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Squeeze the most from your health insurance

Many people don't fully understand their health insurance benefits, according to a new survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). And this lack of understanding often leads people to pay more out of pocket for health care than they have to. For example, 61% of people say they understand their right to appeal a health insurance claim denial, according to NAIC. That means everyone else could get a denial and think they have to live with it. In addition, only 19% of people know that they can go to an out-of-network doctor and still get some health insurance coverage for the visit. With open enrollment period in full swing at many workplaces, it's vital to understand the benefits you're buying. Your choices today affect your health insurance happiness for the next year. (continue reading......)

Attention germophobes! | Insure.com

My former publisher is an unabashed mysophobe. This is someone who has a pathological fear of being contaminated by germs. He would come into work and immediately break out the Lysol wipes and clean everything on his desk and in his cubicle — every single day. When he would join employees for lunch at a restaurant, he would wipe down every piece of silverware and demand a new drinking glass. Let's face it, germs are everywhere, and if you allow yourself to be plagued by germ fears you could be looking at hefty therapy bills down the road — just to cope with everyday life. I read in a recent study by the Department of Biology at Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas, that some germs cannot thrive on stainless steel surfaces. The study measured the growth rate of bacteria on plastic and stainless steel push plates in 45 public restrooms. After contaminating the plates with S. aureus, researchers found that the staph germ could not survive on the stainless steel surfaces. Regrettably, the bacteria remained on plastic surfaces for up to five hours. Here's more about hidden health risks. (continue reading......)

Does Gov. Christie's 'loss' signal a gain in health insurance costs?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is one of the most popular men in the state and one of the most popular governors in the country. He was also a "heavyweight" in American politics, weighing in at around 350 pounds. But now, after enlightening us about his previously undisclosed lap band surgery in mid-February, he has shed some 40 pounds. Nice work if you can have it -- and for the price he paid. During this surgery a lap band is placed around the upper neck of the stomach, making it more difficult to let food in. The end result: You feel full but eat less. By now we probably all know someone who has undergone this operation, or the similar but more complicated bariatric surgery, which involves having the stomach resized. I know three such people -- one successful, one not and one too soon to tell. Follow the leader Medical issues aside, having a high profile media star like Gov. Christie as your poster child is a victory "lap" for doctors, hospitals and outpatient facilities that perform this procedure. It is also likely to raise the cost of health insurance. Simply put: Follow the leader or in this case,… (continue reading......)

Insurance companies won't tell: Brand name and generic drugs are not the same

Call it the luck of the draw. When a series of viral infections destroyed my wife's thyroid gland she needed to take a hormone replacement drug. Her health insurer mailed a 90-day supply of Levothyroxine, the generic version of Synthroid, which had no effect. When she refilled the prescription the insurer mailed another 90-day supply, but this time the pill was etched with the brand name Synthroid. Within days she felt better. This seemed strange, since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that brand name and generic drugs, which can be produced when the brand name comes off patent, are "bioequivalent." But what does bioequivalent really mean? Indifferent insurers I switched jobs and, in turn, health insurers, and soon discovered that our new insurance company wasn't interested in the difference in efficacy between Synthroid and its generic Levothyroxine. Our insurer told her it would only pay most of the cost of the generic and that she would have to pay out of pocket for the brand name - even though the generic didn't provide any results. Talking with drug company representatives, pharmacists and doctors, it became clear that this is a common problem, especially since 80 percent of all… (continue reading......)

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