Simple tips to stay healthy this fall

October 7, 2011

The leaves are changing colors, football’s on TV every Sunday, the kids are back in school…  Fall is here!  Check out these low-cost, easy tips on staying healthy in the fall.

  • Layer, layer, layer.  Fall days can be cool or warm, and the weather and temperature can change quickly.  Dressing in easy-to-remove layers can help keep you comfortable in varying fall temperatures.
  • Ward off the flu.  Talk to your doctor about whether a flu shot is right for you.  There are several low-cost, affordable options–you can get one at your doctor’s office or at certain pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens.  Plus, check into whether your employer offers free or reduced-rate flu shots.
  • Eat seasonally.  There are so many yummy fruits and vegetables that are in season in the fall, including broccoli, butternut squash, pear, cauliflower, cranberries, key limes, sweet potatoes, and, of course, a quintessential fall favorite–pumpkin.  Click here to view a full list of seasonal fruits and veggies for fall!
  • Prepare your car, too.  Depending on where you live, you might start to see frost on your car windshield in the morning.  Being a safe driver means you take proper precautions for your vehicle, too.  Start looking now for where you put last year’s ice scraper, de-icing spray, and perhaps even a small snow shovel.  Sure, it may be a bit early to use these things right now–but by putting them in your car now, you’ll know you have them when you do need them.
  • Enjoy outdoor fitness activities.  You can still walk, hike, bike, and jog in fall weather.  It’ll also give you a chance to enjoy the sights and smells of fall like the brightly colored leaves, the smell of someone’s fireplace, the cool, crisp evening air…
  • Wear reflective gear.  Remember that it gets darker earlier, and if you’re outside hiking, biking, jogging or walking, you may not be very visible to people driving cars.  Consider buying some reflective clothing and/or reflectors for your bike so that you can be seen more easily.
  • Try out an indoor fitness activity.  Do you prefer to avoid the cold?  Just because it’s a little chilly doesn’t mean you have to give up on your fitness goals.  Have you been looking for a good excuse to take a spinning class, a yoga class, or kickboxing?  “It’s chilly outside” sounds like a great reason to try a new-to-you indoor fitness activity.  (But remember to check with your doctor first before trying any new method of working out!)
  • Pick out some fresh food.  Many farmer’s markets are open until November or so; go take advantage of the fresh fall produce they offer.  Also, check out fun fall activities like apple picking or going to a pumpkin patch.  Not only are these fun, family-friendly activities, just think of all the culinary opportunities they present!  Homemade applesauce, apple pie, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie…and so many more!

For more tips on dressing, cooking, and working out for fall, check into whether your employer offers a wellness or a health advocacy program as part of your employee benefits.  A wellness program could provide you with advice on nutrition and workouts, while an advocacy service could help you find a doctor or nutritionist for you.  You may also want to check into whether your employer offers subsidized gym memberships or offers any fitness classes on-site that are free or low-cost for employees.


PHA Case Study – Unreasonable balance for a surgery bill

June 24, 2011

Situation 

Sharon had emergency surgery at an in-network facility, but was left with a large out-of-network balance on her bill because the on-call surgeon who performed the procedure was not in her plan’s network. Although the claim was already paid by her insurance company at the highest plan benefit level (90 percent of allowable). Sharon was still left with a $4,230 balance. Her Personal Health Advocate negotiated with the doctor to lower her payment to $2,000 and saved Sharon $2,230.

What The Healthcare Survival Guide Says

Step up and negotiate with your doctor or hospital to get a discount on your claims – 61 percent of patients who asked for a discount form their doctors got one (pg. 36). In some cases, hospitals offer a significant dollar or percentage discount if you pay cash (pg. 43). Keep track of the hospital care you receive; make a list of all your procedures, tests, medications and supplies. This will help you when you need to review your bills later. Double-check and question every charge. Overcharges such as being charged for the wrong number of days in the hospital are common (pg. 43).

For more in-depth advice on this topic, check out our blog post on negotiating with your doctor.

If you would like a free copy of The Healthcare Survival Guide: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed and Anyone Else Who Wants to Save Money, you can download it at www.healthcaresurvivalguide.com.


The Challenge of Obesity – Workplace Strategies

June 17, 2011

In addition to playing a role in the development of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions, the toll obesity takes often extends to employers, costing ~$13 billion in medical costs and lost productivity each year. Factors are well documented – imbalanced diets, a lack of exercise, and stress – all contribute to one of the most common health threats in America. Recent studies also suggest that sedentary jobs, where little to no movement is required, are to blame as well. (Story here.)

While the legitimacy of latter has been debated, it would only benefit you and your employees to implement carefully planned wellness strategies. In encouraging a healthier lifestyle, wellness programs can help to reduce disability, absenteeism & lost productivity. It is also obvious, but important, to note that these programs should be aimed at all employees – singling out overweight workers can be discriminatory and stigmatizing. However, the program should address the aforementioned factors that contribute to obesity – diet, physical activity, and stress.

Brought to you by Health Advocate, here is a short-version checklist for workplace strategies to take on the challenge of obesity.

Build a Wellness Team – Enlist employees to participate from each level of your organization. These individuals can serve as ambassadors to the program and increase employee buy-in.

Tailor Activities to Needs – Learn about what lifestyle changes employees need to make and gauge enthusiasm. Which programs would be the most interesting to your employees?

Set Realistic Goals – Emphasis should be placed more on participation than weight loss. However, 10% weight loss is considered to be a significant lifestyle change.

Develop a “Culture of Health” – Provide a variety of options to appeal to the most employees possible. Provide healthier options in the cafeteria and vending machines. Provide de-stressing activities as options, such as Yoga classes after work.

Partner up with the Community – Monitor community wellness events and make employees aware of them. Look for local initiatives, as government and public agencies offer wellness toolkits and grants.

Communicate Effectively – Encourage health through all available mediums – intranet, posters, newsletters, etc. Emphasize the value of health.

Reward Employees – Be creative! Use t-shirts, moderate cash awards, public praise, paid days off, etc. as rewards.

Celebrate Group Success – Celebrate with congratulatory announcements or with healthy-food parties.

Click here to check out our full checklist and many of our other whitepapers on how to manage costs by promoting a mentally and physically healthy work environment for employees.

To stay up-to-date on health news, wellness tips, and cost-saving healthcare advice, you can follow us @HealthSurvival and ”like” our Facebook page here.


PHA Case Study – Contending with Billing Errors During Recovery

June 17, 2011

Situation:

Patricia experienced a “bombardment” of incorrect bills related to the testing and hospital stays she underwent resulting from a brain tumor. Her Personal Health Advocate addressed the billing errors and also helped her find facilities for further testing and treatment covered by her health insurance plan. When she had a subsequent seizure and fractured her forehead in a fall, she was again bombarded with incorrect billing errors. The same Personal Health Advocate was able to help Patricia resubmit the appropriate paperwork and to have the bills corrected for payment. After the situation was settled, Patricia said, “On top of my brain tumor, I was faced with a bombardment of billing errors. They handled the paperwork with compassion and persistence. Thank you, thank you!”

What The Healthcare Survival Guide Says:

Keep a close watch on your medical bills. Compare them against the Explanation of Benefits statement received from your insurance company (pg. 41). To avoid other errors involving your care—such as mix-ups in diagnoses and medications – put together your own personal health record to record your medical history, past procedures, diagnoses, medications, allergies, etc. (pg. 53). It’s just one way, along with free or low-cost prevention measures like regular screenings (pgs. 54-55), to take charge of your health and reduce doctor visits and medications.

If you would like a free copy of The Healthcare Survival Guide: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed and Anyone Else Who Wants to Save Money, you can download it at www.healthcaresurvivalguide.com.


PHA Case Study: Finding Senior Care

June 10, 2011

“You’ve given me peace of mind”

Karen needed assistance finding senior care for her mother. Her mother refused assistance outside of the home. Health Advocate worked with the local Office of Aging to locate weekly in-home care and a supplier of an emergency call-button device worn around the neck for immediately notifying police and other emergency personnel.


SheKnows.com Hosts a Giveaway of The Healthcare Survival Guide

January 28, 2011

From providing tips on health or parenting, to covering the latest beauty trends or entertainment news, SheKnows.com serves as a forum for women to connect and discuss a wide range of interests. They also have a message board where readers are encouraged have discussions with each other, as well as the writers for the website, many of whom are experts and published authors. The website frequently hosts contests and giveaways, providing readers with a chance to win useful prizes, such as workout equipment, strollers, or informative books.

The newest giveaway is The Healthcare Survival Guide: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed and Anyone Else Who Wants to Save Money, the book that brings you this blog. If you find this blog helpful in lowering your medical costs, saving money in general and staying healthy, The Healthcare Survival Guide is a more in-depth version. In other posts, we have discussed ways to save money at the doctor and how to stay on top of your bills, amongst many other things. For a more in-depth look at how to make healthcare affordable, enter here. It’s FREE, you may enter as many times as you would like, and they are giving away three copies! You may enter until February 27.

Good luck!


Find low-cost or free dental services nationwide

January 21, 2011

In today’s economic climate, most people find it hard enough to afford keeping up with their basic medical care, let alone dental care.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Besides the obvious cosmetic benefits of taking care of your teeth, the American Heart Association says that keeping good dental hygiene could reduce your risk of heart disease.

Fortunately, the folks at WorlDental.org have put together an expansive database of free and low-cost dental services throughout the United States. The site features loads of information on clinics, fairs, and other places to get cheap dental care in Minnesota, Northern California, and Indiana; North Carolina, Michigan, and Maryland; Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hamphire; as well as New Jersey and virtually anywhere else in America.  The site is updated continuously, so if you don’t see a clinic or event in your area, check back soon.

Are you having trouble paying for dental care? Would WorlDental be helpful to you? Leave us a comment!