In fact, according to a study done by The American Medical Association 33.1% of adults living under 100% of the federal poverty level ($14,580 per year) have used telehealth in the last year. So why is telehealth so popular and how does it benefit you? We’re glad you asked. Telehealth has a lot of treatment uses and benefits that virtually anyone can enjoy.

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Telehealth Treatment

It may seem like a virtual treatment couldn’t be as thorough as an in-person appointment. While to an extent that’s true. Unless you need something like a shot or emergency care, a virtual appointment can do everything an in-person one can. All of the following things and services are possible with telehealth:

 

  • Recording vitals – You can send your weight, food intake, blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels to your doctor either manually with at home equipment or a wearable monitor. 
  • Check test results – Telehealth isn’t just about appointments. You can also check your test results and prescription refills using the online portal. The online portal can also let you message your doctor directly or even schedule an appointment.
  • Coordinating care – You can share information like your test results, diagnoses, medications and exam notes between your PCP and any specialists you see. Right from the comfort of your own home.
  • Reminders – Telehealth includes being able to receive emails or texts as reminders for appointments, tests, or procedures.

Advantages Of Telehealth

Using technology to provide health care has many benefits. Such as saving money, being more convenient, and being able to help people who have trouble getting around or who live in distant areas without a nearby doctor or clinic. Because of these things, the use of telemedicine has grown significantly in the last ten years. Now, 76 percent of hospitals in the U.S. use telehealth to connect doctors and patients directly. Ten years ago, only 35 percent of hospitals did this.

 

During the COVID-19 virus outbreak, telehealth became even more important. People are more interested in and use technology to give and receive health care because they are afraid of sharing and getting the virus during in-person doctor visits. Other benefits include:

Improved access to providers

Most doctors who work in rural areas are family doctors or general practitioners. This means that they might not have access to or knowledge of more specialized kinds of medicine that rural patients need. Telehealth can help in this situation. Telemedicine software lets healthcare groups give patients in rural areas care that is more specialized. Or more up-to-date than they might otherwise be able to get. Patients are more likely to go to the doctor, now that it is easier for them since they can see providers without leaving their homes.

Flexibility

The main way that telehealth makes things better for patients is by making things easier for them. We all know that going to the doctor can be a pain. Taking time off work to drive 20–30 minutes to the doctor’s office, then sitting in the waiting room for another 20–30 minutes, having a short visit, and then driving home again is a lot of time. This makes people less likely to come in to see their healthcare provider. Telehealth cuts out almost all of that time and reduces it to a scheduled meeting that can be taken anywhere with a smartphone. It’s so much easier for patients, especially for appointments or checkups that don’t involve a physical test.

Improved patient health

Patients are much more likely to make arrangements for regular checkups and preventive care because telehealth makes it easy for them to do so. You might not think it’s worth the trouble to make an in-person meeting for something you think is small, but you could make a telehealth appointment instead. This means that you are living a healthier life generally and keeping an eye on how your health is going. Telehealth also has a lot of benefits for people who have long-term illnesses and have to follow a strict care plan. Routine checkups are much easier to do without having to go to the doctor’s office.

 

Remote patient monitoring and other more advanced types of virtual care can help you with chronic conditions even more by keeping track of important health data in real time so that problems can be caught as soon as they happen. Remote patient monitoring tools, such as blood pressure cuffs, smart blood glucose monitors, and heart rate monitors, can help telehealth and telemedicine appointments be more effective and improve your general health.

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Disadvantages

Telehealth makes it easy and cheap to see your doctor without leaving your house, but it does have a few drawbacks. Not every kind of visit can be done from afar. You still have to go to the office for things like imaging tests, blood work, and treatments that need a more hands-on approach. Cost is another slight downside. During the COVID-19 outbreak, insurance companies are paying for more and more telehealth visits. However, some services may not be fully covered, so you may have to pay for them yourself. Additionally, telehealth requires telecommunications equipment to function properly. However, in order to gain the benefits of telehealth, many patients must have access to laptops, mobile phones, and tablets.

 

People in remote locations suffer with limited internet bandwidth and unpredictable connectivity. To function efficiently and without latency, video conferencing requires high internet rates. Accessing telehealth services may be challenging if you do not have a constant, stable connection.

Is Telehealth Covered By Insurance?

Telehealth services are starting to be covered by some private insurance companies, but telehealth coverage is very different from one state to the next. This is because each state has its own way of defining telehealth and paying for it. Since insurance plans vary, it’s important to check with your insurance company or the billing department of your health care provider for the most up-to-date information on how telehealth services are covered.

Preparing For A Telehealth Appointment

If you are fortunate enough to have access to the necessary equipment and internet, preparing for a telehealth appointment is fairly easy. Although, some people may find it hard to switch from in-person to online meetings, especially if they aren’t used to the technology. By taking a few steps before your appointment to prepare, you can make sure your visit goes smoothly.

1.Add it to your calendar.

Add your meeting to your calendar so you don’t forget once it’s set.

2.Use the best camera.

This can be connected to your phone, laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. If you can give your doctor a clear picture of what’s going on, he or she will be better able to understand what’s going on and help you.

3.Test your camera and microphone.

Practice with a family member or friend before your online visit with your doctor to make sure you know how to use your camera and microphone. Most devices have microphones and speakers built in, but you may need to turn them on or allow the telehealth app or website to use them. Using headphones or earbuds may make it easier for you to hear your doctor and for your doctor to hear you, but you should try them out first to see what works best.

4.Check your internet connection.

If you aren’t using Wi-Fi, try using a wired connection to your router with an ethernet cable to get the best signal. If you are using Wi-Fi, you can improve your link by being close to the internet router and having as few devices as possible connected to it.

5.Charge the device.

If you’re using a phone, laptop, or tablet that doesn’t have a cord, make sure the battery is charged enough to get you through your meeting. Try to charge it the night before your meeting.

6.Find a good spot.

Try to keep your area as clear as possible. Try to go somewhere with good lighting so that your doctor can see you well. Put your device on a stable surface so you can move around if you need to. Try moving your device so that the camera can see your head and shoulders.

7.Write down questions

If you are ready for your visit, you and your doctor will be able to talk about everything you need to. So, write out your questions or concerns and any symptoms you want to remember to bring up.

Working With EZ

This is just the beginning of how healthcare will change in the future, and many companies want to be a part of telemedicine so that more people will go to the doctor and hopefully catch a problem before it gets worse. The first thing you need to do is find the right health insurance that covers telehealth. No one likes to spend hours reading about different plan perks and costs. So, why not let a professional do all the hard work for free? There is a way to get cheap health insurance without having to go through a lot of trouble. A qualified EZ insurance agent can explain what each plan’s pros and cons are, and help you come up with the plan that works best for you. 

 

Not to mention that EZ agents can save you hundreds of dollars a year on your health insurance bills. We do this by being able to look for the cheapest rates both on and off the market. We can also find and use any savings you might be able to get. Your agent won’t just help you find a plan, though. We also help you keep it up to date. We can help you make claims with your insurance company and help you renew your policy when it’s time. To get started, just type your zip code into the box below or call 877-670-3557 to talk to one of our certified agents.

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Why Annual Physicals Are So Important

Why Annual Physicals Are So Important text overlaying image of a nurse in an exam roomMany people do not see the importance in scheduling an annual physical, especially if they’re in good health. However, regular exams are essential to your continued health no matter what age you are. These exams allow your doctors to monitor your health, make necessary adjustments to your medications, and prevent serious health conditions from developing or worsening. Annual exams don’t only help you get healthy but they can also save your life. 

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What To Expect From Your Annual Physical

An annual physical is a general checkup that looks at your health as a whole. Your PCP will look at your medical history as well as your vital signs such as your heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure. During the visit your doctor will also give you a full physical check. Depending on how old you are and how healthy, your doctor may order more tests. These could include things like cholesterol and blood sugar tests from a lab. It may also include ultrasound tests to check for breast cancer, lung cancer and osteoporosis.

 

Your doctor will be able to look for common problems that come with aging and make treatment plans if needed. During your physical exam you can also talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you can make to be healthier. Such as advice on nutrition and exercise. There are several essential reasons to use your yearly physical exam. 

Establishing Your Health Baseline

One of the more important things about getting regular physicals is that you and your doctor can learn more about your current health and spot any risks early on. Over time your doctor will check and monitor each of your vitals at each visit. This establishes your health baseline letting your doctor become familiar with what your body’s “normal” is. It helps your doctor know you and your body so they can spot any unhealthy trends early. They will keep an eye out for any significant changes to your health so they can treat it immediately. 

Updating Your Vaccines

Vaccines are not just something that kids need. Adults also need to make sure they’re up to date on them as well. Your doctor will keep track of these vaccines at your physical exam and let you know when it’s time to update them:

 

  • Covid-19 vaccine and boosters This vaccine helps people from getting sick or dying from COVID. Everyone age 5 and up should get the vaccine as well as the booster shots as they become available. 
  • TDAP vaccine – The TDAP vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (whooping cough). This is a shot you get as a kid but adults need a repeat shot every so often. And pregnant women need this shot every pregnancy. 
  • Flu shot – Flu shots are recommended every year from the time you turn 6 months old. 
  • HPV vaccine Cancers caused by the human papillomavirus are stopped by the HPV vaccine. In the past few years, the advice that girls and boys ages 11 to 12 get an HPV shot hasn’t changed. But the CDC now says that all women and men up to age 26 should get a catch-up HPV shot. Adults between the ages of 27 and 45 who haven’t gotten the vaccine before might also benefit from a “catch-up” shot.
  • Pneumonia vaccine – If you have asthma, smoke, or are over 65, your primary care doctor (PCP) may suggest the pneumonia vaccine to keep you from getting a lung illness. 
  • Shingles vaccine – Almost anyone 50 and older is encouraged to get the shingles vaccine every 5 years.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine – If you have diabetes or another disease that affects your immune system, work in the healthcare field, or live in a group setting like a nursing home, your doctor may suggest that you get the hepatitis B vaccine.

Medication Management.

Any medication that you take every day can sometimes need to be adjusted. This can happen due to your body building an immunity to the medication or your health declining. Your doctor will look over your medications at your annual physical as well as consider any new symptoms you’ve discussed during the visit to decide if they need to increase, stop, or add medications to your treatment plan. They will also monitor to make sure you never take 2 medications that will negatively affect each other. 

Updating Medical Records

Your medical records aren’t just paperwork. These records keep an in-depth record of your health history so that it’s easy to compare your current health to the past to help identify health trends. Your Medical records include things like:

 

  • History of medication changes
  • Allergies
  • Vaccines
  • Family health history
  • Past surgeries
  • Treatment plans
  • Test results
  • Weight loss/gain trends
  • Current health conditions

These records also come in handy if you switch doctors or need to see a specialist, your new doctor will have all the information they need to treat you properly. Medical records are also extremely important in an emergency situation. If you’re unable to speak, your records can help emergency room doctors and surgeons treat you accurately and quickly without accidentally making any health conditions worse. Such as giving you a medicine you are allergic to or that will react badly with current medications. As well as let them know any existing conditions that they might need to be aware of during an emergency surgery.

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Building Trust With Your Doctor

Your PCP is your partner in health care. An annual physical check is a great way to get to know your PCP and let your provider get to know you. This one-on-one time with your doctor is a great way to connect and build trust with your doctor. Even if you see your primary care provider for minor illnesses and injuries at other times of the year, these “sick-care” visits are generally about treating specific problems.

 

During your yearly physical, your health as a whole and the preventive care you need to stay healthy are the main concerns. In addition to learning more about you and how you live, your PCP will give you plenty of time to talk about any worries or questions you may have about medications, treatment plans, or other health problems. The American healthcare system can be complicated, so having a doctor you trust to guide you through it is invaluable.

Saving Money

Some people say that getting a checkup once a year is a waste of money, however getting a checkup once a year at the office of your general care doctor can save you money in the long run. Getting a physical once a year can help keep medical costs down in the future. If your doctor finds a disease or sickness before you feel sick, it will cost less to treat you than if you wait until you feel sick. It’s easier and cheaper to stop a problem from happening than to fix it afterward. Early diagnosis is important for both your health and your bank account. When you make an appointment for your yearly physical, you’re making a cost-effective choice.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Physical Exam

If you only see your doctor once a year, make the most of it by knowing your family’s medical background and telling your doctor about it. Tell your doctor if someone in your family has been told they have a sickness or cancer. Also, bring a list or a bag with you that has all of the medicines and vitamins you take. This will help your doctor check for possible drug combinations and make sure you are taking the right amount of each drug. Don’t be afraid to talk about changes in your health, even if you think they are small. Some examples would be changes in how you sleep, what you eat, or how you feel. Don’t just worry about your physical health and forget about your mental health.

Getting Health Insurance

Preventative care is a “freebie” built into almost all health plans. Meaning these yearly exams are often free with the right health insurance. A qualified EZ insurance agent can explain what each health plan’s pros and cons are. And help you come up with the plan that works best for you. Working with an agent saves you time and stress because you don’t have to try to figure out legal jargon or read small print. Agents do all the hard work, so you can relax knowing that your coverage will meet your financial and medical needs the best. 

 

Not to mention that EZ agents can save you hundreds of dollars a year on your health insurance bills. We do this by being able to look for the cheapest rates both on and off the market. Our agents can also find and use any savings you might be able to get. We don’t just help you find a plan, though, we also help you keep it up to date. We can help you make claims with your insurance company and help you renew your policy when it’s time. To get started, just type your zip code into the box below or call 877-670-3557 to talk to one of our certified agents.

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Why Is Oral Hygiene So Important?

Oral hygiene is actually considered preventative care, just like annual physicals and routine blood work. If you take good care of your teeth and gums, you can stop dental health problems like cavities, gum disease, and even bad breath. Not to mention it helps stop other health issues as well. Oral health is also related to your entire body’s health. For example, if you have an infection in your mouth, the bacteria can actually travel through your bloodstream to other parts of your body. This bacteria can lead to heart disease and strokes. So, taking care of your mouth is an important part of staying healthy in general. Below we’ll look closer at how healthy mouths mean healthy bodies, as well as tips on how to take care of your teeth between dentist visits.

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Reduce Risk Of Disease

When we talk about our overall health, we don’t usually think about our teeth and gums. But we really should! Taking care of your mouth can make you less likely to get sick. Research shows that gingivitis or periodontitis (forms of gum disease) can lead to a number of health problems.

Cardiovascular Diseaseanatomical heart

Healthy gums are one way to lower your risk of heart disease. Periodontal disease is a direct cause of inflammation in your arteries. When the bacteria from your mouth gets into your bloodstream, it causes the arteries to harden. In turn, this increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. Bad oral health is also linked to high blood pressure and dense LDL cholesterol, which raises the risk of heart disease even more.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Bad oral hygiene will inevitably lead to inflamed gums. When oral bacteria travels to the brain, it can actually kill your brain cells! This leads to memory loss. It’s currently estimated that around 40 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s or dementia worldwide. A pathogenic oral bacteria called spirochetes has been studied as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease. This is because significantly more spirochetes bacteria are found in Alzheimer’s patient’s brains than those without Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 37.3 million Americans currently have diabetes, with many more unaware that they even have it. Periodontal diseases can increase the risk of developing or worsening diabetes. This is because periodontal disease makes it difficult for your body to regulate your blood sugar. Just like periodontal disease can cause or worsen diabetes, diabetes can also cause periodontal disease. If you have diabetes it can increase your risk of dental problems that can then offset other health problems. This is because Diabetes increases the risk of infection. In fact 95% of diabetic adults also suffer from periodontal disease.

High-Risk Pregnancy

Researchers have discovered a direct link between gum disease in pregnant women and low birth weight and preterm labors. Premature or low weight infants are susceptible to brain injuries, as well as vision and eyesight problems. Just like with diabetes not only can gum disease cause issues with your pregnancy, your pregnancy can cause issues with your teeth and gums. So it’s important to take close care of your teeth if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. These issues include:

 

  • Gingivitis – This is more likely to happen during your second trimester. Symptoms include gum swelling and bleeding, specifically when brushing and flossing your teeth.
  • Periodontal disease – This is an infection of the structures that support your teeth (gums, ligament, and bones). It happens as a result of untreated gingivitis and can lead to losing your teeth.
  • Pregnancy Epulis – This is a red, round growth around your gums that can easily begin to bleed.
  • Tooth Decay – Your pregnancy hormones relax the ring that holds your food inside your stomach. If you suffer from gastric reflux or vomiting from morning sickness, your stomach acids can coat your teeth. Repeated vomiting and reflux can damage your tooth enamel and increase the risk of tooth decay.

 

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Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Teeth grinding is one of the first signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Grinding your teeth can lead to tooth decay and inflamed gums, increasing your risk of infection. Sleep apnea is also directly linked with hypertension, heart disease, and headaches.

Respiratory Issues

When oral bacteria is inhaled into your lungs or absorbed in your bloodstream it can cause some serious respiratory problems. Bacteria can cause respiratory infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, COPD, and lung disease once it’s in your lungs.

Cancer

Cancer is another issue related to oral health. Researchers have discovered that periodontitis can contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer. The bacteria that cause periodontitis can be dangerous, as they damage the tissue surrounding the teeth. Adults with poor oral health were more likely to contract an oral virus that can cause human papillomavirus (HPV), which can also cause cancer. Periodontal disease can also cause lung and blood cancer.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease, as we know poor oral hygiene can lead to periodontal disease which causes inflammation in the mouth that eventually spreads to the rest of the body. John Hopkins investigated the link between poor oral health and rheumatoid arthritis. The inflammatory response of joints in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients is comparable to the inflammatory response of a patient’s mouth with Periodontal disease.

Osteoporosis 

If periodontal disease gets bad enough, the inflammation and infection can cause a loss of bone tissue. Studies reveal that periodontal disease affects all of the body’s bones, not just the jawbone and teeth. Both osteoporosis and periodontal disease are associated with estrogen deficiency, low mineral bone density, and low vitamin D levels according to the research.

Erectile Dysfunction

Poor oral health can even affect your sex life! Periodontal disease creates infection-prone pockets in your mouth. With the presence of bacteria and infection in your bloodstream, your blood vessels can become inflamed and block blood flow to your genitals. In fact, men with periodontal disease are three times more likely to experience erectile dysfunction than men with healthy mouths. 

Signs of Poor Oral Hygiene 

Poor oral hygiene manifests itself in a variety of ways. Including bleeding, swollen gums, toothaches, and abnormal growths. Here are some of the most common indicators that you aren’t brushing or flossing properly.

Tooth Pain

If you have tooth pain, the last thing you want to do is ignore it. Even if you immediately start brushing and flossing more, it’s likely that the pain will continue. Tooth pain is frequently the result of serious tooth decay. Once the decay reaches the tooth the only way to stop it is with a dentist’s help. Tooth pain can also be a sign of:

 

 

  • Chipped, broken, or fractured tooth
  • Ill fitting crowns
  • Abscess
  • Infection

All of which can begin to cause other dental and overall health problems.

Bleeding/Swollen Gums

Bleeding, swelling, and color changes in your gums are all indications of poor oral hygiene. There may be an underlying problem with your gum health. If you’re in the beginning stages of gum disease, only a dentist can find out for sure. Treating your gums will prevent the disease from spreading to the point that your gums recede and your teeth begin to fall out.

Changes In Your Tongue

Changes in the texture or color of the tongue indicate either poor oral hygiene or deteriorating oral health. Every single night, you must thoroughly brush your tongue. If you dread cleaning your tongue due to the gag reflex, use a tongue scraper instead. If you notice changes in your tongue after your nightly brushings, consult your dentist.

Growths

Some patients experience oral growths along their gums. Others don’t notice them until a dentist points them out. Finding and treating abnormal growths is very important. These growths can easily lead to oral cancer.

Bad Breath

Nobody enjoys bad breath. While you can try to use gum or mints to mask it, taking care of your teeth is the best way to prevent it. When you don’t brush or floss properly food particles can get stuck in your mouth and create the odor. Even when not eating, a sticky film of bacteria called plaque will begin to form on your teeth which will also cause bad breath. This plaque will irritate your gums and ultimately lead to tooth decay.

Improving Your Dental Health

After all of that, you’re sure to want to start taking better care of your mouth and you can start immediately.

 

  • Brush your teeth 2x a day – Brush with fluoride toothpaste and a soft bristled toothbrush. This helps remove plaque and bacteria from your gum line. Make sure to brush every surface of your teeth including the backs and sides.
  • Floss 1x a day – Brushing alone won’t reach all of the spaces between your teeth. To get to those areas you’ll want to take about an 18 inch piece of floss, wrap it around your middle fingers and use your thumb and forefingers to slide the floss between each tooth.
  • Brush your tongue – Your tongue essentially acts like a sponge for bacteria. When you brush your teeth you’ll want to brush your tongue as well. Using either a toothbrush or tongue scraper.
  • Use mouthwash daily – Antibacterial mouthwash will stop harmful bacteria from growing. It also helps get rid of food and plaque that is stuck to your teeth.
  • Quit smoking – Tobacco use is the leading cause of periodontal disease and oral cancer. These products are best avoided altogether. If you currently smoke and wish to quit, consult your healthcare provider about available treatment options.
  • Visit your dentist regularly – Exams and cleanings of the teeth on a regular basis are essential for good oral health. Many patients benefit from six-month visits. However, if you are prone to cavities, gum disease, or other oral health issues, you may need to visit your dentist more frequently.

Working With EZ

Dental insurance may not always appear to be necessary. However, it is, because dental health can impact overall health. Gum disease, if left untreated, can lead to heart problems, strokes, and respiratory issues. Having dental insurance will allow you to maintain a healthy mouth and body without worrying about costly medical bills. To begin searching for dental insurance, please enter your zip code below or call one of our licensed agents at 877-670-3557.

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Cost Sharing Reductions: Do You Qualify?

Cost Sharing Reductions: Do You Qualify? text overlaying image of a money sack with an arrow pointing downA cost-sharing reduction is a discount that reduces your deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. They help reduce your out-of-pocket health care costs. Individuals qualify for health insurance coverage through the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace. Approved individuals receive discounts to assist with their deductibles, copayments (copays), and coinsurance, and to reduce their maximum out-of-pocket expenses for covered medical expenses.

 

Whether you qualify for these discounts depends on the size of your household and your income. As well as the plan you choose, since the only plans that have cost-sharing reductions are Silver plans. Your eligibility is determined when you enroll in your health plan.

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How Cost-Sharing Reductions Work

Cost-sharing reductions reduce the amount of out-of-pocket expenses that you’re responsible for, thus making your insurance more affordable. Under Obamacare, anyone who qualifies for these discounts will have altogether lower out-of-pocket expenses when they apply for a Silver plan on the Marketplace. Any copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles associated with the plan you choose will decrease. They also increase the actuarial value of the plan.

 

We’ve given examples of these discounts below. However, it is important to note that the amounts below are just to show you how they work. The actual costs and discount will vary depending on the plan you choose and your income. Keep in mind that there is a large variety of deductibles, copay, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums across all plan categories.

Lower Deductible

A lower deductible means that your insurance company will begin to pay its portion of your medical expenses much sooner. For instance, if you choose a Silver plan with a $750 deductible. You are responsible for the first $750 of medical expenses. Once you’ve met the deductible your plan begins paying its portion. However, if you qualify for a cost-sharing reduction, that $750 deductible could turn into a $300-$500 deductible.

Lower Copays or Coinsurance

Copayments are the payments you make each time you receive care. Such as $30 for a doctor’s appointment. If your copay under your Silver plan is $30 and you qualify for the discount then you may end up only having to pay $15 instead.

Lower Out-Of-Pocket Maximum

An Out-of-pocket maximum is the total amount you would have to pay in a year for healthcare. With a cost-sharing reduction your plan’s out-of-pocket maximum could go from $5,000 to $3,000. Meaning you’ll effectively have much less to pay per year.

Silver Loading

Historically, the federal government reimbursed health insurance companies directly for cost-sharing reductions. This ended in the fall of 2017, but eligible enrollees have continued to receive cost-sharing subsidies.

 

Most insurers simply add the cost of cost-sharing reductions to Silver plan premiums to cover the expense. This strategy, known as “Silver loading,” results in larger premium subsidies for everyone in the area, as premium subsidies are based on the cost of the second-least expensive Silver plan in each area.

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Cost-Sharing Tiers

The Silver Plan standard covers 70% of your out-of-pocket expenses. If you are eligible for cost-sharing reduction, you may be eligible for the Silver 73, Silver 87, or Silver 94 plan. The Silver 73 plan covers 73% of your out-of-pocket expenses, 3 percent more than the standard Silver plan. However, if you qualify for a Silver 87 or Silver 94, you will receive coverage for 87% or 94% of your out-of-pocket expenses, which is 17% or 24% more than the standard Silver Plan. Rarely would it make sense for cost-sharing reduction-eligible individuals to purchase the Gold Plan. If you are eligible for the Silver 87 or 94 plan but choose the Gold plan, you will pay higher premiums for fewer benefits. The Silver 94 plan is superior to the Platinum plan, which covers 90% of out-of-pocket expenses.

Who Qualifies For Cost-Sharing Reductions?

Cost-sharing reductions are available to eligible Marketplace enrollees who select Silver plans. Your household income needs to be below 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL). In states that did not expand their Medicaid, the lower income threshold is 100% of the poverty level, while in states with expanded Medicaid the lower income threshold is at 138% of the FPL. If your income is low enough to qualify for Medicaid you will not be eligible for a cost-sharing reduction. Additionally you must be a citizen or an immigrant who has lived here legally for at least 5 years.

Native American Cost-Sharing Reductions

Cost-sharing reductions work a little differently for Native Americans. Members of federally recognized Indian tribes receive an additional set of cost-sharing advantages. As long as their household income is less than 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit, these households qualify for zero cost-sharing plans. These plans have no copayments, deductibles, or coinsurance when receiving care from an Indian healthcare provider or any of the Marketplace’s essential health benefits.

What Is An Actuarial Value (AV)?

The AV of a plan is the average percentage of total healthcare costs that the plan will cover. A consumer enrolled in a Silver plan with a 70% AV would be responsible for paying an average of 30% of their actual healthcare costs, with the insurer covering the remaining 70%. Since these actuarial values are based on the average number of enrollees, the actual percentages for each household will vary considerably based on their total healthcare costs. In general, the lower your expected healthcare costs, the lower the AV value, as you are responsible for the deductibles prior to the insurer picking up the tab.

How To Apply For a Cost-Sharing Reduction

If you are eligible when you apply for a Silver plan you are automatically enrolled with the cost-sharing reductions built into your plan. Therefore, the lower out-of-pocket maximum and higher actuarial value are automatic as long as you choose a Silver plan. You will only see Silver plans with the cost-sharing reductions built in if you are eligible for them. If you have a higher income you will only be shown standard Silver plans. 

 

If I’m Eligible for a Cost-Sharing Reduction, Is A Silver Plan Best For Me?

There is no correct or incorrect response. A person earning 240% of the poverty level and a person earning 140% of the poverty level are both eligible for cost-sharing reductions benefits, but they will receive vastly different benefits. If your income falls within the range where the plan’s AV will only be increased to 73%, it may be prudent to enroll in a less expensive Bronze plan, saving money on premiums (or even getting a plan for free) in exchange for slightly higher out-of-pocket costs.

 

Depending on your income and location, it is also possible for you to qualify for a Gold plan with no premium. You would need to compare this carefully with the available Silver plans and their built-in cost-sharing reductions benefits, taking premium differences into account.

 

But if your income is on the lower end and you’re eligible for strong cost-sharing reductions benefits (i.e., your income is under 200% of the poverty level), you should strongly consider the Silver plans that are available to you, even if there are free Bronze plans available as well (if your income is under 150% of the poverty level, you’ll also be eligible for premium-free Silver plans with built-in cost-sharing reductions benefits in most states). Consider the amount of out-of-pocket expenses you will incur if you require medical care during the year. It will be significantly higher on the Bronze plan, which could quickly wipe out any savings from the lower monthly premiums.

What If My Income Changes?

If your income changes after enrollment and makes you eligible or ineligible for cost-sharing reductions, you will be able to change your plan during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). However, this option is only available if you were previously enrolled in a Marketplace plan or Medicaid. If you chose to enroll in a health insurance plan outside of the Marketplace, you will not be eligible for a SEP.

If I Don’t Qualify, Are There Other Assistance Options?

Even if you do not qualify for cost-sharing reductions, you may still be eligible for premium tax credits to assist with your health insurance costs. Premium tax credits are a type of subsidy that reduces your monthly premium payments and are available to those with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. This means that if you qualify for cost-sharing reductions, you will likely also be eligible for premium tax credits and be able to reduce your health insurance costs further.

Working With EZ

If you qualify for a cost-sharing reduction, the amount of money you will save is determined by your specific income estimate. The lower your income, the greater your savings. Once you speak with an EZ.Insure agent, they will determine if you qualify for additional discounts. As well as guide you in the right direction. Our highly trained and knowledgeable agents will assist you in shopping, comparing, and enrolling in the best plan for you or your family. We guarantee to help you save money without requiring you to deal with multiple agents and companies. We simplify the process for you. Enter your zip code below to receive free instant quotes, or call 877-670-3557.

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Is A Short-Term Health Plan Right For You?

is a short-term health insurance plan right for you? text overlaying image of a clock on a yellow backgroundIf you’ve missed the health insurance Open Enrollment Period (OEP), or if you have had a sudden lapse in your insurance coverage, you might be stressing over how to get covered. But don’t worry, you still have options! One of your best options will be a short-term health insurance plan. These plans tend to be less expensive than traditional health insurance because they provide very limited coverage, and so they are usually meant as a stopgap for generally healthy people. So, what do these plans cover (and what don’t they cover), and what are the specific rules surrounding them? 

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What Short Term Plans Cover

Compared to traditional health insurance plans, which typically include a comprehensive range of benefits, short-term health insurance plans offer significantly less coverage. In fact, they are not required to provide coverage for the “10 essential health benefits” that traditional ACA-approved plans are required to cover.

That means short term health plans are not required to provide coverage for:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Medications
  • Maternity care
  • Mental health
  • Substance abuse treatment

But, with that being said, short term health plans are better than nothing, and generally provide coverage for: 

  • Hospitalizations
  • Outpatient surgeries
  • Emergency room and urgent care visits
  • Doctor visits
  • Prescription drugs

The Cost of Short-Term Plans

What you can expect to pay for a short-term health plan will be determined by the specific plan that you choose, as it would be with any other type of insurance. You will be responsible for paying a monthly premium, in addition to:

  • Deductibles As with other types of insurance, with a short-term plan, you pay for services out-of-pocket until your deductible is met. After that, your plan will start to split costs. Short-term health plans can have deductibles that are much higher than those of other, more traditional health plans. 
  • Coinsurance – After you’ve met your deductible, your plan will cover your medical expenses in part, but you will also have to pay a percentage, known as coinsurance. For example, you might have to pay 30% of each covered medical expense, while your plan covers 70%. 
  • Copays – This is a set fee that you may have to pay when you use a medical service. For example, you might have to pay $20 at the point of service when you go to the doctor.
  • Other expenses – If there are health care services that your short-term plan doesn’t cover, you might have to pay for them completely out-of-pocket. For instance, some short-term plans might not cover or only cover a certain amount of maternity care, mental health or substance use services, vision care, or dental care. If you need these services, you’d have to pay for them yourself.

One good thing about the costs of these plans is that their monthly premiums are typically much more affordable than the premiums for plans offered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With that being said, the reason that they are sold at a lower price is because most of the time, these plans don’t cover much, and only a portion of the monthly premium actually winds up being applied toward the cost of actual medical care.

Short Term Plans State-by-State

When it comes to the rules surrounding short term plans, every state is different. In fact, some states don’t even allow residents to buy these plans, but most allow a limited length of time to have one of these plans. 

The following states allow you to have coverage with a short-term plan for 364 days, and allow you to renew up to 3 times for a total of 3 years of short-term coverage:

The next set of states allow for coverage from short term plans to last between 1 and 3 years:

  • Kansas 365 days for your initial plan and 1 renewal, giving you a total of 24 months.
  • Maine364 days for the initial plan, with 1 renewal for a total of 24 months
  • Ohio 364 days, no renewals
  • South Carolina 11 months for the initial plan, plus allows 3 renewals for 33 months in total.
  • Wisconsin364 days, allows for renewal but only for a maximum of 18 months of coverage

If you live in the following states, your initial term with one of these plans can be be up to 6 months:

The next states have an initial term of 3 months:

The last set of states have either banned or no longer offer short term plans due to a change in their laws:

For more in-depth information on your state’s laws surrounding short term insurance, check out our state-by-state guides to health insurance.

Pros and Cons of Short-Term Plans

Short term plans can give you a number of advantages. But you should be aware that there are some drawbacks to this option as well. Knowing both the pros and cons of these plans will help you make an educated decision.

Pros

  • Affordability – The low price of these plans’ premiums is a highly attractive benefit.
  • Quick coverage – Plans usually go into effect within 7-14 days of enrolling.
  • Easy Cancellation – It is possible to terminate short-term insurance plans with little advance notice, particularly if you pay for your plan on a month-to-month basis.

Cons

  • Renewal Limitations – Short term plans do not automatically renew, and the number of times you are allowed to renew them is usually capped.
  • Coverage Limitations – In most cases, a temporary health insurance plan will not include coverage for all ten essential health benefits. 
  • Availability Limitations – Not all states or insurance companies offer short-term plans to their customers.

Qualifying for Short Term Health Insurance

As discussed above, the majority of states permit short-term health plans, but there are a few that do not, and others that place restrictions on how long coverage can be maintained.

But even if your state permits short-term plans, you may still be denied coverage by an insurance company for health reasons. For example, you might be denied a short-term plan if you have a serious preexisting medical condition, or if you’re currently expecting a child. 

In general, you will qualify for short term plans if you:

  • Are young and healthy.
  • Missed the OEP, and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period
  • Are out of work and can’t afford COBRA or an ACA plan and need coverage in the meantime.
  • Are almost eligible for Medicare but do not want to enroll in a full year-long plan.

If you have a pre-existing condition, such as asthma or diabetes, you might want to steer clear of short-term plans even if you can get approved, because your premiums will be significantly more expensive, since these plans are not subject to ACA rules on preexisting conditions. 

 

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How to Buy Short Term Plans

Although you may be able to enroll in a short-term plan in person in some circumstances, the most common method for purchasing short-term health insurance is doing so online. You can also contact an insurance company that specializes in selling short-term plans directly.

Because of the state regulations surrounding short term health plans, and because these plans are offered by both national and regional companies, their availability is highly dependent on the state you live in. National companies sell short term health plans in multiple states, and regional companies have more localized service areas, so you’ll need to shop around. Speak to an EZ agent about what companies in your area offer the best short-term health plans.

FAQs

  • Will my doctor accept short term health insurance?

It depends on the plan. Some plans require you to stay in their network of doctors, with other plans, you can choose your own doctor and hospital without being subject to any restrictions. With that being said, in this case, there may still be financial incentives for using in-network providers. 

  • Are pre-existing conditions covered?

When you apply for a short-term health plan, you’ll have to answer a short list of questions about your health, including about preexisting conditions. There’s a chance you will be denied coverage if you have certain preexisting conditions, and even if you are considered eligible for coverage, your plan will most likely not provide coverage for treatment of your preexisting condition. 

So, when applying for one of these plans, examine the policy’s wording thoroughly. It’s common practice for short-term plans to use post-claims underwriting, which means that they’ll take your word for it about your health when you sign up, but can check your records after you’ve filed a claim to make sure you weren’t lying about any preexisting conditions.

  • Is losing my short-term coverage considered a qualifying life event?

Since short term health plans are not ACA-approved plans that provide minimum essential coverage, losing such a policy does not warrant a Special Enrollment Period that will allow you to shop for an ACA-compliant plan outside of Open Enrollment.

So, is a Short Term Plan the Best Option?

The purpose of short-term health plans is to provide healthy people with temporary, limited protection. Therefore, those who have ongoing medical needs or who have a history of illness should avoid short term health plans. If you’ve lost your coverage, and are in-between plans and looking to cut costs, short term health coverage is the way to go. But before you make a purchase, you should think carefully about whether or not it will meet your needs.

You can get information on short term health plans by contacting EZ.Insure and speaking with a licensed agent. We’ll go over all the details with you and help you figure out if one of these plans is right for you. And if it turns out a short-term health plan isn’t the best option for you, we’ll find you something that fits your budget and your health status. Get an instant quote by entering your zip code in the box below, or to speak to an agent directly, call 877-670-3557.

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