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Archive for November, 2011

Healthy Travel Tips for the Holidays

This column first appeared
in the Syracuse Post Standard
November 22, 2011

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You may be among the millions of Americans who will travel during the upcoming holidays. Travel takes you out of your normal environment and disturbs your routine. If you have health issues, like a chronic disease, an injury, or even a short-term illness, it’s smart to prepare ahead of time for those changes and accommodate for them where possible.  You’ll want to be sure your travel doesn’t upset your health, and your health doesn’t upset your travel.

Drugs, supplements and supplies:  Pack enough to cover the days you’ll be away, plus extra, in case flights are delayed or a blizzard closes the roads. If you fly, remember that airlines can lose checked bags, so keep all medical supplies with you in your carry-on bag. Any time difference at your destination may require an adjustment of your drug routine. Make yourself a chart ahead of time to keep your regimen on schedule.

Airport security:  The TSA has strict rules about what can, or cannot go through security.  Medications, oxygen, inhalers and other medical items must be packed in certain ways, and will be screened through x-ray machines. Go online before you fly to learn to learn how to get your medical equipment or materials through security.  http://1.usa.gov/TSAMedical

Foods:  Alert your host ahead of time if you have special dietary requirements, or if certain foods upset your digestion. Mention any food allergies you have or conflicts with drugs you take. Plans can be made to accommodate your needs when they are discussed ahead of time.

Contagious diseases:  Of course, holiday time is often cold and flu time, too.  Get your flu shot prior to travel. Wash or sanitize your hands as often as possible, and keep them away from your mouth, nose or eyes. If you are highly susceptible or your immune system is compromised, consider wearing a face mask to protect yourself from others who might be contagious. If you have a cold, then cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands, to prevent infecting others.

Long Distance Travel:  If you’ll be sitting for great lengths of time in a car or plane, you risk potentially deadly blood clots in your legs called DVT (deep vein thrombosis.). Keep your blood circulating by taking hourly breaks to walk around and stretch.

These travel preparations will keep you healthier and will make your visit more enjoyable, too.

Here are some additional resources for
making sure you stay healthy while traveling:

•  Tips for Healthy Travel
Before You Go, As You Travel, and At Your Destination

•  Tips for Healthy International Travel

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Can You Really Save Money With a High Deductible Health Insurance Plan?

This column first appeared
in the Syracuse Post Standard November 8, 2011

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Last column we looked at Medicare Open Enrollment and how Medicare recipients can find great resources for helping them choose which health plan is right for them.

Unfortunately, the rest of us, those who are under age 65 and face Open Enrollment for private health insurance, aren’t so lucky.  While resources do exist to help us choose, not many of them are objective.  Most are offered by health insurers themselves and tend to be biased.

This year, one of the biggest Open Enrollment questions we under-65ers have is whether it makes sense to choose a high deductible plan. These plans have much lower monthly premiums, but require us to pay thousands more from our pockets before insurance pays its portion.

Those lower premiums are so tempting!  But they may also end up being very expensive. There is a reason the alternate term for “high deductible” is “catastrophic.” “Catastrophic” is supposed to refer to the fact that you will be covered if you or your family member suffers a catastrophic accident or diagnosis. But if it’s not the right plan for you, it can be catastrophic for your wallet.

So how can you determine if a high deductible plan is the right choice?  Get out your crystal ball, and try to predict how much medical care you and your family members will need in 2012. How many doctor visits?  How many prescriptions? Are you due for expensive tests? Will your 10-year-old soccer star get a concussion? Will you fall off the roof while scraping ice?

The more medical care you require, the less likely a high deductible plan will save you money.  If your medical needs eventually cost more than the deductible amount, then, in total, you will probably lose money over choosing a regular plan with a lower deductible, even though the premium is higher.  Remember, the total deductible isn’t all you’ll pay when you need care.  Once the deductible is met, your additional co-pay may be as much as 40 percent of each medical bill.

If you and your family are mostly healthy, and you decide a catastrophic insurance plan will serve your needs, then establish a Health Savings Plan, too. It’s tax-favored savings you may use for any health-related need, and even if you don’t spend it, does not disappear at the end of the year.

Here are some additional resources for making smart choices during Open Enrollment:

•  Choosing the Right Insurance Plan During Open Enrollment

•  Should I Choose a High Deductible or Catastrophic Health Insurance Plan?

•  What Is a Health Savings Account?

•  Medicare 101 and Medicare Open Enrollment

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