GossMcLain for all your insurance needs

Life and Health

Suddenly Becoming a Caregiver is a Shock

…They cared for you when you were young… but now your parents need your help.

…Your husband managed the bills… but now he’s suffered a stroke and needs your help.

…Your partner was the primary income earner… but now she’s become incapacitated.

You’re now responsible to manage medical visits, deal with creditors, handle insurance issues. You’ve been thrust into a nightmare scenario… are you prepared?

Do you know how money moves in and out of bank accounts each month? Can a doctor lawfully talk with you? Is there a will? Medical power of attorney? What kind of health insurance is available?

If you could find yourself in the role of caregiver, it’s a good practice to talk through potential issues and concerns with your financial adviser. Naturally you’ll need to include those who you could be called upon to care for as well.

These are difficult conversations… but necessary.

  1. Establish an Understanding

It’s important to have conversations with loved ones about what they want should they find themselves incapacitated. What are their desires with regard to finances, healthcare, and long-term treatment. What about in terminal situations?

Having these conversations when people are in full control of their mental faculties is critical…

  1. Simplify

Be prepared to automate as much as possible. Establish systems to take care of regular bills so you can have confidence they are properly paid. Make sure medical appointments (if necessary) are as consistent as possible so they become part of a regular routine. Look for any area where you see complexity and see if there’s a better way…

  1. Track and Document Everything.

Be sure to have duplicates of all important documents… from wills to Medicare and Social Security cards. Watch medicine consumption and pay attention to refills and prescription expiration dates. Find a way to keep track of passwords… LastPass.com is an interesting tool for this purpose.  For keeping copies of documents, scanning and storing them on Google Drive or Dropbox can be helpful. And in a situation like this, it is critical to track expenses.

  1. Pay Attention to Insurance.

Make sure you have the insurance you need well before it is needed. Your financial adviser can help you understand costs, benefits, and what you should expect in long-term situations. Life Insurance, Long Term Care Insurance, Health Insurance… all play a role when you are a caregiver.

  1. Seek Legal Council.

A financial adviser is well equipped to talk with you about finances. But as a caregiver there are legal issues that arise and for these you need the help of an attorney. Achieving clarity about wills, power of attorney documents, and the like can help reduce potential disputes with other family members in the future.

  1. Keep a Medical Log.

Take the time to journal notes. Keep details from medical visits, document health insurance concerns, track doctor’s orders, and keep observations about the medical condition of the individual you are caring for. This ensures that you are not improperly charged for medical care and will help you see objectively if you need additional medical intervention in a long-term care situation.

  1. Don’t Go it Alone.

Get help from friends & family members alike. Become involved in a support group. Understand that the role of Caregiver can be daunting and that it is important to not become isolated in the process.  And remember, we’re here to help you as well.

What’s your long term care strategy?

Living longer is a trend. We’re eating healthier, exercising more, and benefitting from huge improvements in health care. Most will likely live into their 90’s and financial planners are being trained to help clients think about living past 100.

Most folks fail to think that far ahead. Yet studies show that individuals living past 70 will need additional care including home based nursing, assisted living facilities, and possibly nursing homes. In today’s dollars, such expenses can cost up to $7,000 a month.

If you are beginning to think it’s a good idea to start planning, you would be right.

Long-term care (also known as LTC) insurance is the preferred option for individuals that want to be ready for expenses that may come later in life. With a standard LTC policy, the insured pays annual premiums. These can range between $1,000 to $5,000 per year. This provides for financial resources that can be used to address the monthly costs of care in the future.

If one maximizes the benefits of a traditional LTC plan, they can be a great value. However, if the benefits go unused, it can be costly.

Another issue is that in the past, some insurance companies have done a bad job estimating the number of claims they would eventually need to pay. To address this problem, carriers have raised premiums by up to 15% per year. Some insurance companies have given up on offering Long Term Care insurance altogether.

One option to consider is a life insurance policy. With changes in insurance, a life insurance policy can offer you exactly what you need for long-term protection. Your policy can gather cash value, offer a death benefit, offer long-term treatment, as well as terminal health benefits. But should those needs never crop up, it can offer tax-free income once the cash value accumulates fully.

Many folks are surprised to learn how flexible life insurance has become. That’s why it is so important for individuals to talk with their financial advisor to understand their options.

From protecting income to safeguarding your loved ones, there are affordable options that can be tailored to fit your exact needs.

Brief Walks Are a Big Benefit to Workers That Sit All Day

Brief Walks Are a Big Benefit to Workers That Sit All Day

Scientists at the University of Utah have submitted a study to the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. In it they claim that walking 2 minutes per hour of sitting can help workers offset the known bad effects of sitting all day.

The study looked at whether short periods of simple activity (such as standing up) can help workers that sit all day. The scientists also looked at the impact of slightly more intense activity on worker health. These activities included walking and workers tidying their workspace.

There were more than 3,000 individuals involved in the study. They were monitored with technology that calculated the overall strength of their bursts of activity.

The findings are compelling. Researchers found that taking a break from sitting and being active for two minutes was hugely beneficial. This simple act was directly connected to a 33% decrease in the risk of dying.

The study found that activity was the crucial component. Standing wasn’t sufficient to move the numbers. Movement is required to receive a health benefit.

Meanwhile, at the University of Missouri, researchers looked specifically at the value of taking a quick walk and its impact on capillary.

This study was published in the journal Experimental Physiology. Its results show that sitting induced vascular problems in the lower part of the body could be completely reversed with a short 10-minute walk. The key here is the individual could walk at whatever pace felt comfortable to them. Yes, a stroll still offered measurable improvement!

The study also found that walking alone was not sufficient to help the upper body.

What we know for sure is that sitting for extended periods is terrible for one’s health. It’s been proven as a significant contributor to heart problems and diabetes. But these two studies show there may be a simple answer to this problem. Simple changes to how we work and how we take breaks can yield big health benefits. More frequent, shorter breaks that involve some moderate activity are the key. The result of this subtle but important change would be happier, healthier workers that live longer too.

And if your work environment isn’t quite so flexible, you still have options. Take 2 minutes each hour to stand at your desk and perform some form of light activity such as light calisthenics. You may feel silly but your body will thank you. Likewise, use the last break of your day for that 10-minute walk.

You may find that your overall outlook of life and health improves as you take these action steps.

Be sure to reach out to us for other tips on managing risk and creating peace of mind. We have many great ideas and options that we can custom tailor for you!

Best of 2016: Even the Young and Healthy Need Health Insurance

Key Steps for a Healthy Heart

While it’s true that health issues tend to multiply with age, even young people can find themselves in need of a doctor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are unintentional injuries. Other common health risks include smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity—all of which play a role in the development of a variety of life-threatening diseases. For those without health insurance, the costs of emergency treatment in the event of an accident or long-term treatment due to disease can be financially devastating—no matter how old you are at the time. Consider these reasons you need health insurance even if you’re currently young and healthy.

Accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

You don’t have to go skydiving, bungee jumping or mountain climbing to be injured in an accident. Every year, 43 million Americans visit emergency departments as the result of unintentional injuries according to the CDC. In 2014, the leading causes of nonfatal, unintentional injuries included falls, overexertion, motor vehicle collisions, poisoning, bug bites or stings, fires and burns, dog bites and suffocation—most of which could realistically happen in your own home.

Health issues become more difficult to treat if you ignore them.

While an accident may force you to seek medical help, having health insurance also makes it easier to see a doctor about other health concerns before they become major issues. Without coverage, you’re more likely to put off seeking treatment because you’re worried about the associated costs. In fact, a Gallup survey found that 57 percent of uninsured Americans had put of medical treatment because of cost. Unfortunately, failing to address health issues early on can have serious consequences for your long-term health.

If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay a fine.

If you choose not to buy health insurance coverage mandated by law under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), you will have to make an “individual shared responsibility payment” when you file your taxes each year. The government calculates the fee you owe two ways. You’ll have to pay whichever is higher, whether that’s 2.5 percent of your household income or $695 per adult plus $347.50 per child. If you don’t pay the fee, the IRS will withhold it from your future tax refunds.

While the open enrollment period for 2016 ended on January 31, you may still be able to sign up for qualifying healthcare coverage and reduce the penalty you’ll pay with this year’s taxes next April. Special enrollment periods under the ACA are triggered by a number of events including losing your employer-sponsored health coverage, getting married, having a baby, getting divorced, and moving to a new zip code or county.

If you’d like to learn more about special enrollment periods or discuss your health insurance options prior to the open enrollment period for 2017 that will begin on November 1 of this year, we’re here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any health insurance questions or concerns.

Insurance Coverage Linked to Cancer Survival Time

Insurance Coverage Linked to Cancer Survival Time

Two independent studies that looked at two different cancers came to similar stunning conclusions. Individuals with private insurance were found to be diagnosed sooner&live longer as well than those who had Medicaid coverage or those without insurance altogether.

For one study, information was examined from 13,600+ adults diagnosed between 2007 – 2012 as havingglioblastomamultiforme, the single most common kind of malignant brain cancer.

In the other study, researchers reviewed information from 2007 – 2011 where they examined testicular cancer cases of 10,200+ male adults.

The studies relied on information from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER program (Surveillance, Epidemiology, End Results), which tracks cancer cases (incidence & survival) in the United States. Both studies results were released online in the journal Cancer.

Known as a highly aggressive cancer, individuals diagnosed as havingGlioblastomamultiformetypically live a little more than a year past the diagnosis. The five-year rate of survival is less than 5%. On the other hand, testicular cancer reacts well with chemotherapy treatment even if it has actually spread throughout the body. Individuals that get treatment are found to have a 95% survival rate at the 5-year mark.

Again, this is an important point: Patients that had private insurance were found to have better survival rates.

  • For testicular cancer:
    • Uninsured individualshad a 26% increased chance of being found with metastasized cancer and Medicaid patients were 62% more likely to have a metastasized cancer. (Important: the research study clarified that in many states people can get approved for Medicaid once they have a cancer diagnosis thus increasing the percentage of those with Medicaid who were found with the cancer.)
    • Uninsured men had an 88%+likelihood of passing away from the cancer while Medicaid patients were 51% more likely to die from the illness.
  • For glioblastomamultiforme:
    • Both uninsured and Medicaid patients were found to have bigger growths when diagnosed than those with private insurance.
    • Uninsured patients had a 14%+ chance of having a much shorter survival time. Patients on Medicaid saw a 10% increase in the chance of shorter survival times.

Per Dr. Wuyang Yang who is a research study fellow at Johns Hopkins University co-authored the research study, ” We were expecting that the uninsured would do even worse than insured clients, but we didn’t anticipate that Medicaid clients would do significantly worse than [privately insured] patients,” (For more details visit Kaiser Health News http://khn.org/news/studies-link-cancer-patients-survival-time-to-insurance-status/)

We have three recommendations based on these findings:

  • Talk with your insurance agent about life insurance to make certain your loved ones are protected in case the worst happens to you.
  • Be sure you consult with your health care insurance specialist to make certain you have adequate coverage.
  • Always leverage your available health care options when you notice things aren’t quite right in your body… early intervention makes a big difference!

 

Using the Wallet to Healthy Change Stick

Using the Wallet to Healthy Change Stick

You feel like you’ve tried it all to get fit. You wear a device to monitor your sleep and your activity. You have a gym membership. You have an app that tracks what you eat and sends you reminders on ways to live a healthy life… but you still struggle to make healthy changes stick. What to do?

Look at the financial impact of making healthy life changes! It’s true many of us are motivated by money. Our doctors may remind us at each annual wellness visit that we should be doing more, but our wallet can have daily influence over our actions.

For example…

  • What is the real total cost for that smoking habit? By real cost we mean you should look beyond the cost of the habit itself. For example, how much extra are you paying on your health, life, auto, and home insurance premiums because you smoke? (Talk to your independent insurance agent to understand how much you could save by quitting smoking…)
  • What is the real total cost for eating fast food for lunch each day? This includes lost time spent grabbing that food instead of doing some healthy activity. It also includes how much extra time you’ll have to invest working out to burn off those excess calories. And of course, you need to factor in the added food costs versus bringing a healthier lunch from home.

And the financial impact of living a healthier lifestyle isn’t only about the money you’ll save… many employer based health insurance plans make some sort of financial incentive available if you perform certain healthy activities. These incentives can be $1,000 or more each year per family.

Why would someone offer such handsome rewards for trying to live a healthy life? Because studies show that 86% of individuals stick with life changes when they are attached to financial incentives. Go figure!

You can also create negative incentives as well. A group out of Australia called http://promiseorpay.com/ has a nifty concept with this in mind. You promise to make a life change or you’ll donate to a charity. Your friends who are helping you change your life also make a similar promise to pony up if they let you fail. And if you don’t like the charities offered at Promise or Pay, don’t let that get in your way… simply put this in action with any charity you believe in and like supporting. Let a friend be responsible for collecting and keeping the cash safe. If you fail, you’ve made a nice charitable donation.  If you succeed, all your friends get money back. Take your portion and reward yourself or give it to your favorite charity anyway.

The more you can begin to associate financial rewards (and potentially penalties if your bad habits are really stubborn) the more likely you are to create lasting change in your life. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll likely have some extra cash available that you can use to save up for that next vacation!

Six Must-Know Blood Pressure Facts

Six Must-Know Blood Pressure Facts

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects more than 80 million U.S. adults. Though high blood pressure typically has no symptoms, if left untreated it can contribute to heart attacks and stroke, vision problems, dementia and life-altering diseases. Consider the following facts that will help you understand your blood pressure numbers, discover ways to lower them (if necessary), and more.

  1. Your blood pressure will likely increase as you get older.

Though hypertension is not inevitable, most adults begin to see increases insystolic pressure (the upper number in the reading) after they reach 40 because arteries naturally stiffen with age. It’s important to have your blood pressure checked annually even if yours has always been in the normal range and you feel perfectly healthy.

  1. High blood pressure symptoms are rare.

As mentioned earlier, hypertension rarely comes with symptoms, even when blood pressure is dangerously high. Regular check-ups may be your only means of catching it before it damages your system. Blood pressure numbers tend to fall at night and surge in the morning, so having yours checked mid-afternoon should yield the most accurate reading.

  1. Systolic pressure is extremely important after the age of 50.

Systolic pressure measures blood pressure during a heartbeat. Diastolic pressure (the bottom number in the reading) measures blood pressure between heartbeats. The maximum force your arteries and organs experience is equal to your systolic blood pressure, so increases in this number indicate your vital organs and blood vessel linings are at greater risk of damage.

  1. Healthy blood pressure numbers differ.

‘Normal’ blood pressure, according to widely accepted guidelines, is less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. These guidelines define prehypertension as 120-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic, and stage one hypertension as 140-159 systolic or 90-99 diastolic. Patients with a systolic reading of 160 or above, or a diastolic reading of 100 or higher, have stage two hypertension. However, guidelines are just guidelines and patients are different. If you have hypertension and need treatment, talk to your doctor about the right targets for you based on factors such as your cardiovascular risk and other medications.

  1. You can lower your blood pressure with healthy lifestyle changes.

If you’re diagnosed with prehypertension or stage one hypertension, you may be able to lower your blood pressure by cutting back on salt and losing weight rather than by adding a prescription. A recent Swedish study found that regular exercise can reduce systolic pressure by an average of 11 points. Other researchers have found that losing 11 pounds can lower systolic pressure by 4 points or more, and reducing your sodium intake can drop it by 5 points.

  1. If you take blood pressure medication, you must do so consistently.

Reaching your blood pressure target may not mean you can stop taking your medication. In many cases, if you go off your prescription, your blood pressure will go back up. If you’re suffering from side effects, talk to your doctor about alternate medications. And don’t neglect having regular blood pressure check-ups. Your medications may need to be adjusted periodically.

Choosing a Vision Insurance Plan

Choosing a Vision Insurance Plan

Whether you’re nearsighted, farsighted or both, you’ve probably experienced sticker shock when paying for an eye exam, new eyeglass frames and lenses, or a year’s supply of contacts. These essentials—and the supplies you need along with them—quickly add up and are rarely covered by standard health insurance plans. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, only pediatric vision care is a required benefit. And while Medicare Part B covers some vision care (such as screening for diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration) it does not cover routine vision exams, refractions, eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Fortunately, vision insurance plans are available as part of many employer benefit packages. They can also be purchased directly from insurers by families and individuals who want to save on eye care costs. If you think you might benefit from this supplemental insurance product, consider the following factors when talking to your insurance agent about a vision plan.

There are two different types of vision insurance products.

  • Vision benefits packages – These function like health insurance with monthly premiums and copays for annual eye exams, eyeglass frames and lenses and contacts. You may have to meet a deductible before the insurance coverage kicks in. Most of these plans are set up as preferred provider organizations (or PPO). This means you have to choose your eye doctor from a network of professionals who are part of the plan. If you have to go ‘out of network’ for care, you’ll pay a higher percentage of the cost of treatment yourself.
  • Discount vision plans – These plans offer a predefined discount on products and services at participating providers. They also require a monthly premium and may require a deductible as well. If you choose to use an eye doctor or eyewear company that does not participate in the discount vision plan, you’ll pay full price for eye exams and products. Discount vision plans typically have lower premiums than vision benefits packages do.

The best vision insurance for you will depend on your needs.

If your vision is good and you really only need an annual eye exam, you’ll probably be better off with a discount vision plan. Vision benefits packages may be better for families who use a lot of eye care services along with vision correction in the form of eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Look at your history when evaluating the cost of coverage.

When decided which type of plan is the best value—or if you’ll benefit from vision insurance at all—you may find it helpful to add up your prior vision care costs. Calculate the total you spent on eye exams and vision correction last year (including lens storage and cleaning supplies if you’re a contact lens wearer). Compare this to the premium plus out of pocket costs you’d expect to pay under each plan for similar products and services.

If you’d like to learn more about vision insurance plans available in your area, we’re here to help. Give us a call today to explore all of your personal insurance options.

Best Ways to Prevent Arthritis

 

Best Ways to Prevent Arthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million U.S. adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis—a number that is expected to increase to 67 million by 2030. It’s the nation’s number one cause of disability, resulting in $156 billion in lost wages and medical expenses every year. While it’s more likely you’ll develop arthritis as a senior, it can actually strike people at any age. Fortunately, researchers have found a few steps you can take to reduce your chances of suffering from chronic joint pain and disease.

Eat Cherries Whenever Possible

Cherries contain powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Along with reducing associated pain, studies have found that the consumption of cherries or tart cherry juice can lower the risk of arthritis flare-ups. Anthocyanins are also found in raspberries and blueberries.

Add Turmeric to Your Meals

Turmeric’s bright yellow color comes from curcumin, a chemical compound produced by some plants that has anti-inflammatory properties that have been found to ease arthritis pain and inflammation. Sprinkle the flavorful spice on yogurt, eggs, fish or roasted vegetables. You can also blend some into a fruit and vegetable smoothie.

Switch to Olive Oil

Many studies have suggested that oleocanthal, a chemic compoundfound in extra virgin olive oil, reduces inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis by preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory enzymes in the much the same way as ibuprofen and aspirin do. Swap out your vegetable oil for a good-quality olive oil when making salad dressings and marinades.

Eliminate Soft Drinks

Several studies have found that the consumption of sugary soda can speed the progression of osteoarthritis and increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Added sugars can cause obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation, factors that are also involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. And even diet soft drinks and fruit juices can cause inflammation in already arthritic joints.

Get Plenty of Exercise

Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight as well as strengthen your muscles and joints, increase flexibility and decrease your risk of falls. Excess weight causes an increased strain on your joints and can contribute to the development of arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), low-impact activities—including walking, swimming and biking—are excellent at helping to reduce arthritis joint pain.

Explore Alternative Medicine

A Scottish study found that both acupuncture and tai chi—an ancient Chinese form of martial art and medication—can reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Massage and yoga have also been found to offer some relief.  You can talk to your doctor about alternative treatments that may be right for you, though it’s unlikely they’ll be covered by health insurance.

Even the Young and Healthy Need Health Insurance

Key Steps for a Healthy Heart

While it’s true that health issues tend to multiply with age, even young people can find themselves in need of a doctor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are unintentional injuries. Other common health risks include smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity—all of which play a role in the development of a variety of life-threatening diseases. For those without health insurance, the costs of emergency treatment in the event of an accident or long-term treatment due to disease can be financially devastating—no matter how old you are at the time. Consider these reasons you need health insurance even if you’re currently young and healthy.

Accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

You don’t have to go skydiving, bungee jumping or mountain climbing to be injured in an accident. Every year, 43 million Americans visit emergency departments as the result of unintentional injuries according to the CDC. In 2014, the leading causes of nonfatal, unintentional injuries included falls, overexertion, motor vehicle collisions, poisoning, bug bites or stings, fires and burns, dog bites and suffocation—most of which could realistically happen in your own home.

Health issues become more difficult to treat if you ignore them.

While an accident may force you to seek medical help, having health insurance also makes it easier to see a doctor about other health concerns before they become major issues. Without coverage, you’re more likely to put off seeking treatment because you’re worried about the associated costs. In fact, a Gallup survey found that 57 percent of uninsured Americans had put of medical treatment because of cost. Unfortunately, failing to address health issues early on can have serious consequences for your long-term health.

If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay a fine.

If you choose not to buy health insurance coverage mandated by law under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), you will have to make an “individual shared responsibility payment” when you file your taxes each year. The government calculates the fee you owe two ways. You’ll have to pay whichever is higher, whether that’s 2.5 percent of your household income or $695 per adult plus $347.50 per child. If you don’t pay the fee, the IRS will withhold it from your future tax refunds.

While the open enrollment period for 2016 ended on January 31, you may still be able to sign up for qualifying healthcare coverage and reduce the penalty you’ll pay with this year’s taxes next April. Special enrollment periods under the ACA are triggered by a number of events including losing your employer-sponsored health coverage, getting married, having a baby, getting divorced, and moving to a new zip code or county.

If you’d like to learn more about special enrollment periods or discuss your health insurance options prior to the open enrollment period for 2017 that will begin on November 1 of this year, we’re here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any health insurance questions or concerns.

1 2 3 5