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Do you really need an annual well visit and why is it so important?

What is the purpose of an annual well visit?

Your annual well visit or check up is something you should have each and every year.  Why?  Because it gives both you and your physician a baseline reading of your overall health while you are symptom free.  Having this baseline measurement can help your doctor detect potential health concerns before they progress – think of it as a warning system for your overall health. 

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

What can you expect during your annual well visit?

You can expect your physician to check the following during your next well visit

  • Health history
  • Height measurement
  • Weight measurement
  • Blood pressure reading
  • Body mass index assessment (BMI)
  • Counseling for obesity
  • Skin cancer and safety
  • Depression screening

During the overall visit with your doctor, he or she will determine if there is a need for additional tests, lab work, x-rays and other medially appropriate health screenings based on what the baseline measures report.

Embrace the opportunity you have to go for an annual well visit every year.  These visits can help you avoid potentially serious health conditions.  They can also provide early diagnosis for diseases that can be easily treatable if caught early enough – things like diabetes.  Allowing health concerns like diabetes to go unchecked for a prolonged amount of time can do serious, irreversible damage.

Curious to know how the Affordable Care Act’s annual check up has helped real people?  Check out the stories below!

All names have been changed.

Rich had not had a checkup in many years and after getting insurance for the first time in as many years he went for a checkup.  The doctor saw something irregular on his EKG and sent Rich for further testing. Turns out Rich had a blockage in a small artery and needed a procedure to open it up.  What was an outpatient procedure could have been life threatening if it went on undiscovered.

Samantha has had insurance for many years but had not had a checkup in about 4 years.  When she went this past February a small nodule was found in her breast that needed further study.  The nodule turned out to be nothing to worry about but its very important to have these things checked.

Don also had insurance for many years and had not been to a doctor in about 5 years.  After showing the doctor a mark on his leg, the doctor sent him for additional tests.  The spot turned out to be skin cancer that was easily removed at the stage that it was in.  Had it gone on longer, it could have been an issue.

Tips to make your upcoming well visit productive:

  • Be very specific when you call to schedule your appointment – indicate that you need an appointment for your annual well visit
  • Make sure the doctor’s office codes your visit properly so you do not get charged erroneously
  • If you think you have been charged incorrectly, ask to see the codes your doctor’s office uses for well visits
  • Make a list of questions and concerns you would like addressed during your visit
  • Know what is included in your annual well visit – visit a blog post I wrote earlier this year that outlines what is included HERE

Here’s to continued health!


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Are You Taking Advantage of Your 2017 Health Plan?

If not, you should be!  The Affordable Care Act is in place to help you be healthy and remain healthy throughout your life!  A BIG part of helping you stay healthy is through preventative health care practices.  The Affordable Care Act provides several preventative services as well as 1 wellness visit each and every year.

In this blog post, we are going to explore what is included in your well visit and showcase why it is important to take advantage of your it through real life stories.  The stories we share with you will illustrate how preventative care and well visits stopped devastating illness in its tracks.  The key to preventative health care is catching illness and disease before they manifest and fester into a larger more chronic or fatal outcomes.

So what exactly is “Preventative Care”?  It is the practice of evaluating your health when you are not sick or experiencing any sort of symptoms, providing a baseline or what is normal for you.  Once you have a baseline established for yourself, it makes it easier for healthcare professionals to identify illness and disease earlier.  This makes it easier to establish when something serious is brewing within your body.

Did you know there are at least 10 preventative services and 1 well care visit available to you during the calendar year under The Affordable Care Act?  Many people don’t!  These preventative services are made up of one well care visit as well as things like immunizations, tests, physical exams and lab work.

Captain Health USA Stat: The Affordable Care Act allows for 47 million women with private insurance to schedule mammograms without being charged a co-pay

Curious what you could expect during your annual well care visit?

Under The Affordable Care Act it is required by law that you have access to 10 main preventative care services.  Below is what is included in the “Adult” list.  Keep in mind, there are even more listed for women, children and seniors!

  1. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm one-time screening for men of specified ages who have ever smoked
  2. Blood Pressure screening for all adults
  3. Lab Tests such as Cholesterol screening and others
  4. Colo-rectal Cancer screening for adults over 50
  5. Depression screening for adults
  6. Diabetes (Type 2) screening for adults with high blood pressure
  7. HIV screening for everyone ages 15 to 65, and other ages at increased risk
  8. Immunization vaccines for adults–doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary:
    • Hepatitis A
    • Hepatitis B
    • Herpes Zoster
    • Human Papillomavirus
    • Influenza (Flu Shot)
    • Measles, Mumps, Rubella
    • Meningococcal
    • Pneumococcal
    • Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
    • Varicella
  9. Obesity screening and counseling for all adults
  10. Tobacco Use screening for all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users

Real Life Stories… (all Names Changed)

John……    Didn’t have insurance for many years due to the cost.  About 2 years ago he got coverage and decided to go for his physical.  The first physical in about 10 years.  At first all seamed well.  Then the lab work came back.  The labs showed that his blood sugar was way off from what it should be.  Turns out John was a diabetic and didn’t know it.  He simply ignored the symptoms.  Over time it could have been a huge medical issue however, since it was caught fairly soon, John got on medicine and should live a normal life.

Rick……  Rick had not had insurance for about 5 years.  Rick got a physical at the first chance he could and it was a good thing he did.  An issue with his prostate was caught in the early stages and was able to be treated with out major surgery.  Had it not been caught it could have cost him his life.

Joan…… To make a long story short, the non-compliant health plan Joan was on did not cover the cost of a mammogram .  Once she got good coverage, Joan had a mammogram (that cost nothing)  for this first time in 4 years.  A very small abnormality was found and removed.  Had it not been found early on, the treatment and results could have been much worse.

Health insurance is not just for when your sick, its also there to keep you well.


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Healthcare and The Incoming Administration

The attached article – Donald Trump Walks Back His Stance On Obamacare shows a possible change in direction of the incoming administration and it’s not totally unexpected.


YOCG Tuesday 2 2 16 CANVAThere are so many people covered by insurance now that were never covered before it would almost be impossible to unwind what’s already been done and put something else in place that does not look like just about the same thing.  You know that old saying…if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…its a duck.   Maybe its a Trump duck instead of an Obama duck….but its still a duck.  
 

The affordable care act (Obamacare) was based on a few core principles. The most important ones in my opinion are…

1. No one should be turned down for any pre-existing medical condition

2. People who could not afford insurance would get subsidies or some kind of assistance to help with the cost

3. Everyone would be required to have insurance that consists of what is called MEC (Minimum Essential Coverage). This is also called the “Individual mandate”

It’s these principles that define Obamacare. Everything else in my opinion, surrounds these principles and if changed, really does not effect the basic core principles.  Some examples of things that could be changed that would lower the cost of coverage to most people include….

 – Should pregnancy coverage be included in all policies?

 – Should mental health coverage be included in all policies?

 – Should rehab coverage be included in all policies?

YOCG Tuesday 11 24 15 CANVAMaybe these coverage’s should be options like when you buy a car.  Everyone gets the basic car but if you want a radio it’s extra, if you want bigger tires it’s extra, if you want a sunroof it’s extra, you get the point.

I think we need to bring healthcare coverage back to its original intent, to cover you for what you want to be covered for and not what the government says that you should be covered for.  Of course everyone should have at least basic well-care and hospitalization coverage but should everyone have to pay for all the options? 

Read the article HERE


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2017 Open Enrollment…Are you READY?

It’s that time of year again!  Get ready to start thinking about open enrollment and what you need to do to make sure you and your family have health insurance coverage.

Here is what you need to know!

2016:

Open enrollment for 2016 is CLOSED.  BUT, If you still need coverage for the rest of 2016, you can get it but, only if you qualify. 

To qualify you need to meet one of these two criteria:

  • Special Enrollment Period due to a life event — like losing health coverage, getting married, or having a baby.
  • You qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

You can apply for these programs any time throughout the year.

Let’s Brush Up On The Marketplace

About The Marketplace:

Who is it for?  The Marketplace is for individuals who do not have health coverage for the coming year.  That means, you do not have coverage through:

  • Your employment
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • The Children’s Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Another source providing qualifying coverage

How Much It Costs:

Health insurance through the Marketplace depends on your estimated income for the coverage year.  Did you know?  In 2017, roughly 8 out of 10 of uninsured people who are eligible for Marketplace coverage will qualify for financial assistance.*  The financial assistance  provided goes towards lowering the cost of the monthly premiums and in some cases is can also help with things like deductibles and copays.  Get an idea of what that could mean for you HERE.

Discover What The Marketplace Insurance Covers:

Essential health benefits – Every plan must include the following:

  • Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization (like surgery and overnight stays)
  • Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care (both before and after birth)
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care (but adult dental and vision coverage aren’t essential health benefits)
  • Pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy
  • Preventive care
  • Birth control coverage
  • Breastfeeding coverage

Pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy

Preventive care

Get a list of what that includes for:

What If You Do Not Get Health Insurance?

If you can afford health insurance and fail to obtain qualifying health coverage for the 2017 year, you may be fined.  This fine is referred to the “individual shared responsibility payment”. 

Fees are calculated in two different ways.  They are:

  • A percentage of your house hold income
  • Per person

You will be required to the highest rate calculated.

Fines for 2017 have not been released as of yet.

Do you have questions about your health insurance coverage for 2017?  I can help!  Contact me, Your Obamacare Guy!  I can be reached at:  (813) 391-3448 or email address:  dave@YourObamacareGuy.com

* source:  http://www.HealthCare.gove/quickguide


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Open Enrollment & Obamacare Changes YOU Need to Know About!

Healthcare Open Enrollment is RIGHT Around the Corner! 

There are LOTS of Changes YOU Need to Know About!

yocg-tuesday-9-6-16-canvaHealthcare open enrollment begins on November 1, 2016 and runs until January 31, 2017 and it won’t be business as usual.  There will be several carrier changes for 2017. 

Before we get into the specific changes, there are some dates you need to put on your calendar for the open enrollment period:

  • November 1, 2016:  Open Enrollment Begins
  • December 15, 2016:  Meet this enrollment deadline to ensure coverage begins on January 1, 2017
  • December 31, 2016:  Coverage ends on this date.  If you have NO changes to your plan, your plan will be auto-renewed
  • January 31, 2017:  This is the VERY LAST day you can apply for 2017 healthcare coverage

If you miss these deadlines, you cannot enroll again until November 1, 2017 unless you have special “life event” changes take place.  Life event changes include:  having a baby or losing your job.

Did you know?

If you do not enroll in Obamacare or have an approved form of health insurance during 2017, you will be fined 2.5% of your income or $695 per adult – whichever is higher.  Please note that the amounted listed is only an estimation as the higher 2017 dollar amount has not been released as of yet.

Those living at poverty levels can enroll at any time in the Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).  These programs do not have a specific enrollment period or timeframe to adhere to.  Please note, there are some restrictions to adhere to such as income restrictions.

Changes…

yocg-wednesday-9-1-16-canvaAt the beginning of this article, I noted there were going to be changes in the Florida Marketplace.  There will be some carriers leaving and some new additions too!

Let’s first say good-bye to:

  • United-Healthcare
  • Aetna

Say Hello to:

  • Cigna – they exited the Florida Exchange in 2015 but are coming back in 2017
  • Molina – They are expanding from South Florida to the Tampa Bay area
  • Harken Health (a subsidiary of United Healthcare) is planning to enter the exchange in the Miami and and Fort Lauderdale area

Of Note:

Humana plans to scale back it’s participation in the Marketplace but will remain in the Florida Exchange system. 

Other changes coming down the pike in 2017 include rate changes that have not been approved by the state yet.   

Other Obamacare changes people can expect to see in 2017 are:

MORE INFO!

When you select a healthcare plan, there are usually two things you ask:

1)  How much is it going to cost me

2)  Is my doctor or the hospital I prefer in my plan

A common complaint last year was inaccurate doctor and hospital information.  The new rules mandate that:

  • Insurance providers are required to give consumers a 30-day notice when a doctor is being removed from a network
  • If a doctor/provider is being removed from a network and a patient is in active care/treatment with the physician being removed, the insurance company must allow for up to 90 days treatment under the physician’s care

Reduction in “Surprise” medical bills from out-of-network providers

Many patients have complained about receiving unexpected invoices and bills from out-of-network doctors, even when the patient thought the doctor was in network.  The new rule calls for:

  • Ancillary care amounts to be applied towards a patient’s yearly out of pocket maximum expenses

Note, this rule only applies to those instances where the insurer has not given patients the correct notification that they will be receiving care from individuals outside of the network.  The general rule is that a patient must be notified that they will receive care from an out of network provider within 48 hours.

Better Explanation of Out-Of-Pocket Expenses/Costs

During 2017, insurers are to offer plans with a standard set of coverage costs (deductibles and copays).  With this information easily attainable, the patients will better understand the out-of-pocket fees associated with the plan they select.

Do you have specific questions about open enrollment and how the 2017 marketplace changes could affect you?  Contact me, Your Obamacare Guy!  I can be reached at:  (813) 391-3448 or email address:  dave@YourObamacareGuy.com


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Physician Referrals, YOU Have A Choice!

Physician Referrals, YOU Have A Choice!

Health care and visiting the doctor has become increasingly complicated to navigate. Rules are always changing.  Life is busy which makes it hard to keep up with the changes.  Good news!  I am here to help!  So, let’s dive in!!!

Wednesday 7 6 16When do I need a referral?

Referrals are generally required when you need to see a specialist for a condition that your regular primary care physician cannot treat.  Not all specialists need a referral.  The services that DO NOT require referrals are:

  • In network:
    • Obstetrician/gynecologist
    • Urgent care centers or walk in clinics
    • Eye examinations
    • Mental health disorder and substance abuse services
    • Pathologist
    • Radiologist
    • Anesthesiologist
    • Emergency room visits/admissions
    • Non-physician services such as:
      • Outpatient labs
      • Diagnostics
      • Physical Therapy
      • Durable medical equipment

How do I obtain a referral for a specialist?

Once your primary care physician determines a specialist is needed, to help you with your condition, a referral is given.

A Referral is an authorization for you to see a specialist.

In some cases, your physician may give you a recommendation of who to see along with his referral.  A recommendation is exactly what it sounds like.  It is a suggestion of who you might want to consider seeing for treatment, not a mandate.  This is great news!  Why?  For many reasons!  Check them out:

  • Many times, your primary physician may recommend a specialist who is not in your network.  This can be a very expensive option for you.
  • You have the opportunity to research and find the perfect specialist for you within your health insurance network
  • In some cases, referrals are generated due to a quid pro quo arrangement between doctors.

Now that you have your referral in hand, it is time to select your specialist.  One of the first things you should do is fire up your computer and search for the doctor in your insurance plan’s database.  Not sure who is in your carrier’s database or where to even find the database?  No worries, use this handy tool:  Dave’s Doctor Search.  Here you will find all of the doctor’s listed in the each of the major health insurance carriers.

Select at least three specialists you are interested in possibly using for treatment and learn more about them.  Some of the things you will want to look for are:

  • Is the doctor licensed?  You can verify this by visiting your state’s physician licensing board
  • Is the physician board certified?  A board certified physician is one who demonstrates exceptional expertise in a specialty or subspecialty.  They are certified and recognized by the ABMS Member Board.  Qualifications to be recognized by this board includes rigorous testing and peer evaluations.  These evaluations and tests are engineered and administrated by other specialists in the same field of specialty.
  • Consider the age of the doctor.  Are they older and considering retirement, are they younger and have a passion for cutting edge technology and techniques or have they been practicing a long time giving them ample experience to treat your condition well?
  • Discover how long the doctor has been practicing by visiting online doctor listing sites.
  • Have there been interruptions in their practice and why?
  • What hospitals is the doctor affiliated with and how are those hospitals ranked?
  • Has the doctor experienced any reprimands or malpractice suits?
  • Consider researching doctor ratings sites and review sites.
  • Has the doctor authored any papers, studies or conducted research in the field you are looking to get treatment in?

There is so much to consider when selecting a doctor and a specialist!  The most important thing to remember is that YOU get to make the choice on who treats you.  Take control of your health and your healthcare by selecting the physician that makes the most sense for you and your health goals.

Remember, the referral you receive from your primary care physician (PCP) is the authorization you need to go to the specialist.  The name of a doctor they give is a recommendation only.  Do your homework and find the right fit for you.

Do you need help navigating your way through today’s healthcare arena?  I can help!  Contact Dave, Your ObamaCare Guy for more information at: (813) 391-3448 or email me at dave@YourObamacareGuy.com.


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Emergency Room VS Walk -In Clinic and Your Insurance

Emergency Room VS Walk -In Clinic and Your Insurance

YOCG Tuesday 1 5 2016We all like options right?  Today we have lots of options when it comes to healthcare.  We can choose our doctor from a list of network physicians, select generic prescriptions versus brand name, and we can even choose whether or not we want to go to the Emergency Room or a Walk-In Clinic in urgent but non life-threatening circumstances.  The last option may mean a big difference in dollars you need to pay!  Read on to learn more!

 

Lower Copays
If you had the opportunity to pay lower copays, would you jump at the chance?  I know I would!  Did you know that your may have the opportunity for lower copays if you choose to get care at an in-network walk-in clinic instead of an emergency room?  That’s right!  Your insurance may reward you with a lower copay when you elect to get treatment in a walk-in clinic rather than an ER for non life threatening illnesses or injuries.  In some instances, you may only need to pay $25 to $50 in copay fees when visiting an in network walk-in clinic as opposed to thousands of dollars in Emergency Room bills.

What Type of Services Can You Expect From A Walk-In Clinic?

You may be surprised at the vast amount of services a Walk-In Clinic or Urgent Care facility can provide.  Check out our table below for details of what may be treated in an urgent care facility.

Urgent Care Services

Emergency Room Fees Add Up…Quickly!

YOCG Tuesday 2 2 16 CANVAEmergency room fees tend to add up fast, even before you get there, especially if an ambulance was called.  Depending on your insurance, you could be charged anywhere from as low as $25 but as high as $1,200.

Once you arrive to the Emergency Room, there is a chance that you will need x-rays, special diagnostic testing, medicine and more. Below is my list of tips for monitoring your emergency room bill:

  • Make sure you have a trusted friend or family member with you to help you do some legwork
  • Ask for an itemized list of your bill and scrutinize it for procedures not done or medication not given
  • Talk to the billing department.  Find out if there are different sets of costs for procedures done and select one that fits your budget if you can
  • Discuss a payment plan.  Typically hospitals do not want a bill to go to collection agencies.  See if they will work out a reasonable payment plan with you
  • Discover if there are financial aid programs available to you or if there are any not-for-profit organizations that can help with paying the bill

When Should You Go To An Emergency Room?

Some conditions that should be seen by an Emergency Room staff include:

  • Severe chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Compound fracture (bone protrudes through skin)
  • Convulsions, seizures or loss of consciousness
  • Fever in newborn (less than 3 months old)
  • Heavy, uncontrollable bleeding
  • Deep knife wounds or gunshot wounds
  • Moderate to severe burns
  • Poisoning
  • Serious head, neck or back injury
  • Pregnancy-related problems
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • (Signs of) Heart attack (i.e.. chest pain lasting longer than two minutes)
  • (Signs of)Stroke (e.g. loss of vision, sudden numbness, weakness, slurred speech, or confusion)
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings

When in doubt, get to the nearest emergency room and get the treatment you need.

Before an emergency happens, take the time to understand your policy and what is included and required during an emergency

If you have questions about your coverage and need assistance understanding your policy, contact me, Your Obamacare Guy at (813) 391-3448 or dave@YourObamacareGuy.com.  It is my pleasure to help people get the coverage they need to live the healthiest life possible!