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Zika and the Olympics: Who Should Stay, Who Should Go?

by Catherine Tims

The State of Delaware recently announced its fifth case of the Zika virus. That same day, a student at the University of Alabama tested positive for Zika. And although there have only been three Zika-related cases of microcephaly in the U.S. so far, these reports are enough to make Americans stop and think about how they could be affected, specifically if traveling to the Summer Olympic Games.

The CDC Warns Pregnant Women to Stay Home

The CDC first issued Zika-related travel warnings this past January, in which it warned that pregnant women should not travel to areas with widespread cases of the Zika virus.

Although only a fifth of people who get Zika see any symptoms, the danger lies in what it can do to a unborn child. The virus been linked to microcephaly, a terrible condition where a child is born with a very small head, causing brain damage and sometimes death.

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This CDC warning has people wondering about the Summer Olympic Games, since they’re being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil later this summer. Zika is a big problem in Brazil, where instances of microcephaly have increased significantly. There’s even a special page on the CDC website dedicated to 2016 Summer Olympics information. This section includes a clear warning for pregnant women, urging them to skip the events altogether.

But what about the rest of us? Should we go? And what about the athletes? What are they saying?

Zika Can Linger in a Traveler’s Body for a Week – or Longer

The problem for U.S. citizens is that if they visit a location where Zika is rampant, they risk bringing the virus back home with them. The CDC informs us that the virus can stay active for about a week – sometimes longer – once someone comes in contact with Zika.

That information, combined with the fact that many people don’t even know they’ve contracted the virus, is making people worry about the state of public health. This is a main reason why some have decided to completely skip the Olympic Games this summer; they simply don’t want to put loved ones back home in danger upon their return.

What Do the Athletes Think?

There’s a very wide range of reactions among the Olympic athletes themselves. First, there’s Usain Bolt, an Olympic gold medalist, who jokes that he’s not worried because he can outrun the mosquitoes that carry Zika.

Others are showing more serious concerns. The husband of Maria Michta-Coffey will skip the games while his wife competes. They plan on starting a family after the Olympics are over.

And while many athletes insist they’ll still compete, others are now starting to drop out. Recently, a cyclist was the first U.S. athlete to announce he’d be staying home from the Olympic Games because of Zika-related concerns. His wife is currently pregnant.

While the risk of attending the Olympic Games may not be solely individual, there still remains the risk of spreading Zika across the world once the competition is over.

Tell us: Are you concerned about Zika and the effects it can have in the United States? If you were an Olympic athlete, would Zika-related concerns cause you to drop out of the Games?

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What are my travel insurance options?

by Jenny Fliegel

Planning on taking a trip to your dream destination in the near future? You might want to consider investing in a travel insurance plan. Travel insurance policies cover you for unexpected costs that occur before or during your trip, which can lower the costs coming out of your own pocket in return.

Travel insurance is more than just medical protection; it’s financial relief. It allows you to worry about one less thing before traveling. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association reported that purchases of travel insurance policies are up by over 15 percent since 2012. Regardless of where you may be headed, accidents and injuries can happen anywhere, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.skiing

We took a look at your options for travel insurance, and why you should consider purchasing a plan before booking your next trip.

Trip cancellation or interruption insurance

This is the most common type of travel insurance. Trip cancellation insurance alleviates the risk of losing your money if an unforeseen event occurs. It typically reimburses a majority of your expenses if you have to cancel your trip for a qualified covered reason. The exact coverage varies from provider to provider, including situations such as the injury or illness of the insured, travel companion, or family member, as well as a natural disaster striking the destination and bankruptcy of your travel company.

It’s essential to know the difference between trip cancellation and interruption insurance. Trip cancellation is when you don’t go on your trip at all, and trip interruption is when you cut your trip short. If you choose trip interruption, you’ll only be reimbursed for the portion of the trip that you didn’t complete.

Medical insurance

Before buying a specific medical insurance policy for your trip, check with your medical insurer; you might already be covered under your existing health plan. However, you may still want to consider buying medical travel insurance. Most medical travel insurance plans will cover ambulance costs, hospital services, and 24-hour emergency assistance.

Instead of working with your existing health plan insurer, domestic and international hospitals usually work directly with your travel insurance carrier while handling billing due to costly emergency situations, such as procedures and overnight stays. If you are not covered by a medical travel insurance plan, you’ll likely pay up front and get reimbursed by your insurer at a later date.

Evacuation insurance

Evacuation insurance is frequently purchased by travelers headed to an adventurous destination. This type of policy covers the cost of transporting you to the nearest place where you can receive appropriate medical treatment in the event of an emergency. Evacuation insurance is not normally included in a regular medical insurance plan.

Keep in mind that medical and evacuation insurance may not cover a traveler participating in a dangerous activity such as skydiving, mountain climbing, bungee jumping, scuba diving, or even skiing. If you’re considering taking part in a similar event, you may be eligible for adventure-sports coverage.

Baggage insurance

This type of travel health insurance policy reimburses travelers for immediate-need items — like clothes and other essentials — if baggage is delayed when you arrive at your destination. It will also kick in if your luggage is lost, stolen, or even damaged throughout your trip. Baggage insurance is included in most regular travel insurance policies. If your baggage is checked for a flight, it may already be covered by the airline.

Flight insurance

Flight insurance is typically purchased for international trips due to higher fare costs. This “crash coverage” policy prevents you from losing money from a delay or cancellation due to strikes, bad weather, and mechanical breakdowns.

Collision coverage

Collision coverage is important if you’re considering renting a car during your trip. This type of plan provides coverage for loss or damage to a rented vehicle, as well as the cost of repairs and replacements. It may be included in some comprehensive plans, and it is also available as an upgrade..

Keep in mind that collision coverage doesn’t cover loss or damage of personal items inside the car at the time of the incident, damage to another vehicle, or medical care for individuals hurt in an accident involving the rental car.

‘Cancel for any reason’ coverage

If you don’t want to question what is and isn’t covered by your travel health insurance plan, you can purchase ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage. This type of coverage allows you to receive up to a 100 percent reimbursement if you cancel your vacation before or during your trip for any reason not listed in the standard policy.

This type of plan is good to consider if you have worries about health issues such as the Zika virus. A typical travel policy most likely won’t reimburse you for your trip if you cancel due to the outbreak of a disease. If you’ve purchased a ‘cancel for any reason policy,’ your claims are more likely to be approved.

How to purchase travel insurance

Travel insurance can be purchased up to 24 hours prior to your departure date. The best way to lock in the lowest travel insurance rate is to purchase a plan immediately after booking your trip, because policy prices will increase as your departure date gets closer. According to the Insurance Information Institute, you’ll pay about 5 to 7 percent of the cost of your trip for a standard comprehensive policy.

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Student health coverage options after graduation

by Jenny Fliegel

The stress and excitement of graduating college can be overwhelming. Your life suddenly turns into a constant balancing act, and thinking about health insurance might be pushed toward the bottom of your to-do list. But, luckily, recent college graduates do have options when it comes to their health insurance coverage.

Fortunately, Obamacare allows young adults to stay covered under a parent’s plan until the age of 26. Those younger than 26 can stay on or be added to a parent’s health plan, if the parent agrees. However, not everyone can afford this luxury, so there are multiple other coverage options for you to choose from.

student health insurance

If you currently have student health coverage through your college or university, check the expiration date. While there are extension options, each school’s policy is different, and you may lose coverage just a few months after graduation.

Losing student health coverage is also considered a Qualifying Life Event, which gives you the opportunity to find health coverage outside of Open Enrollment. But, don’t procrastinate; you will only have 60 days to sign up from the time you lose your student health coverage!

If you experience a Qualifying Life Event, one health coverage option is to buy a Catastrophic plan through the marketplace. These plans are created specifically for young adults. Catastrophic plans cover three primary care visits per year, as well as preventive care benefits. They are an affordable way to protect yourself from sky-high bills should you face an accident or serious illness.

Graduates can also consider a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs allow you to set aside money tax-free to pay for future health care costs. They can also save you up to 30 percent on medical costs that are paid for out-of-pocket.

You may have previously been covered by your parents’ plan or a student plan, and now, you may be unsure how to go about finding coverage on your own. Post-graduate students often overlook the value of a compensation package when looking for a job. If you choose to find a part-time or full-time job immediately following graduation, your new employer may offer health insurance benefits. It’s important to consider your health benefit options while searching for the next step in your career after graduation.

Few people like to think about health insurance coverage until it’s necessary. But, if you wait too long, there may be a hefty tax penalty waiting for you the next time you fill out your tax returns. Last year, the average tax penalty was almost $1,000. Millennials are facing higher university tuitions and student loan debts than ever before, which only increases the importance of finding the best and cheapest option for health insurance. Choosing to pay the tax penalty not only leaves you without health insurance coverage, but it also costs you money in fines that you could be putting toward these education expenses instead.

It’s never too early to start thinking about your future health coverage. Recent college graduates can compare plans and learn more about the enrollment process at or by calling 888-322-7557 to talk to a GoHealth licensed agent.

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Why the American People Are Happy With Obamacare

by Lauren Mandel & Adam Tock

Happy with Coverage June 2016 new

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What getting pregnant means for your health insurance

by Lauren Mandel

Growing your family or even thinking about the possibility is a big decision that can change so many aspects of your life, including how you access health care. To help you learn more, we rounded up a few of the most important things you need to know about health care for your newborn, what to do when you find out you’re pregnant, and how to get coverage for your whole family.

If you already have health insurance…

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant or you’re already pregnant, the best case scenario is that you already have health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, all health plans must now cover certain benefits that will help you throughout and after your pregnancy, including prenatal care and newborn care. These benefits are referred to as the 10 Essential Health Benefits, and you’ll be glad you have them.

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More good news: You get all of these benefits, even if you get pregnant before your plan takes effect. The Affordable Care Act says insurers cannot deny individuals coverage and benefits because of their pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy.

For alternative maternity care, such as midwives and home births, consult your specific health insurance provider to find out more about your current coverage.

Once your baby is born, you can either get a new health plan or add your baby to your current coverage.

If you don’t have health insurance yet…

Unfortunately, pregnancy is not considered a Qualifying Life Event, which is a life change that allow you to get health insurance outside of Open Enrollment. However, giving birth is a Qualifying Life Event, so even if you don’t have health insurance now, you will be able to get a new health insurance plan for you and your baby.

Not having health insurance while pregnant means you will have to pay for maternity care and childbirth out-of-pocket. You might want to consider purchasing a short-term health insurance plan to cover some of those costs before the baby is born.

If you think you don’t need health insurance… 

Think again. While it might not seem like a burden to pay for maternity and newborn care out-of-pocket, it can become extremely expensive. A one-day stay in an American hospital can cost as much as $4,000, and that’s before the extra care that comes along with having a baby. If you need to have a C-section, which many pregnant women do, you could end up paying more than $15,000.

If you’re pregnant and need more information about health insurance, call 888-322-7557.

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3 fitness goals for National Senior Health & Fitness Day

by Lauren Mandel

The goal for the 23rd annual National Senior Health & Fitness Day is to help keep older Americans healthy and fit. Thousands of older adults will participate in activities across the country today that will help teach them how to reach this goal.

We want to do our part to help our Medicare-eligible customers reach this goal, so we’re providing 6 tips on workout safety and the best exercises you can do during your golden years.

Senior couple on cycle ride in countryside

Focus on flexibility

As you get older, you may experience more issues with your body, specifically joint issues. The best type of exercise you can do to help manage and prevent these problems is something that focuses on flexibility. Try a low-impact yoga or Pilates class, and also be sure to stretch for at least a few minutes every day, even the days you don’t do a full workout.

Keep your heart rate up

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, seniors should continue to engage in regular aerobic exercise, even as they age. Choose a workout that boosts your heart rate to about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Logical aerobic fitness options include water exercises or long walks.

Put your safety first

No matter what fitness choices you make today and in the future, your safety should always come first. Whether that means wearing a helmet while bike riding, stretching properly after a strenuous workout, or staying hydrated throughout your day, you should never compromise your safety for the sake of a workout.

Make sure you have coverage

Accidents do happen, and without Medicare coverage, you could face expensive medical bills when facing an injury. You can explore your Medicare options, and find the plan combination that works best for what you need. And that way, when you’re practicing yoga or participating in a water aerobics class, you can rest easy knowing you’re financially protected.

Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.

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The truth about 2017 Obamacare premium rates

by Lauren Mandel

Criticism surrounding Obamacare is nothing new. Since it was signed into law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has faced its fair share of backlash.

The newest concern is that next year’s premium rates will increase so much that no American will be able to afford health insurance. Not only is this hyperbole, but it also may not be true. While health insurance premiums may increase overall in 2017, Americans shouldn’t panic. In fact, most wouldn’t be affected at all by these supposed increases.

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A recent piece from Vox outlined what Obamacare premium changes might look like for the upcoming year. Insurers will request premium increases, because many initially set rates too low to make a decent profit. It’s important to remember that health insurance increases are nothing new; they happened long before the Affordable Care Act came into play, at often higher increases than we’ve seen the past few years.

And if premiums do increase, there will also be adjustments to how tax credits are calculated. Tax credits help most Marketplace enrollees – 85 percent last year – afford their coverage. These tax credit adjustments will help these individuals continue to be able to afford their coverage in 2017 and beyond.

As we’ve noted in the past, premiums have actually decreased in certain areas of the country, even when they were predicted to increase. Premium prices also depend on where you live, from which state to which city to which county.

For example, if you lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma last year, you likely saw an average premium decrease of 35.2 percent. People in Portland, Oregon saw an average decrease of 22.9 percent. So to generalize and say that everyone in the United States will see more expensive premiums next year just might not be true.

Like much of the news surrounding the Affordable Care Act and the future of the law itself, premium increases are hard to predict. While we wait for official confirmation concerning premium changes, let’s not forget the good the law has already done for millions of Americans.

For more Obamacare news and updates, be sure to follow along with us on Twitter.

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Why all women need regular checkups

by Lauren Mandel

We all could use reminders sometimes, and we’re here to share one of the most important reminders when it comes to your health: to get regular checkups.

As part of National Women’s Health Week, today is National Women’s Checkup Day, an effort initiated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help women prioritize their health.

So, what can you do to prepare for your next well-woman visit? We’ve outlined a few tips to help you feel comfortable and confident.

Double-check your health insurance.

An annual trip to your doctor – or a well-woman visit – is a preventive care service under the Affordable Care Act, which means if you have health insurance, your visit will be covered. If you don’t have health insurance, however, these visits can get pricey.March - womensHistoryMonth

You also want to ensure the doctor you choose to visit is in your provider’s network. Going out-of-network is another detail that could cost you a lot of money.

Review your family history.

Do your parents have high blood pressure? Does breast cancer run in your family? Did your grandparents have any specific conditions? Questions like these are important to ask yourself before visiting the doctor. Your doctor will want to know these details so that he or she knows what to look out for during your appointment.

Evaluate your own health.

Yes, you see a doctor to be properly diagnosed, but there are certain abnormalities or discomforts only you can identify initially. Go through any significant changes to your health or your body before your appointment, so that when the doctor asks, you’ll have answers to share.

Remember why you’re there.

You may think you only need to visit the doctor when you’re sick, but the reality is, that can often be too late. Health insurance is required for all Americans so that everyone will be proactive about their health, rather than reactive. Scheduling and attending regular checkups will ensure you receive the necessary vaccinations, screenings, and tests, and well-woman visits can help you live a long and healthy life.

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GoHealth answers your top Medicare coverage questions

Whether you’re a first-time Medicare buyer or a long-time enrollee, finding the right Medicare coverage can be confusing. In an effort to help you find the right combination of plans, we’re answering the top consumer Medicare questions, including what your first step should be, your prescription drug coverage options, and much more.

  1. If I have Part A, how do I add Part B?

In order to complete your Original Medicare coverage and enroll in Part B, you must contact the Social Security office and actively enroll. Once you have both Parts A & B, you can complete your Medicare coverage with additional options.

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  1. What is a Medicare guaranteed issue right, and do I have it?

A Medicare guaranteed issue right is your right in certain situations to be granted a Medicare Supplement plan – or Medigap policy – regardless of certain other details concerning your health. In these specific situations, insurance companies must sell you a Medicare Supplement plan, cover all your pre-existing conditions, and not charge you more for a policy because of any health problems. Most commonly, you may have a guaranteed issue right if you lose coverage or your current health coverage changes.

  1. If I only have Part A, what other types of Medicare can I get?

If you only have Part A, you are eligible to also get Part B. You cannot move forward with exploring other types of Medicare coverage until you have both Parts A & B.

  1. Can I enroll in Part D without having Part B?

Unfortunately, you cannot. In order to move forward with additional Medicare options (including Part D), you must first have both Parts A & B.

  1. What are my coverage options when it comes to prescription drugs?

If you need prescription drug coverage, you have a few different options. Once you get Parts A & B, you can choose to switch to Medicare Advantage, which sometimes offers prescription drug coverage. You can also choose to enroll in a Prescription Drug plan – or Part D – which offers different coverage options depending on which drugs you take.

  1. How do I find my Medicare claim number?

You can call Social Security, and a representative there can help you locate your Medicare claim number.

  1. How do I enroll in Medicaid?

You should call your state’s Medicaid department if you’re interested in Medicaid health insurance coverage.

  1. What is the difference between Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans?

Medicare Supplement – or Medigap – plans help you complete your coverage. They can help you pay for health care costs that may not be covered by Original Medicare, such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. Medicare Advantage is a private health insurance option that is required to cover all the same benefits as Parts A & B, plus additional benefits, such as prescription drug coverage. You cannot have a Medicare Supplement plan and Medicare Advantage at the same time.

  1. Why would I enroll in Medicare Advantage instead of Original Medicare? Aren’t they the same thing?

While they are similar, there are also differences between Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare. By law, Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover all the same benefits as Original Medicare, or Parts A & B.

However, there may be some differences in how you pay your out-of-pocket costs with a Medicare Advantage plan, or you may have a smaller or larger deductible. There also may be some differences in the coverage itself. For example, while Original Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, some Medicare Advantage plans do offer that coverage.

  1. How do I avoid gaps in my Medicare coverage?

There are many different types of Medicare coverage available to help you avoid any gaps in your coverage. It’s important to explore all of your options and coverage combinations with a licensed agent.

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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Know all the facts during World Immunization Week

by Lauren Mandel

In 1955, a vaccine for polio was introduced, and the United States has been polio-free since 1979. Smallpox was eradicated in the United States in 1972, though enough vaccine exists to vaccinate every American if needed. Today, it’s hard to imagine having to worry about either of these diseases recurring.    vaccine

However, many people thought the same thing about measles. That is until the first confirmed measles death in over 12 years happened in August 2015. What could have potentially prevented this death and any others? The measles vaccine.

While there have been a number of impressive immunization breakthroughs in the past few years, the world still has a ways to go to “Close the Immunization Gap,” a goal set by the World Health Organization for this year’s World Immunization Week.

While vaccinating is a personal choice, it’s important to learn all the facts before making your final decision. Immunization helps avoid up to 3 million deaths every year, but an additional 1.5 million deaths could be prevented if immunization coverage was more widespread and understood.

Nearly 1 in 5 children worldwide are still missing routine immunizations for diseases like tetanus and pertussis. If you’re concerned about how vaccines will affect your children’s safety, it’s important to note the CDC has confirmed on multiple occasions that there are no links between vaccinations and autism.

How can you learn more this week and in the future? Visit the World Health Organization’s World Immunization Week website for more information.

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