Health Insurance for Smokers: Quit Before Your Rates Skyrocket!

If you are a smoker, you can pretty much bet on an increase in the premium you pay for health insurance. Many agencies are cracking down on health insurance for smokers because, in the long run, smokers are more costly to care for when it comes to their health. But how do you know if you qualify as a smoker? In Connecticut, you are a tobacco user if you have used tobacco 4 or more days during one week in the past 6 months. If you are quitting or only use tobacco occasionally, you may not even qualify as a smoker. This is important to understand as it could save you a lot of money.

How much more money will tobacco cost you when it comes to health insurance? According to the Affordable Care Act, you can be charged up to 50% more for your premium. This is called a tobacco surcharge and it is starting to apply to premiums offered by many companies. But in reality, it costs you much more than that. Smoking can cost you your health in general. Even if you can afford the insurance premium, it can cause things such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema, and respiratory complications. So is it really worth it to be a smoker?

The costs for premiums go up so much because not only does the cost of healthcare increase over time for a smoker, but it also serves as an incentive to quit. Many smokers are looking at other options so that they can improve their health and save money over time on their health insurance premiums. Smokers can also save money on premiums by joining programs to help them quit. Such programs are offered by ObamaCare as well as other insurance carriers. Now is the time to quit. You could save your life and you will definitely be saving money.

Are you a former smoker who has successfully kicked the habit for good? Please share your experience in the box below to not only help others save money on health insurance, but aid them in becoming healthier as well!

Health Insurance Changes in 2016: What You Need to Know

The passing of the Affordable Care Act, the launch of HealthCare.gov, and the establishment of numerous health insurance marketplaces all marked important changes in the infrastructure of health insurance around the country. More changes are coming in 2016, partly as a result of government changes on the national level and partly because of market shifts in response to these changes. Thankfully, you can make sure that you stay ahead of the curve by keeping track of the expected health insurance changes in 2016, including these five important projections:

1. Higher premiums

As in 2014 and 2015, health insurance premiums are expected to increase by about 5 percent – which may not seem like a lot, but adds up when considering the cost of insurance for employees, dependents, and spouses. Most large employers plan to have employees cover about 20 percent of their own premiums and 24 percent of their dependents’ premiums.

2. High deductibles

High-deductible health insurance plans will grow in popularity as 83 percent of employers turn to a consumer-directed health insurance plan in 2016. Depending upon your employer, you may have a choice to select the high-deductible plan, or may have it as the only option.

3. Higher non-compliance penalties

The Affordable Care Act mandated that all U.S. citizens must have adequate health insurance, and in 2016 the penalties for not complying with this law are expected to rise sharply. Consumers who choose not to purchase health insurance will have to pay the greater of either a $695 fee or 2.5 percent of their modified adjusted gross income.

4. Telemedicine options

Many health insurance plans will start to offer telemedicine options, which are medical consultations with a licensed physician that take place through digital means, such as video communication. This can affect how you meet with a physician as well as how much you have to co-pay for doctors’ visits.

5. Cash for wellness programs

Many employers, looking to prevent employees’ health problems rather than deal with them as they come along, plan to offer health insurance breaks for employees who join a wellness program, health assessment or biometric exam, otherwise known as “cash for wellness” programs. In 2016, this could affect your health insurance costs as well as your own well-being.

If you have any questions on how the expected insurance changes in 2016 could affect you, or if you would just like to review your current policy, contact Waitte’s Insurance Agency.

8 of the Worst Habits for Heart Health

The month of February is American Heart Month, which means that it’s time to start thinking about how your habits impact your heart health and what you can do to improve those habits. Heart month was established by The American Heart Association to raise awareness about heart disease and how people can prevent it, and one of the strongest methods of prevention is by educating yourself. Some of the worst habits for heart health include:

1.  Smoking:

The link between tobacco use and heart disease has long been established, and it is important to note that both regular cigarettes and electronic cigarettes have negative impacts on your heart health. Surrounding yourself with people who smoke can also be detrimental as secondhand smoke can affect your heart in powerful ways.

2.  Stress/Depression:

Stress affects the levels of your body’s hormones and the way that they spread, and excessive stress hormones can negatively affect the way your heart functions. Watch your stress levels, look out for signs of depression, and take appropriate steps to relax when plausible.

3. Oral health:

The link between healthy teeth and gums and a healthy heart has been proven by researchers, and brushing adequately while avoiding excessive amounts of sugar will help avoid infections and cavities that can ultimately affect your heart health.

4. Saturated Fats:

Excessive levels of saturated fats lead to fat buildup in the blood and around the heart, which leads to blood clots and causes your heart to have difficulty functioning.

5.  Excessive alcohol consumption:

Although moderate amounts of certain types of alcohol have been shown to support a healthy heart, excessive alcohol intake can lead to heart disease (along with destroying your liver).

6.  Excessive sodium intake:

Rising sodium levels in the blood increase blood pressure, putting a strain on your heart and causing issues later down the road.

7.  Ignoring warning signs:

Getting regular checkups and scheduling visits to the doctor’s office is crucial. Many heart problems can be taken care of as long as they are caught early on, after which you can take steps to prevent them from escalating.

8.  Not exercising:

The heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle, it needs exercise in order to function properly. 30 minutes of vigorous exercise per day is recommended, focusing on cardiovascular and aerobic workouts.

Did you know?…

In addition to decreasing your heart health, a number of these habits (such as smoking and excessive drinking) can also negatively affect your health insurance premiums. If you are concerned that your health habits could possibly increase the cost of your insurance policy, contact Waitte’s Insurance Agency and we’ll be happy to assist you with any questions you may have.

Your Annual Physical: NOT Just For the Sick

Not everyone goes to the doctor for an annual physical every single year. However, if you are one of these people, then you could be seriously compromising your health without even knowing it.

Going to the doctor for an annual check-up is crucial to your long-term health, regardless of your age. Most people are unaware of underlying health issues they may have until they are seen by their doctor. Even if you are experiencing symptoms, you might not find them relevant until your doctor addresses them. For obvious illnesses such as a fever or the flu, a check-up is recommended immediately to treat whatever is temporarily ailing you. However, by not scheduling an annual physical for an overall examination of your health, dormant illnesses and/or diseases that you may have could go undetected and have time to metastasize or become worse.

Check-Up Preparation:

When you go in for your check-up, it’s important to be prepared. Try to have all necessary forms filled out prior to your appointment time and arrive 15 minutes early in the event you need to fill out additional forms. You should always know your family’s medical history dating back as far as your grandparents and create a list of questions and concerns for your doctor to address.

Common Physical Protocol:

Medical professionals typically inform patients of all the tests and procedures they will be performing during their physical, but always inquire about any part of the process you are unclear about. Know what ailments they will be testing for, why they are doing the tests and how they will be administered. Physicals commonly involve becoming up-to-date on all vaccinations, checking weight, blood pressure, and most likely blood testing to check cholesterol or a number of other factors.

Be Honest!

One thing to keep in mind when seeing a doctor for any reason is that you should always be as honest as possible. Medical professionals take a sworn oath to not judge anyone’s lifestyle or health decisions and make treating patients their number one priority. Even if they are not thrilled with some of your answers, knowing all of the facts about your history and daily habits only allows your doctor to treat you most effectively.  Stretching the truth, or “fibbing”, about factors such as the amount of alcohol you consume or if you smoke cigarettes ties the hands of your doctor and leaves you vulnerable to a misdiagnosis or being  prescribed unnecessary medications that could harm you further. So remember, be straight with your physician for the best possible results.

Although it may be unpleasant for some to visit the doctor, scheduling a simple physical annually can make the world of difference in your long-term health. Stay on top of any indications that your well-being is diminishing and always follow your physician’s recommendations.

When someone’s health begins to decline for any reason, medical bills will inevitably grow with the increased doctor visits. This is precisely why your health insurance should also have an annual check-up! If you need your current health insurance policy reviewed or would like to know your options for a new premium, Click Here to Receive a Free Rate Quote.

Back-to-School Preparation: 101

back to school.happy asian mother with daughter in school

As we head into August, it’s time to start planning for the kids to head back to school. In order for your child to be successful in the upcoming school year, it’s imperative that they are prepared in a multitude of areas. This starts now as the back-to-school season is upon us.

Here are some tips on how to make the transition into the new school year easier for you as well as your children:

Start Your New Sleep Schedule Early

During the summer you probably let the kids stay up late due to it being lighter later in the evening. You now need to get them back on an appropriate sleep schedule for school. The adjustment can take some time to get used to, so it is advised to begin the new sleep schedule a few weeks before school commences. Being well-rested is invaluable when it comes to school work and they need to adjust to make sure they’re getting enough sleep.

Plan Your Student Pick-Ups/Drop-Offs

In order to assure a smooth transition daily, you must prepare both your morning and your children’s morning in accordance with bus pickup/drop off or your schedule if you’re the one taking them to and from school. You don’t want to be rushing around and worrying about not having enough time to get everyone ready. Practicing this new routine ahead of time will also allow you to prepare for unforeseen circumstances that may occur, such as bad weather.

Attend All Open Houses & Orientations

Before school starts be sure to attend any orientations or open houses to confirm what is expected of your child as far as supplies and curriculum. Parent/teacher meet-and-greets are also a great way to learn about school policies, extra-curricular options, and dates for school events. Knowing how your child’s school operates will better serve you to assist in their educational journey.

Stick to the Bare Necessities

Make sure your children have the required supplies but refrain from buying unnecessary items such as electronics, toys, and other extras. They will be carrying around a lot in their backpacks and you want to keep in mind to take the weight of the textbooks that they will receive into account.

Begin with a Clean Bill of Health

Plan ahead of time to fit in any and all necessary medical exams, physicals and dental exams before the kids go back to school. This will help limit any time they need to spend away from school later on. If possible, schedule these a few weeks before school is back in session as these places are sure to be busy with other parents having the same idea.

Maintain a Clean Bill of Health!

Make your children’s lunches personally and provide well-balanced and healthy foods. There are a lot of poor lunch options for kids in certain schools so make sure you provide them with healthy foods from home. Lunches consisting of  vitamin-packed foods such as fruits and vegetables will promote good health and a better ability to focus on their studies.

After-School Activities

In addition to a morning schedule, you’re going to want an after-school schedule as well. Homework should be a priority so that children have time for other activities and sports. It’s important for them to do the work, but also have some free time when they can get it.

Review/Update All Necessary Insurance

Health insurance should always be up-to-date in time for the first day of school. It’s always better to be safe than sorry in the event an unexpected illness or injury arises. As for teenaged students with valid permits or driver’s licenses, be sure to have all required automobile insurances before they hit the road.

Taking the extra time to make the proper preparations can make all the difference in having a smooth transition into the new school year for both you and your children. As important as it is to have everything in order to achieve the highest level of success, also be sure to let your children enjoy their last few weeks of summer vacation!

Seasonal Depression: Monster or Myth?

With summer in the rear-view mirror, the calendar begins to turn towards the autumn and winter months. Especially in New England, the temperatures will gradually decrease, the days will become shorter, and the warm sunshine will start to feel like an old friend that you just don’t get to see anymore. This combination of lack of sunlight and colder weather can cause many to feel a little down in the dumps. It’s not unusual this time of year to feel the winter blues, but is that all it is? Could there be an underlying cause? In the past couple of decades, a lot of attention has been given to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or how many refer to it as seasonal depression; but what is it exactly?

SAD Explained:

Seasonal Affective Disorder is the name given to a mood disorder that seems to affect people, who are otherwise fine the rest of the year, with symptoms of depression during the same time each year, typically in the winter months.  It is thought that the colder temperatures, which forces people to stay indoors longer, coupled with the lack of sunlight in the winter months, causes people to feel depression.  Symptoms include lack of energy, decreased motivation, withdrawal from friends and family, overeating (which can lead to weight gain), and difficulty concentrating.  It is estimated that this disorder affects up to 6% of the American population, mainly concentrated in northern climates where winter is most pronounced.

Fact or Faked?

However, even though SAD is now an official clinical diagnosis, the question remains “Is SAD a legitimate disorder?”  A number of recent studies seem to suggest otherwise.  One major study published in January of 2016 examined a major cross-section of the American public (over 34,000 participants) and concluded that there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that SAD is real, or that factors such as amount sunlight or temperature have any long-term effect on a person’s mental health. The results of the study suggest that SAD is an idea that might be  more rooted in folk psychology and old wives’ tales than actual science. In another clinical study in Norway — a location known for its long and severe winters — also examined a large subset of the population and concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that these symptoms were more prevalent in the winter.

The debate about Seasonal Affective Disorder will likely go on for years to come.  Even though many individuals continue to report having symptoms, evidence is mounting that SAD, in fact, might not be scientifically validated as the actual “disorder” as it was once suggested. As a result, many medical professionals are starting to question the prevailing school of thought.

Regardless, when there’s a chill in the air and the nighttime falls earlier, try not to let it get you down! Grab a nice book and bundle up by a warm, crackling fire or go outside and build a snowman with your family.  Continue to find ways to enjoy the unique activities that fall and winter can offer you in New England!

One particular activity that Connecticut and its surrounding states specialize in during the winter months is snowmobiling. Do you or someone in your family own a snowmobile and need to get it insured? No problem! Contact Waitte’s Insurance Agency to get coverage on all of your winter and recreational vehicles.

Connecticut Health Insurance: What Could Affect Your Premiums?

While the month of February includes Valentine’s Day, the time to consider those near and dear to your heart, it’s also the month to remember to care for your actual heart. February is American Heart Month, which is a designated time to raise awareness of the factors that contribute to good heart health. Among these factors are exercising regularly, a diet featuring plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and controlling stress. Without these daily habits, not only will your physical health suffer, but your Connecticut Health Insurance premiums could also be affected.

What Determines My Connecticut Health Insurance Premiums?

Age:

Obviously, you cannot turn back the clock, but you do need to be aware that as a general rule, people over the age of sixty pay more (sometimes as much as 3 times more) for their health insurance than someone under that age. Younger people tend to be healthier, and as a group, file fewer claims than older policyholders. If you are over sixty, even if you are in perfect health, you can expect to pay more than someone in their twenties, even if that person has a chronic health condition. However, pre-existing conditions at any age do not warrant an increase in health insurance rates.

Tobacco Use:

Smoking’s negative effect on health is well documented and tobacco use is second only to age as a predictor of mortality. So it’s no surprise that smokers pay up to fifty percent more for coverage than non-smokers. The good news, of course, is if you are a smoker you can quit! Although you need to be aware that individual insurance carriers can impose a waiting period from between one and five years after you quit smoking before your rate comes down.

Profession And Income:

Let’s face it, some jobs are more inherently dangerous than others. While worker’s compensation is expected to cover most on-the-job accidents, if you cannot prove your illness or injury was directly caused by your job, you will be expected to assume the cost of treatment.

If you are in a low-income bracket with a household income of between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level and you do not have access to employer-sponsored coverage, you may qualify for tax credits. If your income falls below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level you may be able to take advantage of Medicaid or CHIP and enroll in their low cost or even free programs.

Where You Live:

The area where you live may have an impact on your insurance rates, as some areas have been identified as having a higher proportion of unhealthy residents. Perhaps this is due to poor environmental conditions, little access to healthy foods and other factors. These types of location-based assessments are frowned upon by regulators, as they may lead to discriminatory practices, so check with your carrier to assess their standards.

Marital Status:

People who are married tend to live longer, engage in less risky behavior and take better care of themselves than single people, so it’s no surprise that a married person’s insurance rate will most likely be lower than a single person who otherwise has the same risk profile.

Number of People Covered By Your Policy:

It just makes sense that the more people who are covered by the policy, the more the policy will cost. Do the calculations to make sure that getting individual coverage for each party who needs insurance would not be more expensive that getting a policy that covers everyone. Discounts can be granted to those with multiple people on their policy, so look into all of your options.

Ignoring the fixable factors that determine your Connecticut Health Insurance can be costly. Continue best practices towards a healthy lifestyle and your insurance premiums will surely follow suit.

If you have any questions regarding your current health insurance coverage, please call our office at (860) 886-1961.