Posts made in November, 2014

New Health Care Laws and Your Taxes

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in News | 0 comments

The Affordable Care Act has changed the health care insurance landscape since last year, and for the first time, health care and your taxes are now directly related. Millions of Americans will have to start making decisions about health care insurance now to be able to save more of their hard-earned money come tax time. The good news is that people have more options than ever for affordable health insurance and now is the time to find out what works best for you and your family. Free online resources, like TurboTaxHealth.com, offer a guide on how the health care law affects you and your wallet, and has provided six simple tips to get you started: If you’re not currently insured, act now to buy health insurance this year. Open enrollment began on Nov. 15, 2014, and ends Feb. 15, 2015. In order to get health insurance coverage that starts Jan. 1, Americans need to enroll by Dec. 15. For those who enrolled in the Marketplace in 2014, current coverage will automatically re-enroll on Jan. 1. If no action is taken, you will still have until Feb. 15 to decide if you want to change your plan in the Marketplace. You should still check your coverage to ensure that your network and costs are what you expect. Don’t miss the three-month open enrollment period. If you miss this three-month window of opportunity, you will need to wait until the open enrollment period in 2016 to buy coverage unless you qualify for a special enrollment period. If you don’t have health coverage during 2015 that qualifies as minimum essential coverage, you must either pay a fee or see if you qualify for an exemption from paying the penalty. The fee in 2015 is steeper than it was in 2014 – 2 percent of your household income or $325 per adult/$162.50 per child, whichever is more. Get started now to avoid overspending. Visit www.Healthcare.gov for more information. Understand if you qualify for an exemption from purchasing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Tax exemptions come in many forms. An exemption from the Affordable Care Act will eliminate your obligation to pay a fee for not having health insurance. You can find out if you’re eligible to waive the health care penalty fee with TurboTax Exemption Check. Check if you’re eligible for a discount on health insurance premiums in the form of a tax credit. To help lower-income families and individuals pay for coverage, the federal government will provide financial support on monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs via subsidies. To help offset the cost of buying insurance on the exchanges, tax credits are available, depending on your 2015 household size and income. Check out TurboTax’s free health care calculator to see if you are eligible. If you purchased insurance through the state or federal exchanges, be sure to report major life events, change in income or changes like getting married, having a baby or if you received a raise. You can do this online by logging in to your insurance Marketplace account or calling the Marketplace Call Center. It is important to report any income changes to the Marketplace so they can change the amount of the tax credit applied to your insurance premium. This may also reduce any potential amount you would have to pay back at tax time. You also may be eligible for more subsidies than you’re getting, so it pays to double check. Come tax time, report your insurance status when you file your tax return. If you get your insurance, whether through your employer, through Medicaid, Medicare or the Marketplace, reporting it is really a matter of checking a few boxes with TurboTax. Using...

Read More

So You’re Having a Holiday House Party

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Holiday house party season is pretty much like the NBA Playoffs for hosts. You plan for weeks, develop menus, scrounge up the cookie cutters from the back of the pantry and wonder if anyone will notice whether the punch in the bowl is generic or brand name. But even holiday house party planning veterans still manage to succumb to some common safety and security pitfalls, according to a new poll by MetLife Auto & Home. Click on graphic to view larger...

Read More

10 Holiday Health Strategies

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in News | 0 comments

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. A chance to see old friends and distant relatives, take a vacation or just put the stresses of everyday life behind you so you can focus solely on family and fun. If you’re trying to manage your weight, though, holiday activities can come with a cost if you give in to the treats of the season. To help you make the holidays their best and arrive on the other side with your weight loss goals still intact, Anika Christ, senior program manager of Life Time Weight Loss at Life Time Fitness offers these 10 holiday health strategies. 1. It’s about the friends and family, not the food. Food is a component of any celebration but remember, you didn’t travel just to eat. “You traveled to see family and friends, so focus on them instead of what you can and can’t eat and you’ll enjoy these social events more thoroughly,” says Christ. 2. Moderate the plan. Don’t expect to go through the holidays without indulging in any of your favorite treats. You’re less likely to stick to such a strict guideline. Instead, exercise some moderation and determine ahead of time when you will treat yourself and when you won’t. Also be aware of what cravings you need to avoid succumbing to the most and indulge sensibly. 3. Bring your own healthy alternative. One way you can ensure you’ll have a healthy option to enjoy is if you bring it yourself. There are plenty of party-friendly ideas, including: veggie platters, hummus, fruit or cheese trays, mini meatballs, cold-cut platters, nuts or shrimp cocktails. 4. Make the event your own. Christ notes that one of the best ways to counter the temptations of the season is to host your own holiday event and put the focus on physical fitness and fun instead of food. “Invite family members to go ice skating, skiing or sledding before coming back to your home for a healthy meal,” she says. “You’ll create lasting memories without the lasting calories.” 5. Eat before you eat. If you’re worried about overeating at an upcoming holiday party, one of the best things you can do is eat beforehand. A healthy snack eaten before you arrive will tide your appetite and help you avoid overindulging in less-healthy fare later. 6. It’s better to give. If baking is one of your favorite holiday traditions, you don’t need to forgo this activity in the name of weight management. You can still make your favorite cakes, cookies or desserts – just make sure to share them with co-workers, family and friends instead of keeping them home where they will simply tempt you. 7. Be good on your off days. No matter how busy you are during the holidays, you will have an off day here or there. Christ says, “This is the perfect time to remember your weight-management goals and treat yourself to a healthy dinner or some physical activity.” 8. Ease the stress. The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but they can also be stressful with all the extra shopping, planning and traveling they entail. If you turn to food when feeling stressed, be mindful of this during the holidays. Plan some time for yourself and include activities that will alleviate that stress, such as meditating, yoga, massage or working out. 9. Be financially fit. Avoid the stress of overspending by establishing a budget for everyone on your list before you start shopping. Making presents for loved ones is also a cost-effective, thoughtful alternative. 10. Remember what’s important. The holidays may include food, presents and parties, but it’s the people who are most important. “Remember, the holidays come...

Read More

Proactive Living with Diabetes

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in News | 0 comments

A diabetes diagnosis can be daunting, but a simple attitude adjustment can make a world of difference in how well you fare while living with the disease. By proactively taking steps to monitor key health indicators, experts agree that it’s possible to prevent some of the most severe risks of diabetes, including lower limb amputation. People ages 20 and older who are living with diabetes account for about 60 percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report. “The CDC says the occurrence of diabetes-related foot and lower-leg amputation has decreased by 65 percent since 1996,” says American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) President Dr. Frank Spinosa. “Working together, podiatrists and their patients with diabetes can reduce the number of amputations even more. People with diabetes may be less aware of cuts or wounds on their feets due to the nerve damage related to their disease, Spinosa points out. “Regular and vigilant foot care can help catch problems before they develop into a health crisis.” The APMA offers advice to help people with diabetes protect their foot health: * Inspect your feet daily, checking the entire foot and all 10 toes for cuts, bruises, sores or changes to the toenails, such as thickening or discoloration. Treat wounds immediately and see your podiatrist if a problem persists or infection is apparent. * Exercise by walking, which can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve circulation. Be sure to wear appropriate athletic shoes appropriate for the type of exercise you’re doing. * When you buy new shoes, have them properly measured and fitted. Foot size and shape can change over time, and ill-fitting shoes are a leading cause of foot pain and lesions. Certain types of shoes, socks and custom orthotics are available for people with diabetes, and they may be covered under Medicare. You can find a list of podiatrist-approved footwear and products for people with diabetes on the APMA website. * Keep your feet covered and never go barefoot even at home. The risk of cuts and infection is too great. * See a podiatrist to remove calluses, corns or warts – don’t tackle them yourself and don’t ask a unlicensed non-professional to do it. Over-the-counter products can burn your skin and injure your foot. Podiatrists are specially trained to address all aspects of foot health for people with diabetes. * Get checkups twice a year. An exam by your podiatrist is the best way to ensure your feet stay healthy. “For people with diabetes, taking charge of your own foot health can help you avoid foot-related complications like amputation,” Spinosa says. “Work with today’s podiatrist to help you safeguard your foot health.” To learn more about foot care for people with diabetes or to find a podiatrist, visit...

Read More

What You Need to Know about Company Wellness Programs

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Measuring and ensuring employee wellness is a great way to ground a holistic approach to getting the most out of your workforce. But like any employer initiative, business owners should be careful that their good intentions don’t become oppressive or illegal. Honeywell International may have to confront this issue in court. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently sued Honeywell for penalizing employees who refuse to “undergo testing under its corporate wellness program,” reports Reuters. This is the third company to be sued by the EEOC over its wellness program, despite encouragement for wellness programs in Obamacare. Here are five reminders about keeping your wellness programs healthy and legal: 1. Don’t Require Participation. According to Reuters, some Honeywell employees stood to lose $4,000 in contributions to health plans and surcharges if they (or their spouses) didn’t sign up for the company’s wellness plan. In the other two wellness-program suits the EEOC is pursuing, employees also faced disciplinary action, cancellation of medical insurance, or even termination for not participating. The lesson here: Holding employee benefits or employment hostage to coerce participation in a wellness program can get your company in trouble. 2. Consider On-Site Options. Part of encouraging employee wellness is making the office a place that supports healthy lifestyles. That may mean offering free or low-cost immunizations at the office during flu season. It may also mean maintaining a fitness center or gym on-site where employees can keep active. It can also be as simple as providing health snack options in the break room. 3. Support Off-Site Activities. Supporting off-site activities is a good way to encourage wellness and keep your potential liability low. You can encourage employees to go to their gym of choice by offering partial or full compensation of monthly dues. Business owners may also consider company “fun runs” and sports teams as a way to build morale and teamwork—just remember the legal risks 4. Consider Paid Sick Leave. States like California are leading the way by requiring employers to offer paid sick time to their workers, so you might consider a similar policy. Encouraging employees to take time to recover may give you a boost in overall productivity. 5. Run Your Wellness Programs by HR/Legal. Whatever new plans your business intends to implement, you’ll want to run your ideas by your human resources and legal teams before you pull the trigger. Don’t have in-house counsel? Contact a business attorney for any more questions about your company’s wellness program....

Read More