children eating ice cream cones on a park bench

Two Things Your Teeth Want You to Avoid This Summer

Summer is finally here. This is the time of year where families all over the country can sit back, relax together, and enjoy the warm weather. But while you and your family are trying to keep cool, there are a few summer staples you should avoid in order to prevent tooth decay and the resulting costly dental procedures.

Fruity Drinks

No summer is complete without at least a few fruity drinks by the pool. And while the fruit may be good for you and help keep you hydrated in the summer heat, the excess sugar won’t do you any favors. Despite the main ingredient being fruits and/or veggies, smoothies can contain lots of hidden sugar which can wreak havoc on not just your waistline, but your teeth as well.

According to WebMD, “tooth decay is caused by bacteria that feeds on sugars from food and drinks. That bacteria — called plaque — can stick to your teeth, producing acids that eat through the enamel on your teeth.” So, while a fruity drink or smoothie may sound great, don’t forget that water can be just as refreshing.

Chewing Ice

When it comes to ice cubes, those frozen cubes are best left melting in your cup.

Chewing on ice may seem like a harmless zero-calorie way to keep cool but it can lead to enamel damage. Like all hard foods, chewing on ice cubes can cause chips and cracks to your teeth and create a passageway for bacteria to get in and cause infections.

Aside from the potential for dental damage, chewing or craving ice can also be a sign of a larger health concern such an iron deficiency, or an eating disorder.

Keeping Your Mouth Protected

When it comes to maintaining good oral health and protecting yourself from costly dental work, the best thing you can do is to get covered.

employee benefits book on a wooden desk with glasses succulent coffee and notebooks

Trending Employee Benefits That Companies Should Be Aware Of

The U.S. unemployment rate is now at its lowest levels since 1969. This strengthening of the American job market has given many workers the confidence to reassess their employment situations in a way that they may not have felt comfortable doing ten years ago.

Employers are realizing that it is becoming harder to attract top talent and keep them. Previous benefits packages such as PTO and 401(k) offerings don’t seem to be enough anymore. So many businesses are now tasked with developing new ways to find and retain good staff.

While a comfortable salary is nice, a growing number of workers are placing a higher value on voluntary benefits. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks 7th in the world for Countries With the Worst Work-Life Balance. So the more companies do to make their employees’ lives easier outside of the workplace, the more appealing and valuable those jobs become.

These are some of the most sought-after benefits right now:

Identity Theft Protection

According to Javelin’s 2019 Identity Fraud Study, over 14.4 million people fell victim to identity fraud in 2018 and over 23 percent of victims were not reimbursed for personal expenses. As technology continues to evolve, protecting your identity has never been more important. With new reports of data hacks every month, it’s at the forefront of many minds. Offering identity-theft protection could give employees an invaluable benefit: peace of mind.

Student Loan Refinancing

At the start of 2019, over 44 million U.S. citizens owed more than $1.56 trillion in student loan debt – signaling the highest amount ever recorded. According to Forbes, “Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.” For the majority, this level of debt will continue to weigh them down for decades making this a crisis that impacts more than just recent college graduates.

This has led many businesses to begin offering student loan benefits to their employees in the form of refinancing options – or even help to pay down some of their debt (usually a set amount over a period of years). Some businesses who have implemented this approach have seen increased employee retention rates.

Wellness

Providing your employees with the tools they need to maintain their overall physical health can benefit not only them but your business as well. As a result, many employers are choosing to invest in everything from gym memberships to telemedicine options for their employees.

While exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve overall cognitive abilities such as learning and concentration, sometimes that isn’t enough to fight off common depression and anxiety symptoms.

Roughly 1 million workers are absent from their jobs every day because of stress. According to The American Institute of Stress, “Unanticipated absenteeism is estimated to cost American companies $602.00/worker/year and the price tag for large employers could approach $3.5 million annually.”

Improving the access and affordability of mental health services is something that could greatly benefit businesses and employees alike. Many telemedicine services, such as Teladoc, have ventured into the realm of mental health counseling. This gives employees an additional benefit while allowing them to access crucial mental and physical health services wherever and whenever they need.

professional woman on phone outside smiling

Knowing Your Options Outside of Open Enrollment

While the annual Open Enrollment period focuses on ACA-compliant individual major medical insurance, there are still other forms of insurance available for potential enrollees.

Knowing Your Options

According to healthinsurance.org, “ACA-compliant coverage refers to a major medical health insurance policy that conforms to the regulations set forth in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)…This means they must include coverage for the ten essential benefits with no lifetime or annual benefit maximums, and must adhere to the consumer protections built into the law.”

Unless you qualify for a special enrollment period, you cannot receive ACA-compliant individual health insurance coverage outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period, which typically runs from November 1st until December 15th of each year.

If you missed out on Open Enrollment but still need individual health insurance, you still have a few options available:

  1. COBRA

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.”

  1. Qualifying Life Event (QLE)

There are certain life circumstances called Qualifying Life Events (QLEs) that can qualify you for a special enrollment period. Special enrollment periods allow you to obtain ACA-compliant health coverage outside of the annual Open Enrollment period for you and your eligible dependents. The most common QLEs pertain to:

  • Loss of health coverage
  • Changes in household
  • Changes in residence
  1. Non-ACA Compliant plans

Non-ACA compliant plans, also referred to as short-term medical plans, have recently become more appealing to a growing number of people due to their lower rates. According to the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, “Late last year (2017), President Trump issued an executive order directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take steps to expand the availability of short-term health insurance policies, and a proposed regulation to increase the maximum coverage term under such policies was published in February.”

So, what separates the ACA-compliant health plans from the ones that are not? One of the biggest factors being the ACA’s ten essential health benefits. Non-ACA compliant plans do not need to adhere to the numerous rules and regulations laid out in the Affordable Care Act.

woman on smartphone surrounded by locks graphic img

5 Tips To Help You Protect Your Identity In 2019

Despite best efforts on behalf of businesses and consumers alike, cases of identity theft and fraud have continued to rise. In 2017 alone, an estimated 16.7 million individuals had their identities compromised, up 1.3 million from 2016 and 3.6 million from 2015, according to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research.

While banks and retailers have taken steps to protect credit card information from being stolen (such as with EMV chips), many retailers still require customers to swipe – which eliminates the benefits of the EMV chip altogether.

Know Your Options

You may be feeling helpless when it comes to identity theft, but there are steps you can take to keep your information protected.

Tip #1: Freeze your credit

Thanks to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, there is no longer a fee associated with freezing your credit. This is one of the easiest ways you can protect your information without doing anything more than contacting the three major reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. According to Experian, “when you freeze your credit report, you are stopping any of your personal data from being reported to lenders and creditors. Thus, in the event that a fraudster would try to use your Social Security number to apply for a credit card, that application would be rejected, as the bank would be unable to verify your credit score.”

If freezing isn’t for you, all three major credit bureaus offer mobile apps that allow you to lock and unlock your credit using your smartphone.

Tip #2: Update your passwords

The street you grew up on, your pet’s name, or the high school you graduated from are not hard to find out. Instead, consider a random series of letters, numbers, and special characters. Experts such as Perfect Passwords author Mark Burnett suggest coming up with a new secure password every six to twelve months.

Tip #3: Monitor your accounts

If you suspect your identity has been stolen, the faster you act the better. Many banks now monitor your accounts for you and will either text or call you if they suspect any fraudulent activity, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your accounts yourself. It’s important to read through every account charge and investigate anything you don’t recognize immediately.

Tip #4: Don’t leave a trail

How many credit card offers do you receive in the mail, and then simply throw away? According to NerdWallet, “Stolen mail is one of the easiest paths to a stolen identity.” If you haven’t already invested in a personal shredder, there are a number of models designed to help keep your identity safe and protected for less than $30.

Tip #5: DON’T CARRY YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD EVERYWHERE

No one means to misplace their wallet, have their car broken into, or their purse stolen, but accidents happen. This is why it is never a good idea to carry your social security card with you at all times. According to Steven J.J. Weisman, Esq., an Amherst, Massachusetts-based college professor who specializes in white-collar crime, “A Social Security number is the most important piece of information that a criminal can use to make you a victim of identity theft so you shouldn’t carry it with you in your wallet, anyway.”

A better place to store your social security card may be at home, in a safe place, preferably under lock and key.

father helping daughter with glasses with homework

Prevent Vision-Related Learning Problems Through Early Detection

Vision plays a vital role in one’s ability to learn, but did you know that more than 61% of the United States population needs some sort of vision correction? Combine that percentage with this fact: In a person’s first 12 years of life, about 80% of their learning takes place visually. So, what does this mean for young children who have undiagnosed vision problems? Their learning may be impaired due to preventable, and detectable vision-related problems.

The Importance of Vision in Learning

There’s no denying that vision plays a key role in a child’s ability to learn from a very young age. Specifically, even as babies and toddlers, children need sound vision to acquire eye movement skills and focusing abilities. As they get older, their eyesight helps them acquire teaming skills, binocular vision skills, visual perceptual skills, and even visual-motor integration.

Still, with about one in four children suffering from vision impairment, those who don’t receive corrective treatment for poor eyesight, learning problems can result because these vision problems interfere with a child’s ability to reach full learning potential (American Academy of Optometry).

Problems That Can Arise

Unfortunately, vision problems can be difficult to diagnose. Often times, signs of a vision problem are first noticed by a classroom teacher, who may observe that the child is struggling in a particular area of study. Furthermore, some schools conduct vision tests, and this is also a common juncture at which vision problems are detected.

According to the American Optometric Association, when a vision impairment goes undetected for long enough. learning disabilities are more likely to form. Some examples of common learning disabilities that can be related to vision impairment include:

  • ADD
  • dyslexia
  • issues with spoken and written comprehension
  • challenges with reasoning

And while it’s possible to work around these learning disabilities, they can have a major impact on a child for the rest of his or her life.

Early Detection is Key

The best way to avoid a learning disability caused by vision impairment is to detect vision troubles as early as possible in children. This means scheduling them for regular eye exams at the recommended intervals, being six months, three years, and upon entry into school. From there, annual eye exams are recommended to ensure there aren’t any changes in a child’s vision. By scheduling eye exams early on and regularly, parents can get their children any corrective lenses that may be needed to ensure full learning potential in school.

mother and daughter practicing good oral hygiene

Helpful Dental Hygiene Hacks for Kids

A common question among parents is when they should begin teaching their children oral hygiene. Many dentists assert that parents can start laying the groundwork for good brushing habits before their child’s first tooth even breaks the surface.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tooth decay is the most common chronic disease found in children and adolescents, and is four times more likely to affect teens between 14 and 17 than asthma.

But for many parents, getting their kids to brush their teeth is a battle not unlike getting them to eat their broccoli or go to bed on time, But it doesn’t need to be this way. There are many ways parents can set their children up for success when it comes to their oral health without needing to resort to bargaining or threats.

Start Early

For newborns, it is common for parents to use gauze or another type of clean cloth to wipe down their gums down after feedings to discourage germs and bacteria from lingering and developing into problems down the line.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a child’s first trip to the dentist should coincide with the arrival of the first baby tooth, and should happen no later than their first birthday.

Early exposure to dentist visits and cleaning their mouths can help get your child used to these activities in the future. Starting good oral hygiene habits early can help show them that these activities are not out of the ordinary and are just part of the routine and nothing to be afraid of or anxious about.

Lead by Example

Whether it’s what you say or what you do, kids love to imitate adults. So, when it comes to oral hygiene, make sure you’re setting a good example. Try dancing, making funny faces, or even singing or humming a song while brushing. No matter what you do, just be sure that your child sees you enjoying brushing your teeth. This will teach them that brushing is a fun activity that they can look forward to.

Make It Fun

Toothbrush makers know that the more fun they can make brushing for kids, the more likely those kids will grow into adults with healthy brushing habits. That’s why so many toothbrushes now come in flashy colors – some with cartoon characters, some that play music, and others that light up.

And while you won’t be able to find any toothpaste to sing songs to your kids, you will find it available in a variety of colors, flavors, and some even with glitter or other special effects.

Having a cool toothbrush may be half the battle but using positive reinforcement techniques to encourage your toddler to keep brushing also helps. Sticker charts, a special snack, and even an extra ten minutes of play time are all great ideas.

Find What Works

No two children are the same and what works for one, may not work for another. Some children’s gums may be more sensitive than others which will force parents to opt for soft or silicone bristled toothbrushes. Ultimately, it is up to you, the parent, to figure out what works best for your child and hygiene structure.

For parents with children who struggle with developmental disabilities such as autism, the process for learning good oral health habits may prove even more challenging. And with roughly one out of every 40 children in America diagnosed with autism, there is a growing need for more dentists and dental practitioners to be both better equipped and knowledgeable when it comes to serving patients with developmental disabilities.

If your child falls into this group, and getting them to practice good oral hygiene proves too strenuous for both of you, a Board-certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) may be able to help.

The Right Choice for Your Family

When was the last time your child made a trip to the dentist? With our Comprehensive PPO dental plan, your family will have the freedom to visit any licensed dentist in the country. You can save even more when you visit one of over 135,000 preferred dentists and 32,000 specialists nationwide. Make your family’s oral health a priority by visiting your association page today.

young person sitting on floor with dog looking at piles of scattered bills

How to Cope With Medical Bills

If you are stressed out with medical bills, it’s time to develop a game plan for tackling your debt so you can eventually put it all behind you. No matter how much or how little medical debt you have, there are some steps you can follow to become proactive and get it paid off to avoid accumulating future debt.

Get Organized

Start by getting all your medical bills, invoices, insurance statements, and other paperwork organized. Avoid throwing any of these correspondences away and make sure all bills from the hospital are itemized. If they’re not, contact your hospital and request itemized versions so you can check them for errors. Believe it or not, about 99% of all medical bills contain incorrect charges. While reviewing your bills, check to ensure that your personal information is correct, that your insurance information is listed, and that you aren’t being charged for any services you didn’t receive.

Know Your Benefits

If you have medical insurance and use it to help pay for a medical service, you should receive an “explanation of benefits,” which will provide an overview of how much you were charged, how much your policy covered, and how much you have to pay out-of-pocket. Make sure to review this document carefully and ensure that it corresponds to the coverage you’re paying for. Don’t hesitate to call your insurance company if you have any questions or don’t understand your explanation of benefits.

Address Mistakes

Once you sit down and analyze your medical bills, it is not uncommon to find mistakes. If you think an error has been made, there are a few steps you need to follow to address it. For starters, contact the billing office at the hospital or medical office and explain the error to them; if it’s an obvious error, they should be able to fix it right away. In the meantime, understand that you’ll still be responsible for the bill, and they may have to refund you later on; you can’t refuse payment on a bill because of an error. Make sure to copy down names of people you speak to as well. By taking down contact names, you can potentially build a relationship and good faith with the bill collectors.

If You Can’t Pay. . .

The case may be that you simply cannot afford to pay your accumulated medical bills. Generally, the best thing you can do is to contact the billing department of each hospital or practitioner and try to work out a payment plan. By meeting with the billing office, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to negotiate down some of your debt or get on a reasonable payment plan that works with your budget. Doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.

Avoiding Future Problems

Finally, you can avoid future debt from medical bills by making sure you fully understand your health insurance benefits. If you are not comfortable with the level of coverage your current plan offers, it may be time to re-evaluate your needs.

 

woman online shopping on laptop for dental insurance

5 Things to Consider When Buying Dental Insurance

Whether you’re currently without dental insurance or are simply shopping around for a new policy, the fact remains that the process of searching for your ideal policy can be quite tedious and time consuming. After all, dental insurance is a lot different than a traditional health insurance plan in the sense that it’s less open-ended and provides coverage for very specific preventative care.

As you shop for a dental health plan, here are a few of the most important considerations to keep in mind.

1. Time is of the Essence

First and foremost, don’t put off making a decision until you absolutely need dental work done. The sooner you’re covered, the better off you’ll be. After all, most dental plans have a waiting period for major services; during this waiting period, you may not be covered for certain types of dental work, such as root canals or crowns. The worst thing you can do is to wait until something bad happens to seek coverage.

2. Be Wary of the “Cheapest” Plan

Everybody’s needs are different when it comes to dental insurance. Therefore, you’ll want to find a policy that meets your needs while avoiding paying for things you probably won’t need. That being said, don’t always go with the least expensive option. A lower cost plan may be void of important provisions that are easy to overlook. The benefits in different types of dental plans can vary greatly, so take your time to evaluate important features like the annual maximums, waiting periods, excluded procedures, provider networks, and whether the plan pays benefits when visiting an out-of-network dentist.

3. Deductibles and Co-Pays

No matter what kind of dental plan you choose, you’ll likely be paying at least some kind of deductible and/or co-pay when you see the dentist. While many plans provide coverage for bi-annual exams, most plans don’t cover 100% for other dental work, such as:

  • fillings
  • tooth extraction
  • dental crowns

As such, you’ll want to find a plan with co-pays and deductibles that are reasonable for your budget.

4. What’s Covered (and What’s Not)

Before you decide on a dental plan, it’s always recommended that you read the fine print to get a true picture of what’s covered by your plan and what’s not. Basic dental care, such as preventative exams, cleanings, and X-rays ought to be covered, but there’s a good chance that certain procedures such as cosmetic work will need to be paid for out-of-pocket.

5. Your Preferred Dentist

Finally, if you’re opposed to the idea of finding a new dentist with your new plan, make sure the policy you choose is accepted by your preferred dentist. If not, you’ll surely want to find out how the plan covers benefits for going “out-of-network”. It is a good idea to verify whether your dentist is in-network by viewing the provider listing for the plan on the insurance company’s website and by contacting the front desk staff at your dentist’s office.

business leaders discuss group health insurance options

Making the Most of Your Group Health Care Benefits

Have you recently enrolled or been offered enrollment in a group health care plan through your employer? If so, this can be a great way to enjoy benefits for yourself and your loved ones. Of course, when enrolling in group healthcare (or any health care plan, for that matter), making sure you’re making the most of your benefits is a must. By following a few steps, you can make that happen.

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