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Is There a Difference Between Generic and Brand-name Drugs?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, nearly eight in 10 prescriptions filled in the United States are for generic drugs. We have already discussed how you can save on prescription drugs by going generic; however, how much do you really trust these “off-brand” counterparts?

Although it might seem like the two are drastically different, below you’ll find information that shows how generic drugs and brand-name drugs are actually much more similar than many consumers think.

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What are generic drugs exactly?

Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs. They have exactly the same dosage, intended use, side effects, risks, safety, and strength as the original drug.

How do I know if I am taking a generic drug?

If the lower price of your prescription doesn’t tip you off, you can usually tell by how the drug is spelled. Brand names are usually capitalized, while generic names are not. Otherwise, it’s important to ask your doctor for clarification.

Why are generic drugs so much cheaper?

On average, the FDA says the cost of a generic drug is 80 to 85 percent lower than the brand-name product. However, cheaper does not mean inferior or any less effective. The reason generic drugs are so much cheaper is because the people making these drugs are not required to repeat the costly clinical trials of new drugs and generally do not pay for costly advertising, marketing, and promotion. In addition, when multiple companies begin producing and selling a generic drug, the competition among them can also drive the price down even further.

In fact, many generic drugs are made in the same manufacturing plants as brand-name drugs. The FDA estimates that 50 percent of generic drug production comes from brand-name companies.

Do generic drugs take longer to work?

No. All FDA-approved generic drugs must work the same as their brand-name drug equivalents. That means any generic drug must perform in about the same amount of time as the brand-name drug it’s modeled after.

If generic and brand-name drugs are exactly the same, why do they sometimes look different?

Trademark laws in the United States do not allow generic drugs to look exactly like the brand-name drugs they’re modeled off of, but the active ingredients must be the same in both, ensuring that they have the same medicinal effects.

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Questions You Should be Asking Your Doctor

It’s important for every patient to ask questions before, during, and after a visit to the doctor’s office. Health care costs are on the rise, so asking questions and finding out how to spend – or not spend – your out-of-pocket health care dollars will keep you informed and help you manage costs.

So what are the right questions to be asking? Here are a few to note at your next doctor visit.

“Is this considered a preventive care service?”

Under the Affordable Care Act, many preventive care services are free if you have health insurance. Women’s health visits, vaccinations, and annual checkups may not cost you a cent out of pocket. However, not everything is free. For example, your doctor may order tests that are not considered covered preventive services, so you may be required to pay a copayment or bill that will count toward your annual deductible.

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“Are you in my health insurance carrier and specific plan’s network?”

To avoid the surprise of an expensive bill, verify that your provider is in network.

Health insurance companies negotiate lower rates with a specific network of physicians and hospitals to help keep costs low.  You can save money on out-of-pocket costs by staying within that network.

Asking “Do you accept my insurance?” isn’t enough; make sure that your health care provider accepts both your insurance carrier and the specific plan you chose. You can still visit a doctor that is out of your network, but you should expect to pay all or most of the bill, depending on your plan.

“Is this optional or highly encouraged?”
Physicians may suggest health screenings, procedures, or prescriptions for a variety of reasons, and it’s important to find out why. The rationale behind each part of your treatment is important – especially if it’s optional.

It’s always important to listen to your doctor’s recommendations, but to also to get the full story. Not taking the time to fully understand your treatment options to make an informed decision might be an expensive mistake, whether it’s a routine treatment or a major procedure.

And remember: If you are not happy with the answers your doctor provides, you have the right to find another doctor or seek different medical care. Contact your insurance carrier to help you find another doctor from your health plan’s network and verify what medical services are covered.

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5 Ways to Have a Healthy Halloween

Halloween: the night of haunted houses, freaky costumes, and yes, candy. We all know candy is not the healthiest option, especially for children. The average child eats a mind-blowing 3,500 to 7,000 calories just from candy on Halloween night. To ensure your child doesn’t become this statistic, here are a few tips to consider while trick-or-treating this Halloween.

Going trick or treatingSet Clear Limits

On the spooky holiday, 82 percent of parents set rules to keep their kids from going overboard on Halloween sweets and treats. Let your kids know before you head out trick-or-treating that they’re allowed to choose a certain number of favorite candies to enjoy once you get home. Try and avoid snacking as you go; that’s an easy way to lose track of how much you’re actually eating.

Provide Healthy Alternatives

Just 15 percent of parents offered trick-or-treaters healthy, non-candy alternatives, including bags of pretzels and small toys. Although kids might not always go for the healthy alternative, providing one at least gives them the choice. After seeing dozens of Kit Kats and Milky Ways, a small toy might look like an appealing alternative.

Fill Up on the Good Stuff

Filling up before heading out can curb hunger – at least for a while. Whip up a healthy meal for your kids before going door-to-door, and hopefully they won’t inhale chocolate when they get hungry. Serve something with lots of protein and fiber to ensure they stay full for the entire Halloween excursion.

Pick Up the Pace

Consider trick-or-treating as more than just a candy-gathering evening. Instead, make it a fitness activity for the whole family. Instead of driving while out for the night, walk to and from each house, and from your own house to different neighborhoods. That way, you’ll get a workout in to help burn off candy calories you’ll inevitably take in later in the night.

Indulge – at Least a Little

Sure, candy is not the best, healthiest choice available. However, Halloween only happens once a year, so don’t deprive yourself completely. It’s okay to enjoy the sweets and treats gathered that night in moderation. Just make sure not to overdo it.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

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4 Ways to Prepare for Rising Health Care Costs

Open Enrollment for 2015 coverage begins on November 15, and although health plan choices are increasing this year, so is the overall cost of health care. According to a report from PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute, health care costs are expected to rise by 6.8 percent over the next year. While you might see some increases to your health care costs, there are a few ways that you can attempt to minimize them for 2015.

  1. Explore Your Plan Options

While it may seem easy to passively re-enroll in coverage, it might not be the most cost-effective choice for you and your family. Open Enrollment is the time to reevaluate your health care needs, update your tax subsidy estimate, and learn about the new plan options available for 2015 coverage.

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  1. Save on Prescription Drugs

Unless your doctor specifically instructs you to take name-brand drugs, you can save a lot of money by opting for generics instead. You can also save by comparing prices at various pharmacies in your area and discussing low-cost alternatives with your doctor.

  1. Get a Second Opinion

If your doctor recommends an expensive medical treatment that you’re not sure you need, see another doctor to be sure it’s necessary. It’s important to fully educate yourself on the course of treatment, even if you end up going through with it in the end.

  1. Consider an HSA Account

If one is available to you, an HSA (Health Savings Account) is a great way to contribute pre-tax dollars to health care expenses. Due to the fact that your health care costs may increase, an HSA is a great way to ensure you have money saved for when you need it in the future.

Click here to find out more information about the Open Enrollment process.

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Why Automatic Re-enrollment Might Not be Your Best Bet

On November 15, the second Open Enrollment Period will begin, allowing you to enroll in health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. If you don’t have health insurance, this is the time to sign up; if you do have coverage, it’s important to reevaluate your health care needs.

If you’re one of the 7.3 million people who purchased coverage through the Marketplace last year, or you purchased coverage through your state-based marketplace or the GoHealth Marketplace, you may have the option to passively re-enroll by taking no action. Be warned though: doing so might mean missing out on significant savings, ending up with a different plan that you don’t choose yourself and even losing access to your current doctor.

Outdated Subsidies

Auto-reenrolling in your current health plan means you will accept the exact same tax subsidy you were granted last year to help pay your new premiums. If your income has increased, you may end up owing the government money for a tax credit that is too large. Auto-reenrolling in your same plan could also mean missing out on an increased tax subsidy – which means you’ll end up paying more than necessary toward your premium each month.

During the active re-enrollment process, you can update your personal details in order to get a new, accurate tax credit estimate and avoid paying too much or owing the government a lump sum at tax time.

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New Benchmark Plans

Passively re-enrolling means you could end up paying more for your current plan even if your household income or family size did not change. Tax credits are based on a combination of your household size, income, and the cost of coverage within your market – specifically the cost of a silver-tier benchmark health plan. Health plan rates are changing and with over 25 percent more plans available this year on the Marketplace, the silver-tier benchmark plan in your area may have changed. If a plan with a lower premium becomes the new benchmark plan in your area, the accompanying tax credits will also change.

For example, in Denver in 2014, the benchmark silver plan was a Humana plan with a $250 monthly premium for a 40-year-old. However, according to Kaiser’s market analysis, the benchmark silver plan for 2015 will most likely be a plan offered by a new insurer with a premium of $211 for a person of the same age, meaning the accompanying tax credits will also decrease. So even if your income situation did not change, your tax subsidy could increase or decrease even if you choose to stick with your plan.As a result, if you passively re-enroll, you could get stuck paying for a more expensive health plan using a lower tax subsidy, even though there are new, more affordable options available.

Unpredictable Changes

If you choose to passively re-enroll, but your plan won’t be offered in 2015, you will instead be auto-reenrolled in a different plan selected by your insurance company as the most similar to your original within the same metal level. Because you’re not selecting this yourself, you risk being enrolled in a plan that you’re not familiar with or that you don’t want. Instead, it’s best to select your own plan and make sure your coverage fits your needs.

Staying with your plan also does not guarantee that you can stay with your current doctor. If you’re like many Americans, you chose a health plan that your doctor accepted. Health plans adjust not only their rates, but also their provider networks, and they add and remove doctors over time. Just because your doctor was in the network previously does not guarantee that will remain the case next year – especially if your insurance company has moved you to a new plan.

More Plan Options

Come November 15, there will be 77 new insurers selling Marketplace plans, which is equivalent to a 25 percent increase since 2014 Open Enrollment. Insurers that sold on the Marketplace last year are also expanding their offerings. UnitedHealthcare – the country’s biggest insurer by number of lives covered – sold Marketplace health plans in just four states last year. In 2015, however, they plan to sell in 24 states. These new options and expansions will create opportunities for you to choose from a much greater selection of Marketplace health plans this year.  If you don’t explore your options, you may be missing out a new health plan that could better suit your budget and health care needs.

Re-enroll with GoHealth

When considering where to shop for a new health plan, make sure to choose an established exchange like GoHealth, whose licensed advisors can guide you through the re-enrollment process. They can provide you with an updated tax subsidy estimate to ensure you take advantage of the savings available to you. GoHealthInsurance.com lets you compare thousands of health plans available in your area from top carriers, including those that have expanded or are new to the Marketplace for 2015.

Make sure you explore all of your options before settling on a health plan this year; don’t let this decision be made for you.

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Does My Health Insurance Cover Ebola?

Lately, it may seem like you can’t get through the day without hearing about Ebola on the news, on Facebook, or through lunchtime gossip. The country has finally waded through the initial hysteria over the West-African disease, and we have learned that Ebola is difficult to transmit. That being said, it is still a good time to review basic health coverage to answer somewhat-serious health care questions.

 

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What We Know

If you were to contract the disease, you should know that insurance companies cannot decline coverage specifically for Ebola. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans cannot exclude coverage for specific recognized diseases, similar to treatment for the seasonal flu. So while Ebola may be extremely rare in the United States, should you contract the disease, you won’t have to buy additional health coverage to ensure your quarantine.

However, if you have a short-term health plan or one that is not compliant with the Affordable Care Act, Ebola and other disease treatment may not be covered for you. You may want to consider enrolling in a major medical health insurance plan when Open Enrollment begins on November 15, 2014.

What to Know When Traveling Abroad

In addition to the two nurses in Dallas, so far only five other Americans have been infected with Ebola. All of these individuals got sick overseas in Africa and later received treatment in the United States. This raises an important question about how far your health plan reaches when you contract a disease abroad.

Some health plans will pay to fly you back to the United States for treatment – a cost that can total out at nearly $10,000. But most major medical health plans in the United States do not cover that service.

“If you venture outside of the U.S., you should consider purchasing travel medical insurance, which is designed for global travelers,” Michael Mahoney, senior vice president of consumer marketing for GoHealth recommends. “The plans vary, but can offer comprehensive benefits including coverage for pre-existing conditions, medical evacuations, and both routine and emergency medical care.”

Although extremely rare, it’s important to know your options should you or a loved one ever contract a disease like Ebola. Verify your coverage with your health insurance carrier today.

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Get Ready to Enroll

November 15 is just a few weeks away, which means your chance to enroll in health insurance during the National Open Enrollment Period is almost here. Now is the time to explore all of your health insurance options so you can ensure you find the best, most cost-effective plan for you and for your family.

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Open Enrollment Dates You Need to Know

 

Open Enrollment can be confusing. Do all of the deadlines blur together? Are you unsure when you can enroll in coverage? Do you know when your 2014 coverage ends? If not, GoHealth is here to help. Find out all the important dates you need to know to make sure you and your family get the health insurance coverage you need for 2015.
Key AEP Dates

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: More than Just a Pink Thing

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. Why do we dedicate an entire month to a disease that most people are aware of already? Because one in eight women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. This statistic is not meant to be used as a fear tactic, but rather as a catalyst to incite action. When breast cancer is detected early (localized stage), the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent. Below are some early detection plans you can put in place for yourself and your loved ones. breastcancer2 (2) Visit Your Doctor

Due to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies must now cover certain preventive services for women, such as well-woman visits, contraceptives, and mammograms at no additional out-of-pocket cost to the patient. This is a huge step forward toward protecting your health and keeping more money in your pocket.

Don’t Wait for a Mammogram

While mammograms can help you detect breast cancer before you can even feel a lump, self-exams are just as important. They help you become familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your health care professional if there are any changes. Whether you are in the shower, in front of a mirror, or lying down breast self-exams should be conducted once a month. Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancer cases are detected by women who feel a lump themselves, so it’s important to perform self exams consistently. An easy way to remember to perform your breast self-exam is to set a recurring calendar event reminder on your phone each month.

Investigate Your Family History

Based on personal or family history, you may want to ask your doctor if a BRCA gene test is recommended. The BRCA gene test is a blood test that uses DNA analysis to identify harmful changes (mutations) in either one of the two breast cancer susceptibility genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited mutations in these genes face a much higher risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer compared with the general population. From a BRCA gene test, you learn whether you carry an inherited BRCA gene mutation and receive an estimate of your personal risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Take Action Now

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Here are a few ideas to help you take action this month:

  • Encourage women who you know who are ages 40 to 49 to talk with their doctors about when to start getting mammograms.
  • Organize an event to talk with women ages 50 to 74 in your community about getting mammograms every two years.
  • Spread the word by tweeting about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
  • Make a donation to provide breast health services to women in need through the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Komen, Bright Pink, or the American Breast Cancer Foundation.
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Can You Afford to be Uninsured?

The individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act requires that all Americans have health insurance or face a penalty. Open enrollment begins on November 15, so now is the time to learn why getting health insurance is so important – and why it could actually save you money in the long run.

Tax Penalty 2015 FINAL

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