A Smile Has More Power Than You Think

The act of smiling is part of a universal language that everyone understands. When someone cries, they are sad or hurt; when someone laughs, they felt something was funny; and when someone smiles, they are happy or being friendly. No matter where you are in the world, a smile will always be welcomed and understood.

But could smiling have more health benefits we thought?

Health Benefits of Smiling

According to NBC News, “science has shown that the mere act of smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system and possibly even prolong your life.”

Smiling triggers the body to produce serotonin and dopamine resulting in an elevated mood. Not only are these chemicals part of the recipe for happiness, they may also play a part in boosting the immune system.

In one study, participants were separated into two groups, and both exposed to a virus. The first group was exposed to happiness-inducing stimuli and the second group was not. The results of the experiment showed that the group not exposed the happiness-inducing stimuli experienced higher infection rates than the other, leading some scientists to suggest that happiness can have an impact on one’s immune system.

This is just one study of many to suggest a link between those who are unhappy and those with weaker immune systems.

In addition to boosting immune systems, smiling has also been scientifically linked to:

  • lowering heart rate
  • lowering blood pressure
  • longevity

3 Tips to Help Avoid a Disability Diagnosis

With rising medical costs and a lack of emergency savings, many Americans are at risk of financial difficulty if they miss work due to illness, injury, or pregnancy. This is why it’s more important than ever to prepare for the unexpected.

The best way to prevent disabilities caused by illness is through early diagnosis and treatment. But there are also some things you can to do help minimize your chances of developing a disability altogether.

Exercise daily. Most experts agree that just 30 minutes of exercise can reduce the risk of heart attack, diabetes, and stroke.

Eat right. For example, foods such as blueberries and cinnamon may have cancer-preventive properties, while avocados and wild-caught salmon are heart-healthy superfoods.

Get regular check-ups. Sudden changes in weight, sleep patterns, or appetite can sometimes indicate an underlying illness. Checking in with your doctor on a regular basis gives you the best chance of early detection.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help you weather the storm physically, while long-term disability (LTD) insurance can help you get through the financial impact of a disability. LTD insurance pays you a monthly benefit that you can use to help pay your expenses if you become disabled and cannot work to earn a living. Many LTD plans also offer return-to-work features that help you ease back into the workplace when you’re ready.

How to Minimize Your Long-Term Care Risk

Watching a loved one struggle with living independently in their old age is hard — being the one struggling must be even harder.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are used as a way of determining a person’s ability to live independently or see if they need help. That help can range from a family member who checks in and runs errands, to a part-time nurse, or even relocating the individual to an assisted living facility or nursing home.

While there is no way to predict whether a person will develop a condition that limits their ability to live independently, modern science has shown that there are things we can do now to help keep us healthy and more active and independent in the future.

Keep Moving

There is no shortage to the benefits associated with exercising. On top of helping you keep unwanted weight, depression, and mobility issues at bay, studies have shown that individuals who exercise regularly tend to be at a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment. The American Heart Association suggests a goal of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week — but it’s always important to talk to a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Eat Right

Much like exercise, maintaining a balanced diet is always a good idea. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables can provide you with a natural source of important vitamins and minerals. The foods we eat can also help boost our immune systems, bone health, and more.

Stay Sharp

Like our bodies, our minds require exercise as well. Learning a new skill, visiting a new place, staying on top of current events, and even playing games, can help keep your mind sharp and slow the rate of mental decline.

Plan Ahead

Just as there is no way to accurately single out individuals who will need long-term care in the future, there is also no foolproof way to prevent it. Accidents, lifestyle, and genetics are just a few of the things that ultimately determine how our minds and bodies age.

Why Young People Need Disability Insurance

When we’re young, we don’t always think about what could happen in the future. The truth is, debilitating accidents, illnesses, and injuries can happen to anyone, at any time, and any age. So no matter how young you are, it’s important to have a long-term disability insurance plan in place that can help protect your savings if something should happen to you.

Plan for the unexpected.

According to a 2017 Disability and Health Journal report, a long-term disability diagnosis can increase cost-of-living expenses by almost $7,000 a year. If you were suddenly no longer able to work, how would you manage to support yourself? Would your family be able to maintain its current way of life? Could your savings survive the average disability length of 31 months?

If a paycheck is your main source of income, you’ll most likely need long-term disability coverage to meet these needs. Even if your employer already has long-term disability coverage in place for you, it may not be enough. Employer-based plans sometimes only cover a fraction of your salary and may not factor in any bonuses that you (or your family) rely on.

What is long-term disability insurance?

Long-term disability insurance coverage is designed to help you and your loved ones withstand the financial changes that a disability can bring. If you become disabled and are no longer able to continue working, your coverage will kick in and help pay everything from medical copays to everyday expenses such as your mortgage or credit card bills.

Hopefully, you will never have to reap the benefits of a long-term disability plan. But if you do, you’ll be glad you have coverage ready when you need it. Your life can change forever in the blink of an eye – and being prepared can make all the difference in the world.

A Response to COVID-19

As world leaders continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, we would like to reassure its customers and partners that we expect to continue normal business operations.

While there is still a great deal of uncertainty about how the virus will affect markets, industries and entire economies — we are confident that our business continuity plan and operational infrastructure will enable us to continue providing the same level of service excellence that our customers have come to expect.

In addition to providing uninterrupted service, our other commitments to you include:

  • Taking measures to safeguard our employees and customers.
  • Monitoring the situation in our customers’ local and regional areas.
  • Remaining in close communication with our providers and carriers.
  • Being a responsible partner in our communities.
  • Keeping you informed of any important updates.

We will continue to post updates on this web page when necessary.

If you have any questions about your existing policies or coverage, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

young boy scared with hands cupping his mouth

The Growing Need for Special Needs Dental Care

A trip to the dentist can be an extremely traumatic experience for children with developmental disabilities and special needs.

According to the CDC, recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six children aged 3 – 17 have one or more developmental disabilities. Additionally, many studies have noted that those who suffer with developmental disabilities also struggle with various stages of dental decay.

What You Can Do for Your Special Needs Child

Teaching your special needs child the fundamentals of dental hygiene can be hard — having a successful dental appointment can be even harder.

Once you find a dentist who can provide both the care and environment your child needs, there are steps you can take to minimize the stress your child feels by going to the dentist.

  1. Schedule familiarization appointments.

Scheduling your child’s appointment ahead of time can help them adjust to their new surroundings. This will allow them to become more accustomed to the lights, sounds, and smells associated with a trip to the dentist’s office.

During these visits you can also meet with the dentist and their staff to help your child become more comfortable and less scared or nervous.

  1. Tell stories leading up to the appointment.

Telling your child positive stories about visits to the dentist’s office in the weeks leading up to the appointment will help give them an idea of what to expect. It’s important that these stories emphasize a happy environment and not something associated with scary tools or pain.

  1. Come prepared.

Does your child have a favorite movie or TV show? Bring it along on a tablet or phone so they can watch while they’re in the dentist’s chair. The distraction will help to focus their attention on the screen and not what is going on in their mouth.

  1. Work with the office staff.

The staff at the dentist’s office is there to make sure your visit goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Before the appointment, call the dentist’s office to see if the appointments are running behind and if you can sign in a little later. This will help you to minimize the amount of time spent in the waiting room.

The Right Choice for Your Family

Finding a dentist who can provide specialized care for special needs children can be very difficult. Depending on the severity of your child’s developmental disability, general anesthesia may be the only way to provide treatment — something that not all dentists are qualified (or equipped) to provide.

middle aged couple discussing health insurance options at home table

4 Myths About the Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period

We’ve heard a lot of Open Enrollment myths over the years and want to set the record straight.

Myth #1 “There are fewer insurers to choose from.”

Many carriers who initially fled the federal exchange have returned and now offer plans alongside others who have entered the marketplace. This increase in the number of plans being offered has allowed many individuals and families to re-examine their needs and adjust their coverage amounts accordingly.

Myth #2 “The premiums are too expensive.”

Now that the federal exchange marketplace has stabilized, there may be lower-cost options for ACA-compliant health plans than past Open Enrollment periods. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield has filed for a 2.03% decrease in premiums in Texas.

Even if your coverage needs remain the same, you may be able to find a lower premium being offered by a different insurer. We recommend always reviewing the health insurance options available to you during the annual Open Enrollment period.

Myth #3 “You’ll be penalized at tax time for not having insurance.”

In previous years, if an individual did not have health insurance for more than 2 months of the year and did not qualify for an exemption they would face a tax penalty of $695 or 2.5% of their taxable income (whichever amount was greater). As of January 1, 2019, the tax penalty known as the individual mandate has been repealed, though some states may still enforce penalties on individuals who don’t have health insurance.

Myth #4 “Applications are processed instantly.”

On average, our team will process an enrollment application within 24 business hours and submit it to the carrier. Once the application is with the carrier, their team will take over and require an additional 10-15 business days to process the application.

The carriers often get overwhelmed with applications during the Open Enrollment period, so we recommend enrollees submit their health insurance applications as early as possible.

Securing ACA-Complaint Coverage for 2020

This year, Open Enrollment runs from November 1 through December 15 with a coverage effective date of January 1, 2020. This is the one time of year where individuals and families can enroll in ACA-compliant health insurance plans.

happy family on couch browsing health insurance options on tablet

Getting the Most out of Open Enrollment

With 2020 Open Enrollment period in full swing, families across the country are reviewing their current insurance coverages and seeing what other options may be available to them. Below are a few tips to help you navigate the process.

  1. Learn the Language

Insurance jargon may be enough to make some people’s heads spin but learning just a few key terms could help you pick the best health coverage for you and your family. To make it easy, here are a few words we feel you should know:

  • ACA-compliant” refers to plans that follow all the guidelines and regulations in the Affordable Care Act. These plans are only available during the annual Open Enrollment period or through a Special enrollment period, if you have a qualifying event.
  • Non-ACA plans” also known as short term health plans do not adhere to all of the Affordable Care Act’s guidelines and regulations.
  • Deductible” the amount of money you must pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in
  • Premium” the amount you pay to your insurance company every month
  • In-network” refers to a provider that has a contract with your insurance provider
  • Out-of-network” refers to a provider that does not have a contract with your insurance provider
  1. Think of the Future

No one can predict the future, but you may be able to take an educated guess as to what the next 12 months could hold. Thinking about the coming year could help you determine how much coverage is right for you and your family. Have you had any health issues in the past year? Are you taking any medications? By examining your current health status and concerns you may be able to narrow down your health insurance plan options.

  1. Know Your Deadlines

Like last year, the annual individual health insurance Open Enrollment period began on November 1 and will run until December 15. For those who enroll in one of these ACA-compliant plans, you can expect an effective date of January 1.

Non-ACA plans typically do not follow the ACA open enrollment period dates and are available in most states year-round

stressed young man at work

How Chronic Stress Can Lead to a Long-Term Disability

According to Smithsonian, Gallup’s 2019 Global Emotions Report illustrated that “More than half of United States respondents—around 55 percent—reported feelings of high stress the day prior to being polled…while 45 percent said they felt worried ‘a lot of the day’”. With the global stress levels at approximately 35%, this left the United States in a four-way tie with Albania, Iran, and Sri Lanka for the fourth-most stressed country in the world.

And while a certain amount of stress is normal, chronic stress can cause more than just a few restless nights.

What stresses you out?

In November of 2017, the American Psychological Association released the findings of their annual Stress in America survey and found that roughly 61% of Americans feel stressed about their work lives. But some jobs can be more stressful than others.

It’s also worth noting that some of these types of jobs are known to attract specific personality traits. Occupations in the legal and medical field rank as some of the most stressful jobs in the country, which is something both the ABA and AMA are aware of.

In recent years, both associations have taken steps to improve access to mental health services for their members, and to destigmatize mental health conditions.

The Effects of Stress on Mental Health

According to Psychology Today, “Some researchers have suggested that exposure to a moderate level of stress that you can master, can actually make you stronger and better able to manage stress, just like a vaccine, which contains a tiny amount of the bug, can immunize you against getting the disease.”

While this approach may work for some, no two people are the same. Everyone has their own unique body chemistry and may respond to stress stimuli in different ways. In short, what stresses one person out could have little to no effect on someone else.

Knowing When to Get Help

Chronic stress can often lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

If you’re reluctant to seek professional treatment for these issues, there are several things you can try to help overcome the symptoms. One of those ways is by carefully examining your diet: cut down on sugar, limit highly processed foods, and add fruits, veggies, and whole grains to your daily intake. Exercise is another way to boost serotonin levels and keep stress levels down.

However, if you’ve been experiencing any lingering or worsening depression and anxiety symptoms for two weeks or more, it may be best to visit your doctor.

If left untreated, it’s possible for your symptoms to become so severe that you find yourself unable to live your life as normal. They can actually develop into a long-term disability — and prevent you from working.

Protecting Your Income

In many cases, mental health problems are not something that can be predicted. As is the case with most disabilities, there is only so much a person can do to protect themselves. One of the best ways to do this is to protect your income.

If you are experiencing mental health issues and are forced to take a leave of absence from work, the last thing you want to do is worry about money. Since most of your expenses will continue during a time of disability, it is vitally important that you have a plan that covers those commitments.

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.

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