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Our top health care tips for National Health Education Week

by Lauren Mandel

Do you prioritize your health on a regular basis? Do you know all there is to know about your personal health? And most importantly, are you your own biggest advocate when it comes to your health?

If you answered “no” to even one of those questions, now is the time to learn more information to be able to answer “yes.” Today marks the start of National Health Education Week in the United States, and to help raise awareness for health care, we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite blog posts. This roundup shares posts about health care accessibility under the Affordable Care Act, quick and easy-to-understand answers to your health care questions, and more.


There are covered health care services specifically for women.

You may have heard by now that the Affordable Care Act covers certain preventive care services, but did you know there are quite a few specifically for women? Now women can go to the doctor, get birth control, get mammograms, and more at no additional cost to them.

Don’t forget about the 10 health care benefits all plans must cover.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there are now 10 Essential Health Benefits that all health insurance plans must cover. Things like maternity and newborn care, hospitalization, and prescription drugs are included in this list. So you’ll experience fewer medical surprises and rest easy with your coverage.

Reference this handy health insurance shopping guide.

Did you download our eBook last year? If not, now is the time to do so. This guide walks you through how to navigate all the health plan choices, how to estimate your tax credit, who to call when you’re ready to enroll, and more. And the best part? It’s free to download.

Telemedicine might be the health care answer you’ve been searching for.

Did you know the average wait time to see a doctor in the United States is more than 18 days? Luckily, you have other options. Telemedicine tools – like GoHealth Access – can help you see a doctor in a fraction of that time. You can also access health care discounts that can help you save money on products and services.

And sometimes, you might just need a quick refresher.

One of our most popular blog posts from last year was this health insurance refresher, and almost all of the information still applies to the upcoming Open Enrollment Period. You can learn the basics about health insurance coverage, pre-existing conditions (note: you can’t be denied for them anymore), tax credits, and more before enrolling on November 1.

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Medicare Open Enrollment dates you need to know

by Lauren Mandel and Adam Tock

Medicare Open Enrollment begins this Saturday, October 15, and we’re sharing dates and information to know before choosing Medicare coverage for the upcoming year. Call 1-877-568-1851 – TTY: 711 to speak with a licensed sales agent now.

Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.

Medicare AEP

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Breast cancer awareness resources for October and beyond

by Lauren Mandel

In the United States, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. That’s a scary statistic, and unfortunately, it’s also a reality for far too many women.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and although you may want to help or learn more about the disease, you may not know where to start. In order to do our part to help raise awareness for breast cancer, we’re sharing 3 educational resources that can help you understand your risk factors, treatment, early detection and prevention, and more.


Susan G. Komen

The Susan G. Komen organization was established in 1982, and since then, they’ve funded almost $100 million in breast cancer research. If you’re a patient looking for support, their national toll-free hotline offers support and services and message boards offer an immediate community for patients and survivors. You can also get involved with the organization by donating, organizing or volunteering at a fundraiser, or paritcipating in the annual Race for a Cure.

Bright Pink

This Chicago-based organization was founded by Lindsay Avner, who (at the time) was the youngest woman to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. After finding out she had the BRCA1 gene and undergoing this procedure, she knew she had to help others just like her. Today, Bright Pink promotes early detection of breast and ovarian cancers in young women by hosting various educational workshops (often taught by survivors themselves) and events.

American Cancer Society

While you may perceive the American Cancer Society as too broad, the organization has dozens of resources dedicated to breast cancer awareness. Whether you’re looking for inspiring stories from breast cancer survivors or the latest news and scientific developments about this disease, the American Cancer Society can help. Similar to the others, you can get involved by volunteering your time, donating, or attending one of their many events.

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This World Heart Day, reasons to celebrate and need for improvement

by Catherine Tims

What if millions of worldwide deaths could be prevented just by making a few simple lifestyle changes?

While World Heart Day is a day of awareness and celebration in the United States, for much of the rest of the world, it’s a chance to spread the message that there’s still much to be done.

In the United States, we’ve made significant progress when it comes to fighting heart disease, but cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death worldwide. Every year across the globe, 17.1 million people die from heart disease and stroke.

World Heart Day

But the real take-away here is that, according to the World Heart Federation, the organizer of World Heart Day, most of those 17.1 million deaths are completely preventable. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that one of the easiest ways to do so is by addressing certain lifestyle choices, and World Heart Day is only a small part of raising awareness.

The United States has (some) reason to celebrate

In the United States, there is some good news to share when it comes to heart disease. A recent twelve-year study performed by researchers at Yale and Harvard should make our public health officials and medical community proud. The study – which analyzed Medicare data – shows that from 1999 to 2011, hospitalization rates for heart-related problems actually went down. And in the past decade, deaths from cardiovascular disease have decreased dramatically.

But let’s not get too carried away.: heart disease is still the top killer in our country, according to the CDC. To keep things in perspective, 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S. can still be attributed to heart disease. We’ve made progress, but especially on World Heart Day, we still have work to do.

Heart disease in the developing world

In China, 1 in 5 deaths is due to cardiovascular disease, and by 2030, that number is expected to increase by 50 percent, according to the World Health Organization.

In India, where a high-fat diet, low fruit and vegetable intake, and physical inactivity are becoming more prevalent, cardiovascular disease has become an epidemic. Did you know that India is now considered the coronary capital of the world? According to an Indian Heart Watch (IHW) study, cardiovascular disease awareness is very low, even among middle-class urban Indians who are literate.

Overall, almost three quarters of non-communicable diseases (of which heart disease represents the bulk) occur in developing nations. From the same source, we learn that the “globalization of unhealthy lifestyles” is to blame, along with out-of-control urbanization and of course, aging.

Awareness is the key to reversing this terrible global trend. World Heart Day is one way to start spreading the word that cardiovascular disease is, in most instances, preventable. So today, let’s all think of even more ways we can build a healthy lifestyle, and combat heart disease here and around the world.

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Your 2016 Medicare question checklist

by Lauren Mandel

As the Medicare Open Enrollment Period quickly approaches, you may be wondering how you can prepare to find Medicare coverage for the upcoming year. We’ve shared information about when you can get Medicare, but do you know what questions to ask yourself now so that you’re prepared come October 15?

Senior couple on cycle ride in countryside

Below is a list of questions to ask yourself in advance of searching for a Medicare plan. Reviewing this checklist will help ensure your Medicare shopping process runs smoothly, and you’ll have more information you need to find the right plan on October 15.

  • Have you researched what type of Medicare you need?
  • Will you need help understanding how Medicare works?
  • Do you currently have health insurance coverage?
  • Do you have a primary care physician?
  • How many times a year, on average, do you see a doctor?
  • Do you see a specialist for any current health conditions?
  • Will you need Medicare prescription drug coverage?
  • Do you have a preference for what type of Medicare coverage you get?
  • Do you need a plan just for yourself or for others, too?
  • When would you like your Medicare coverage to begin?

If you have questions about this list or need more information about Medicare coverage, feel free to call 1-877-568-1851 – TTY 711 to speak with one of our licensed sales agents. To enroll in Original Medicare, please contact your local Social Security office.

Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.

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When to sign up for Medicare coverage

by Lauren Mandel

If you’re approaching your 65th birthday or you already have Medicare coverage, now is the time to start thinking about your Medicare coverage options for the upcoming year. While you’ll automatically get basic Medicare coverage once you turn 65, there are additional Medicare coverage options available.

But when can you get them and should you start preparing now? We’ve shared basic information you need to know about Medicare coverage options in the past, and now we’re providing all the key Medicare dates you need to know.

Seniors 3

Your 65th Birthday

When you first become eligible for Medicare, you have the option to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan once you get Parts A & B. This is called your Initial Coverage Election Period, and it is the seven-month period that runs from 3 months before the month of your 65th birthday through 3 months after your birthday month.

Remember: You must have both Original Medicare Parts A & B to continue on with additional Medicare coverage options. You’ll be automatically enrolled in Part A around your 65th birthday, but you must call your Social Security office to actively enroll in Part B.


Have Original Medicare and ready for more options?

Medicare Open Enrollment is from October 15 to December 7, 2016. You’re not required to re-enroll in Medicare each year, but you can review and change plans if needed. During this time period, you can do the following:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare
  • Change Medicare Advantage plans
  • Find a new Medicare Advantage plan that offers prescription drug coverage
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug plan
  • Switch from one Prescription Drug plan to another

Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.



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Why are men more likely to be uninsured than women?

by Catherine Tims

The Affordable Care Act has helped lower premiums for the elderly, and women in particular have benefited from the health law. But why are so many men still uninsured?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured Americans is at an all-time low. According to a recent survey, 20 million more people are signed up for health insurance when compared to six years ago before the ACA came into play.

But that same data tells us there are still 24 million uninsured Americans. Interestingly, a growing percentage of men are uninsured, accounting for 58 percent of the overall uninsured population. Three years ago, that number at 52 percent.

What could cause this disparity? Let’s take a look at the possible reasons why so many American men are still uninsured.

mens uninsured

Medicaid expansion – or lack thereof

One of the primary goals of the ACA was to expand Medicaid so more non-elderly adults could access affordable health insurance. Medicaid covers lower-income individuals; however, a wide gap still exists for people whose income is too great for Medicaid but not high enough to afford individual health insurance.

The ACA allowed states to attempt to fill that gap by expanding Medicaid’s upper income limits. But some states have chosen not to expand Medicaid.

According to Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of the 2015 Current Population Survey for non-elderly adults, not only are fewer men than women insured overall, but men are also less likely to have Medicaid coverage.

Before the ACA era, Medicaid excluded adults with no dependent children. Do men simply think they can’t get Medicaid without a dependent? Do they see Medicaid as a women-only program? Almost half of all the births in this country are accompanied by Medicaid, so it is possible Medicaid is perceived in this light.

No more men-specific rates

Let’s not forget: Before the ACA, insurers were allowed to charge gender-based premiums for health insurance. The difference was justified by the fact that women typically visit the doctor more often.

But now under the ACA, insurers are not allowed to charge women more than men. Due to this new provision of the law, some men may have seen their premiums actually go up after Obamacare went into effect. This increase could have deterred them from getting coverage at all.

Lack of outreach and education

A lack of information may also be responsible for the increase in uninsured men. The Kaiser Family Foundation analysis reports that 44 percent of uninsured men are actually be eligible for some sort of financial assistance under the ACA.

Around half of that 44 percent are eligible for a tax credit to lower the cost of coverage; 50 percent are also eligible for Medicaid. And, specifically, 6 out of 10 uninsured African American men  are eligible for a tax credit, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) but don’t take advantage of these benefits.

When it comes to uninsured men in this country, the issue appears to be either affordability or lack of education. Do you think the male uninsured population will decrease during the upcoming Open Enrollment Period?

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Celebrate Women’s Equality Day with these women’s health tips

by Lauren Mandel

In celebration of Women’s Equality Day on August 26, we’re excited to work with our partner, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, to raise awareness for the importance of women’s health. While women have faced various health challenges throughout history, the Affordable Care Act has been a fierce advocate for women’s health care over the past few years.

Open Enrollment under the health care law begins again on November 1, and all women are encouraged to evaluate their current and future health care needs in preparation. To celebrate Women’s Equality Day, we’ve outlined 4 of the most important tips you can consider before enrolling in health insurance this fall.

womens equality day

Remember what’s covered under the Affordable Care Act. 

Let’s not forget all that the Affordable Care Act has done for women in just a few short years: insurers are now required to cover birth control, maternity and newborn care are covered as essential health benefits, and all women now have access to covered mammograms. And those are just a few of the benefits for women under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s also important to remember that you cannot be denied or charged more for coverage if you have a pre-existing condition. So if you’ve been denied in the past, now is the time to get the coverage you deserve.

Review your current and future health care needs.

Before getting health insurance, it’s important to consider what you need from the plan you select. Do you need extensive coverage for an illness? Are you looking for basic coverage to help you afford regular doctor visits? Do you have plans to expand your family in the near future? All of these and more are things to consider when looking for health insurance.

Even if you have health insurance from last year, you may benefit from reviewing your plan this year. Maybe you’ve developed a recent health condition that needs more comprehensive coverage, or perhaps you’re taking a new prescription drug not covered by your current plan. No matter your situation, it’s always important to evaluate what you need now and in the future.

Consider the needs of everyone in your family. 

While many people are looking for a plan only for themselves, other shoppers need coverage for their entire family. If your spouse and children also need health coverage, there are family plan options that might make sense for your situation. Licensed agents are available to help you make the best decision for your family.

Prepare to enroll in coverage.

While November 1 might seem like long time from now, it will be here before you know it. The last thing you want is to be unprepared when Open Enrollment arrives and you can finally shop for new coverage. By taking the steps above for Women’s Equality Day and preparing to find a plan now, you’ll be that much more prepared when the shopping seasons begins.

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How can we improve veteran health insurance options?

by Catherine Tims

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is long overdue for an update. There’s a plan for doing just that, and it’s sitting in Congress right now. But is health insurance for veterans included?

The VA has faced its fair share of criticism when it comes to helping war veterans here at home. Preventable patient deaths, unacceptable delays for patients seeking medical care at VA hospitals, and lavish rewards for senior executives are among the most notable discrepancies, according to the American Legion.

While it may seem obvious that our system for veteran health care needs an overhaul, exactly what to do about the health insurance component is up for debate.veterans health insurance

The nation has been plagued by problems with the VA health care system for decades. In 2014, a report called Independent Assessment of the Health Care Delivery Systems and Management Processes of the Department of Veterans Affairs concluded that the only thing that would fix the system would be “system-wide reworking.”

We now have the Caring for our Heroes in the 21st Century Act, but it doesn’t necessarily focus on veteran health insurance.

What are the current options?

Under the current VA system, veterans’ health insurance is provided by the same people who also run the VA hospitals: the federal government. The government decides the health insurance costs and the cost of health care services, as well as how much the hospital doctors get paid.

For veterans, once they have their health insurance, they use their insurance cards to visit a VA hospital and see a VA doctor – the same ones that are run by the federal government.

The system was orchestrated during a time when the veteran population was far different from what it is today. And the demographics of the veterans, plus the nature of their injuries and situations, aren’t the only things which have radically transformed during the last century.

Our economy has changed, health care has changed drastically under the Affordable Care Act, and just about everything that makes up the VA health care system has seen significant change since the system was devised.

Looking ahead to future veteran health care options

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has proposed a new bill to Congress, called the Caring for our Heroes in the 21st Century Act. The bill reflects the need for our VA system to evolve, to come to terms with the enormous international changes that have resulted in our outdated, inefficient, and arguably harmful VA health care system.

One of the main details in the proposed bill is the separation of VA health insurance from the clinical functions of the VA system. This would be done by converting the VA system into a government-sponsored, not-for-profit enterprise, which would allow greater flexibility in responding to the very different needs of veterans in the 21st century.

Under the new plan, veterans would be able to use their health insurance to seek care from the private sector. Freed from having to deal with just one provider, they would be able to receive better health care when and where they need it. It may seem like a small step for the VA system, but it’s a huge step for veterans in America.

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How can we end the opioid epidemic?

by Catherine Tims

Philip Seymour Hoffman, known for the title role in the film Capote, was an esteemed, Academy Award-winning actor. Loved by fans, praised by critics, and respected by his peers, he’ll be forever considered an icon of his generation of actors.

Unfortunately, he may also be remembered for his untimely death as a result of a heroin addiction. Since his overdose two years ago, he’s become an example of the terrible opioid epidemic in the United States.

Congress just recently passed a bill that aims to rid the country of this epidemic, hopefully saving the lives of thousands of individuals just like Mr. Hoffman.


How bad is the opioid epidemic?

According to a report issued by the White House, there was a 45 percent increase in heroin-related deaths between 2006 and 2010.  What’s even more alarming are the stats relating to opioid pain relievers (OPR), which often serve as gateway drugs for heroin.

While heroin deaths totaled 3,038 in 2010, OPR deaths in general were at an alarming 16,651. And that represents a 21 percent increase since 2006. Meanwhile, cocaine deaths have been falling steadily during that same period.

There’s a new bill in Congress.

Just this month, Congress passed a landmark bill that some say has the potential to reverse these addiction problems. It’s called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), and one thing it authorizes is increased access to naloxone.

The so-called “overdose drug”, naloxone reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and has been an essential item in emergency rooms since the epidemic began. Once injected or sprayed into the nose, it works to stop an overdose within two minutes.

You may have heard of Narcan, which is actually the brand name of the nasal spray, whereas the drug itself is just called naloxone. Naloxone saves lives by binding to receptors in the brain, essentially shielding them from any further effects of the opioids. Then the breathing process – which has been slowed down by the overdose – can start up again.

Naloxone shots are carried by first responders, and now thanks to the recently-passed bill, more people will have access, too. Now, family members, people working in community centers, and schools will have access to the pens that help stop overdoses.

Naloxone is just the beginning.

Of course, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act isn’t just about increased access to naloxone. Obviously, reviving addicts who are near death isn’t going to put an end to the problem. As many in Congress have noted (and fiercely debated with their opponents), treatment and prevention is key.

The anti-addiction bill, which is now on its way to the White House for President Obama’s signature, does address this issue. Law enforcement officers may soon start choosing to treat drug offenders with alternative sentencing rather than shipping them off to jail. Plus, there’s plenty in the bill supporting increased treatment and prevention measures.

So, while naloxone saves lives (and now more of them can be saved thanks to this bill), it’s not going to solve the problem. Only time will tell if the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act will help put an end to this terrible epidemic.

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