Tag: Custom Content

  • Holiday Travel Safety Tips

    December 9, 2019

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    Having just wrapped up Thanksgiving, we are now only 2 ½ weeks out from Christmas! While we start planning the perfect gifts for everyone special in our lives, we are also thinking of traveling to visit family and friends. Whether you go by car, bus, or plane, traveling during the holidays needs to be safe. Follow these tips to help you get to your holiday destination safely this season.

     

    Car Travel Safety

    • Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before you travel. Being sleep deprived results in slower reaction times and distracted driving.
    • Buckle everyone up in your car—not just those in child-safety seats. If you are riding, you need to be buckled in.
    • Put your phone away. That text or that phone conversation can wait. If you need to communicate while traveling, have your passenger handle your phone.
    • Make a roadside emergency kit. Include essentials like jumper cables, phone chargers, flashlights, batteries, water, snacks, and blankets. Make sure your spare tire is undamaged and you have a jack and tire iron in your vehicle should you need to change a tire.

     

    Apps to Help with Holiday Travel

    • Hotel Tonight—If you find yourself getting tired as you drive, consider stopping and getting some sleep. Hotel Tonight helps you find last minute hotel openings near you.
    • GasBuddy—Don’t spend your time driving around in unfamiliar areas to find the cheapest gas prices. Use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas in your immediate vicinity.
    • Waze—Most everyone knows about Waze by now. This community-driven navigation tool allows you to see where slowdowns are happening near you as well as road debris, accidents, and alternate routes.
    • iExit—Trying to remember all the food places listed on the highway exit signs is hard! iExit gives you a list of what’s near each highway exit from food to hotels to gas stations.
    • SitOrSquat—One of the top complaints of holiday car travel is finding clean bathrooms when you need them. This app rates public bathrooms by their cleanliness. Brilliant!

     

    Air Travel Safety

    • This goes without saying, but listen to your flight attendants. They give valuable information to passengers in case of an emergency. Pay attention to the pre-flight instructions including where to locate emergency exits.
    • Get up and walk around a little during long flights. This keeps the blood moving in your legs that are probably cramped into the tiny space between seats.
    • Skip the next drink of alcohol. You want to be clear-headed in case an emergency happens. Wait and have that glass of wine once you land and are safely at your destination.
    • Put the oxygen mask on yourself first. If there happens to be an emergency mid-flight, you need to first place the mask on your face and then help others around you. This ensures that you are able to clearly hear instructions and are able to help someone nearby who may not be able to get the mask on themselves.

     

    Following these simple travel tips will help get you to your destination safely this holiday season. Remember, surrounding yourself with the ones you love and value is the goal. Get to those loved ones safely and your holiday will be memorable!

  • Pet Insurance

    November 20, 2019

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    We’ve all heard the saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” and we know it’s true! Pets give us unconditional love, companionship, and joy. But, are we willing to pay the price when a hefty vet bill comes along? Pet insurance may help you stomach that unexpected emergency room charge due to Fluffy’s uncanny ability to eat anything within reach—even if it’s rotten!

    In 2017, over $16.62B were spent on veterinarian bills in the United States. In that same year, Americans also spent over $1B on pet insurance. This begs the question “is pet insurance worth buying?” While this market continues to grow, 99% of pet owners report NOT having pet insurance. The number one reason? Cost. Premiums are at their lowest when you own a puppy or kitten and increase as the pet gets older. This results in the insured only keeping pet insurance for an average of 3 years. The cost of insurance can increase 5-fold between the puppy and adult years.

    Pet insurance is one of the fastest growing markets in the US. This insurance can be purchased with increased levels of coverage. The most basic level may cover treatments for some common illnesses or accidental injury. The mid-range coverage could cover preventative care as well as immunizations. An example of premium coverage is surgical cost and liability for if the pet injured someone. Prices for these levels range from $15/ month to $45/month.

    Pet insurance is now becoming a more commonplace employee benefitContingencies.org says that 6500 employers in the US and Canada offer pet insurance to its employees. A report by SHRM says that of those offered pet insurance as an employee perk, only 6% of pet owners utilized that benefit in 2012. By 2017, that number rose to 9%. Employees say this is an important benefit because, for many, pets are considered part of a family and if you insure a human member of a family, why wouldn’t you also insure your pet?

    If your company does not offer pet insurance, here are some tips on what you should look for when considering purchasing pet insurance:

    1. How much do my premiums increase as my pet ages?
    2. What is covered and not covered? Does the plan include pre-existing conditions?
    3. Can you purchase just accident coverage for if your pet injures someone?

    With our pets being a vital part of our family, having pet insurance can give you peace of mind that you don’t have to shoulder the entire cost of an injury or illness of a pet. Not having to make decisions for their care based on money is a blessing to their families. For over 6,000 companies and their 80,000 employees this perk is worth every penny.

  • How to be an Open Enrollment Rockstar

    October 22, 2019

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    It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

    No, it’s not Christmas—it’s Open Enrollment!!

    When the autumn leaves fall and the weather turns cooler, we know it’s time to start thinking of open enrollment hype and meetings and meetings and meetings. So how do you change normal and ordinary communication about employee benefits and change them into rockstar communication? We have some tips that may help!

     

    COMMUNICATE EARLY

    People need time to process all the information you share about their employee benefits. Once they have received the info, they typically need to ask questions, compare/contrast plans, and weigh decisions. By communicating with your employees early, you give them plenty of time to make their choices without feeling rushed by a short deadline.

     

    COMMUNICATE CLEARLY

    HSA, FSA, PPO, HMO, LTD? What? You can see how your employees can get confused with all the terms and plan names that get presented to them during open enrollment. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests creating a glossary of common terms for enrollment meetings. Another way to clearly communicate benefits is to think ahead to the common questions asked each year and make a FAQ sheet with the answers.

     

    COMMUNICATE FREQUENTLY

    Did you know that it takes 8 times to read something before you retain that information? Think of all the material that gets shared at open enrollment meetings. There is no way that an employee would be able to retain that info in one sitting. So, communicate about your benefit plans all year long. Do trivia contests with prizes in your company newsletter about different benefits topics. Use multiple channels to frequently communicate such as print, digital, and animated videos!

     

    COMMUNICATE PERSONALLY

    Share “real life” examples of a sample employee with specific health issues and how they can utilize their benefits. This helps your audience think of additional situations in which they could see themselves needing some of the insurance products offered in your meetings. Host small Q & A sessions after larger meetings to allow for more personalized attention. When you communicate personally, you are able to explain the value of the benefits to your employees better.

    By focusing on these communication techniques, you will reap the rewards of a well-informed and connected employee when they are choosing benefits. Plan ahead, speak with a clear message, personalize example situations, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Here’s to a great open enrollment season!

  • Don’t Leave Your FSA Money on the Table this Year!

    October 15, 2019

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    As 2019 is nearing an end, many people are looking at this year’s medical expenses to plan for how much they should set back for next year. In investigating these expenditures, you may notice that you still have money in your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for 2019. FSAs are unique in that any unused money from this plan year is forfeited once the new year begins. You definitely do not want to leave money in your FSA once 2020 rolls around. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some ways to use up your hard-earned FSA money that you may not have thought possible!

    • Acupuncture
    • Acne treatment
    • Breast pump and supplies
    • Chiropractic treatments
    • Dental treatments—orthodontia, medically necessary water fluoride treatments, caps, fillings, x-rays
    • Eyes—glasses, surgery, contact lenses
    • First aid kit
    • Genetic testing—including BRCA gene testing
    • Motion sickness medicine
    • Nutritionist consultations
    • Sunscreen
    • Smoking cessation program
    • Vaporizer
    • Vasectomy
    • Weight loss programs/surgery

    There are even some high-tech gadgets that may fall into the medically qualified expenses category:

    • Acne light therapy
    • Electronic stimulation instruments for pain
    • Medically necessary mattresses
    • Smart thermometers

    Don’t leave your FSA money on the table in 2019! You have earned this money so make sure you use it to its full potential.

    This list is not an exhaustive list of ways to spend your FSA money nor does it guarantee your insurance program considers these to be qualified expenses. Check with your HR department and insurance agent if you have questions about qualified expenses.

     

  • Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

    September 5, 2019

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    Let’s say you are getting ready to make your favorite breakfast—avocado toast. You’ve toasted the bread, cut the avocado in half, and are ready to remove the dreaded pit. Of course, your knife slips and you end up slicing your hand—making you the latest victim of “avocado hand.” It seems you cannot stop the bleeding with a simple bandage so now you need to make the decision on where to go to seek help. Do you choose an urgent care facility or the emergency room? What’s the difference?

    Urgent care centers and emergency rooms are both great options for times when you are unable to see your primary care physician (PCP). The reasons for choosing these facilities can be because the injury or sickness has occurred outside normal office hours for your doctor or that you are out of town when an emergency hits. As you know, the first choice for non-life or limb-threatening conditions should be your regular doctor—they will have your medical history on file and your medication list at the ready. When this is not an option, you will need to make the choice on what level of care you need.

     

    Urgent Care Centers

    Urgent care centers fill the gap between when you are sick or minorly injured but cannot see your PCP and when you are in need of hospital emergency care. Most urgent care locations are staffed by doctors or physician’s assistants. These centers can get you in and out quickly and some even take appointments. Since you will not see your PCP at these clinics, it’s always best to bring a copy of all the medications and dosages of meds you take. If you have a special condition, like epilepsy, make sure you disclose that to the urgent care provider you see. In the case of your avocado hand, your urgent care physician may be able to do minor stitches and bandaging at the facility. Most have access to x-ray machines and basic diagnostic tests. The typical range of costs for care at these centers is between $50-$150.

    Here are some conditions that typically can be seen at urgent care centers:

    • Fevers, flu or cold symptoms
    • Ear infections
    • Bronchitis
    • Cuts and bleeding that may require stitches
    • Urinary tract infections
    • Vomiting or diarrhea
    • Minor back pain

     

    Emergency Room Care

    Hospital emergency rooms provide care for life and limb-threatening situations ranging from heart attack and stroke to car accident injuries. Staffed by physicians, nurses, and specialists, emergency rooms have access to highly knowledgeable and diverse medical teams.  In emergency rooms, care is given to the most serious injury/illness first—not on a first-come, first-served basis. Because of this, wait times in emergency rooms are widely varied and may be into a several hours-long wait. Again, it is wise to bring a list of any medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, with you when seeking care since the ER will not have this information from your PCP. Costs for emergency services can be anywhere from $50 to more than $10,000 depending on the severity of the injury or illness.

    Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:

    • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
    • Weakness/numbness on one side
    • Slurred speech
    • Fainting/change in mental state
    • Serious burns
    • Head or eye injury
    • Concussion/confusion
    • Broken bones and dislocated joints
    • Fever with a rash
    • Seizures
    • Severe cuts that may require stitches
    • Facial lacerations
    • Severe cold or flu symptoms
    • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy

     

    When faced with the decision to visit an urgent care center or emergency room, you have to first evaluate your symptoms. Once you have done this, ask yourself this question, “Does this condition have the possibility of permanently impairing or endangering your life?” If the answer is “yes,” then you have an emergency and should proceed to the nearest hospital ER. If the answer is “no,” then take your towel-wrapped avocado hand to your local urgent care center for stitches or whatever care they recommend. You will save yourself time and money by making a good choice on your care.

  • 5 Tips to Beat the Heat | California Benefits Consultants

    August 19, 2019

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    There’s no denying that summer has arrived. In fact, the news has been abuzz with Alaska’s heat wave in July that sent temperatures soaring between 20 and 30 degrees above average. When you are caught in the middle of a heat wave, it may seem like there’s nothing you can do to keep cool. But, there are ways for you to beat the heat this summer and stay safe from heat related illnesses.

     

    Avoid the Heat

    It may seem like a no-brainer to avoid the heat to prevent a heat related illness but some professions work solely outdoors. In those cases, there aren’t many options for avoiding the heat.  Be aware of the hottest time of day and limit physical activity outside during that time.

    Reduce Activity Levels

    Plan the most active job of the day to be in the morning when the sun and heat aren’t as intense. Heatstroke can occur when a person engages in strenuous activity for long periods of time in the heat. If possible, arrange workflows to include times of rest and times to visit a cooling station.

    Drink Fluids Regularly

    The underlying factor in most heat related illness is the inadequate supply of fluids for your body, in other words, drink more water! Heavy sweating depletes a person’s body of fluid and salt and this in turn can cause heat cramps and heat exhaustion. If this occurs, drink cool water or an electrolyte-replacement beverage like Gatorade. To prevent these two illnesses, drink plenty of water before you know you will be outside in the heat so that your body has sufficient fluids in reserve.

    Have a Buddy System

    When you know you will working outside or even playing outside in the heat of the day, make sure you have someone with you. If you should experience a heat related illness while alone, there would be no one available to offer first aid or call for help. As in the case of heatstroke, confusion and weakness along with fainting and possibly convulsions could occur. These are all series symptoms and require immediate action for treatment. The buddy system gives you a safety net of someone else who can recognize these symptoms and can act to save them.

    Take a Dip!

    The best way to beat the heat is by cooling off your body. Not everyone has access to a pool when spending time outside in the heat so if that’s the case, use cold compresses or ice and ice packs to lower body temperature. You can also remove excess clothing and spray your body with cool water. If you do have someone with you and you are experiencing a heat related illness, make sure they are watching you if you jump into a pool.

     

    By following these easy tips to beat the heat you can safely be outside when temperatures are at their peak. Enjoy your summer and stay cool!

  • Identity Theft | CA Benefits Consultants

    July 8, 2019

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    Recently, the “Happiest Place on Earth” wasn’t living up to its name for many families. For almost a full year, malicious software had been installed on point-of-sale systems at several Earl Enterprises restaurants. This software then captured debit and credit card numbers, expiration dates, and cardholder names of users purchasing food at these venues. Identity theft has become too commonplace in our day and age and we need to become better educated on where we are most likely to encounter threats as well as ways to avoid becoming victims.

    How many people are truly affected by identity theft? According to IdentityForce.com, here are some basic numbers:
    • In 2017, 6.64 percent of consumers became victims of identity fraud, or about 1 in 15 people
    • That equals 16.7 million victims last year, an increase of 1 million from 2016
    • Over 1 million children in the U.S. were victims of identity theft in 2017, costing families $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses
    • There’s a new victim of identity theft every 2 seconds
    • Identity theft is one of the most common consequences of data breaches, as 31.7 percent of breach victims experienced ID theft
    • There were 1,579 data breaches exposing 179 million records last year
    • It takes most victims of identity theft 3 months to find out what’s happening, but 16 percent don’t find out for 3 years
    How do you protect yourself from identity theft? Experts agree that there are several basic steps to take to help prevent theft from happening.

    CHANGE PASSWORDS REGULARLY

    If you are anything like me, you frequently forget the passwords you have for the numerous online accounts you manage. One way to manage those passwords, and help you remember to change them, is an online password manager like LastPass. Enter the passwords into this secure account and then you’ll just need to remember one password to access them all. Was there a security breach at your gym? Just log on to LastPass and in one click, you can have a new password for your account and can go along with your day.

    AVOID PUTTING PERSONAL INFO ON SOCIAL MEDIA

    In an era of “over-sharing” you must be cautious about giving away personal information on your social media accounts. Thieves are smart and can mine your accounts for information. When you post about being out on vacation, you open the door for thieves to come rob your home. The same holds true for identity theft. Be careful about posting sensitive information online like maiden name, age, birthday—even your high school! All it takes is one crafty thief to take the background info you’ve posted on social media and open a new credit card in your name. Use caution when you share this sensitive information online.

    CHECK YOUR ACCOUNTS REGULARLY

    Gone are the days of getting a bank statement in the mail every month that you reconcile with your checking account ledger. With almost all of our banking transactions occurring online, many people never check the detailed statements for their accounts. This is exactly what the identity thieves want to happen. Check your bank statements for transactions you didn’t make, medical bills for care you didn’t receive, and credit card statements for cards you do not have. Also, make it a practice to check each of your three credit reports at least once a year—and the best part is that this is free for you to use!

    ID THEFT INSURANCE

    One last way to protect yourself against identity theft is to enroll in ID Theft Insurance. While ID Theft Insurance does not protect against the actual monetary theft, it does cover the costs you, as the victim, will incur while rebuilding your identity. The coverage may include:
    • Phone call and photocopying charges
    • Postage fees for mailing documents
    • Salary loss due to uncompensated time away from work while repairing one’s identity
    • Legal fees
    • Access to a fraud specialist who can assist in restoring good credit and protecting one’s identity again
    • Help with preparing documents, filing police reports and creating a fraud victim affidavit

    Taking these steps will help protect you and your family from identity theft. While it doesn’t guarantee you will be protected all the time, it does make it harder for the thieves to gain access to your protected information—and this can make your identity stay in a happy place—with you!

  • Holiday Travel Safety Tips

    December 9, 2019

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    Having just wrapped up Thanksgiving, we are now only 2 ½ weeks out from Christmas! While we start planning the perfect gifts for everyone special in our lives, we are also thinking of traveling to visit family and friends. Whether you go by car, bus, or plane, traveling during the holidays needs to be safe. Follow these tips to help you get to your holiday destination safely this season.

     

    Car Travel Safety

    • Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before you travel. Being sleep deprived results in slower reaction times and distracted driving.
    • Buckle everyone up in your car—not just those in child-safety seats. If you are riding, you need to be buckled in.
    • Put your phone away. That text or that phone conversation can wait. If you need to communicate while traveling, have your passenger handle your phone.
    • Make a roadside emergency kit. Include essentials like jumper cables, phone chargers, flashlights, batteries, water, snacks, and blankets. Make sure your spare tire is undamaged and you have a jack and tire iron in your vehicle should you need to change a tire.

     

    Apps to Help with Holiday Travel

    • Hotel Tonight—If you find yourself getting tired as you drive, consider stopping and getting some sleep. Hotel Tonight helps you find last minute hotel openings near you.
    • GasBuddy—Don’t spend your time driving around in unfamiliar areas to find the cheapest gas prices. Use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas in your immediate vicinity.
    • Waze—Most everyone knows about Waze by now. This community-driven navigation tool allows you to see where slowdowns are happening near you as well as road debris, accidents, and alternate routes.
    • iExit—Trying to remember all the food places listed on the highway exit signs is hard! iExit gives you a list of what’s near each highway exit from food to hotels to gas stations.
    • SitOrSquat—One of the top complaints of holiday car travel is finding clean bathrooms when you need them. This app rates public bathrooms by their cleanliness. Brilliant!

     

    Air Travel Safety

    • This goes without saying, but listen to your flight attendants. They give valuable information to passengers in case of an emergency. Pay attention to the pre-flight instructions including where to locate emergency exits.
    • Get up and walk around a little during long flights. This keeps the blood moving in your legs that are probably cramped into the tiny space between seats.
    • Skip the next drink of alcohol. You want to be clear-headed in case an emergency happens. Wait and have that glass of wine once you land and are safely at your destination.
    • Put the oxygen mask on yourself first. If there happens to be an emergency mid-flight, you need to first place the mask on your face and then help others around you. This ensures that you are able to clearly hear instructions and are able to help someone nearby who may not be able to get the mask on themselves.

     

    Following these simple travel tips will help get you to your destination safely this holiday season. Remember, surrounding yourself with the ones you love and value is the goal. Get to those loved ones safely and your holiday will be memorable!

  • Pet Insurance

    November 20, 2019

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    We’ve all heard the saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” and we know it’s true! Pets give us unconditional love, companionship, and joy. But, are we willing to pay the price when a hefty vet bill comes along? Pet insurance may help you stomach that unexpected emergency room charge due to Fluffy’s uncanny ability to eat anything within reach—even if it’s rotten!

    In 2017, over $16.62B were spent on veterinarian bills in the United States. In that same year, Americans also spent over $1B on pet insurance. This begs the question “is pet insurance worth buying?” While this market continues to grow, 99% of pet owners report NOT having pet insurance. The number one reason? Cost. Premiums are at their lowest when you own a puppy or kitten and increase as the pet gets older. This results in the insured only keeping pet insurance for an average of 3 years. The cost of insurance can increase 5-fold between the puppy and adult years.

    Pet insurance is one of the fastest growing markets in the US. This insurance can be purchased with increased levels of coverage. The most basic level may cover treatments for some common illnesses or accidental injury. The mid-range coverage could cover preventative care as well as immunizations. An example of premium coverage is surgical cost and liability for if the pet injured someone. Prices for these levels range from $15/ month to $45/month.

    Pet insurance is now becoming a more commonplace employee benefitContingencies.org says that 6500 employers in the US and Canada offer pet insurance to its employees. A report by SHRM says that of those offered pet insurance as an employee perk, only 6% of pet owners utilized that benefit in 2012. By 2017, that number rose to 9%. Employees say this is an important benefit because, for many, pets are considered part of a family and if you insure a human member of a family, why wouldn’t you also insure your pet?

    If your company does not offer pet insurance, here are some tips on what you should look for when considering purchasing pet insurance:

    1. How much do my premiums increase as my pet ages?
    2. What is covered and not covered? Does the plan include pre-existing conditions?
    3. Can you purchase just accident coverage for if your pet injures someone?

    With our pets being a vital part of our family, having pet insurance can give you peace of mind that you don’t have to shoulder the entire cost of an injury or illness of a pet. Not having to make decisions for their care based on money is a blessing to their families. For over 6,000 companies and their 80,000 employees this perk is worth every penny.

  • How to be an Open Enrollment Rockstar

    October 22, 2019

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    It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

    No, it’s not Christmas—it’s Open Enrollment!!

    When the autumn leaves fall and the weather turns cooler, we know it’s time to start thinking of open enrollment hype and meetings and meetings and meetings. So how do you change normal and ordinary communication about employee benefits and change them into rockstar communication? We have some tips that may help!

     

    COMMUNICATE EARLY

    People need time to process all the information you share about their employee benefits. Once they have received the info, they typically need to ask questions, compare/contrast plans, and weigh decisions. By communicating with your employees early, you give them plenty of time to make their choices without feeling rushed by a short deadline.

     

    COMMUNICATE CLEARLY

    HSA, FSA, PPO, HMO, LTD? What? You can see how your employees can get confused with all the terms and plan names that get presented to them during open enrollment. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests creating a glossary of common terms for enrollment meetings. Another way to clearly communicate benefits is to think ahead to the common questions asked each year and make a FAQ sheet with the answers.

     

    COMMUNICATE FREQUENTLY

    Did you know that it takes 8 times to read something before you retain that information? Think of all the material that gets shared at open enrollment meetings. There is no way that an employee would be able to retain that info in one sitting. So, communicate about your benefit plans all year long. Do trivia contests with prizes in your company newsletter about different benefits topics. Use multiple channels to frequently communicate such as print, digital, and animated videos!

     

    COMMUNICATE PERSONALLY

    Share “real life” examples of a sample employee with specific health issues and how they can utilize their benefits. This helps your audience think of additional situations in which they could see themselves needing some of the insurance products offered in your meetings. Host small Q & A sessions after larger meetings to allow for more personalized attention. When you communicate personally, you are able to explain the value of the benefits to your employees better.

    By focusing on these communication techniques, you will reap the rewards of a well-informed and connected employee when they are choosing benefits. Plan ahead, speak with a clear message, personalize example situations, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Here’s to a great open enrollment season!

  • Don’t Leave Your FSA Money on the Table this Year!

    October 15, 2019

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    As 2019 is nearing an end, many people are looking at this year’s medical expenses to plan for how much they should set back for next year. In investigating these expenditures, you may notice that you still have money in your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for 2019. FSAs are unique in that any unused money from this plan year is forfeited once the new year begins. You definitely do not want to leave money in your FSA once 2020 rolls around. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some ways to use up your hard-earned FSA money that you may not have thought possible!

    • Acupuncture
    • Acne treatment
    • Breast pump and supplies
    • Chiropractic treatments
    • Dental treatments—orthodontia, medically necessary water fluoride treatments, caps, fillings, x-rays
    • Eyes—glasses, surgery, contact lenses
    • First aid kit
    • Genetic testing—including BRCA gene testing
    • Motion sickness medicine
    • Nutritionist consultations
    • Sunscreen
    • Smoking cessation program
    • Vaporizer
    • Vasectomy
    • Weight loss programs/surgery

    There are even some high-tech gadgets that may fall into the medically qualified expenses category:

    • Acne light therapy
    • Electronic stimulation instruments for pain
    • Medically necessary mattresses
    • Smart thermometers

    Don’t leave your FSA money on the table in 2019! You have earned this money so make sure you use it to its full potential.

    This list is not an exhaustive list of ways to spend your FSA money nor does it guarantee your insurance program considers these to be qualified expenses. Check with your HR department and insurance agent if you have questions about qualified expenses.

     

  • Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

    September 5, 2019

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    Let’s say you are getting ready to make your favorite breakfast—avocado toast. You’ve toasted the bread, cut the avocado in half, and are ready to remove the dreaded pit. Of course, your knife slips and you end up slicing your hand—making you the latest victim of “avocado hand.” It seems you cannot stop the bleeding with a simple bandage so now you need to make the decision on where to go to seek help. Do you choose an urgent care facility or the emergency room? What’s the difference?

    Urgent care centers and emergency rooms are both great options for times when you are unable to see your primary care physician (PCP). The reasons for choosing these facilities can be because the injury or sickness has occurred outside normal office hours for your doctor or that you are out of town when an emergency hits. As you know, the first choice for non-life or limb-threatening conditions should be your regular doctor—they will have your medical history on file and your medication list at the ready. When this is not an option, you will need to make the choice on what level of care you need.

     

    Urgent Care Centers

    Urgent care centers fill the gap between when you are sick or minorly injured but cannot see your PCP and when you are in need of hospital emergency care. Most urgent care locations are staffed by doctors or physician’s assistants. These centers can get you in and out quickly and some even take appointments. Since you will not see your PCP at these clinics, it’s always best to bring a copy of all the medications and dosages of meds you take. If you have a special condition, like epilepsy, make sure you disclose that to the urgent care provider you see. In the case of your avocado hand, your urgent care physician may be able to do minor stitches and bandaging at the facility. Most have access to x-ray machines and basic diagnostic tests. The typical range of costs for care at these centers is between $50-$150.

    Here are some conditions that typically can be seen at urgent care centers:

    • Fevers, flu or cold symptoms
    • Ear infections
    • Bronchitis
    • Cuts and bleeding that may require stitches
    • Urinary tract infections
    • Vomiting or diarrhea
    • Minor back pain

     

    Emergency Room Care

    Hospital emergency rooms provide care for life and limb-threatening situations ranging from heart attack and stroke to car accident injuries. Staffed by physicians, nurses, and specialists, emergency rooms have access to highly knowledgeable and diverse medical teams.  In emergency rooms, care is given to the most serious injury/illness first—not on a first-come, first-served basis. Because of this, wait times in emergency rooms are widely varied and may be into a several hours-long wait. Again, it is wise to bring a list of any medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, with you when seeking care since the ER will not have this information from your PCP. Costs for emergency services can be anywhere from $50 to more than $10,000 depending on the severity of the injury or illness.

    Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:

    • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
    • Weakness/numbness on one side
    • Slurred speech
    • Fainting/change in mental state
    • Serious burns
    • Head or eye injury
    • Concussion/confusion
    • Broken bones and dislocated joints
    • Fever with a rash
    • Seizures
    • Severe cuts that may require stitches
    • Facial lacerations
    • Severe cold or flu symptoms
    • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy

     

    When faced with the decision to visit an urgent care center or emergency room, you have to first evaluate your symptoms. Once you have done this, ask yourself this question, “Does this condition have the possibility of permanently impairing or endangering your life?” If the answer is “yes,” then you have an emergency and should proceed to the nearest hospital ER. If the answer is “no,” then take your towel-wrapped avocado hand to your local urgent care center for stitches or whatever care they recommend. You will save yourself time and money by making a good choice on your care.

  • 5 Tips to Beat the Heat | California Benefits Consultants

    August 19, 2019

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    There’s no denying that summer has arrived. In fact, the news has been abuzz with Alaska’s heat wave in July that sent temperatures soaring between 20 and 30 degrees above average. When you are caught in the middle of a heat wave, it may seem like there’s nothing you can do to keep cool. But, there are ways for you to beat the heat this summer and stay safe from heat related illnesses.

     

    Avoid the Heat

    It may seem like a no-brainer to avoid the heat to prevent a heat related illness but some professions work solely outdoors. In those cases, there aren’t many options for avoiding the heat.  Be aware of the hottest time of day and limit physical activity outside during that time.

    Reduce Activity Levels

    Plan the most active job of the day to be in the morning when the sun and heat aren’t as intense. Heatstroke can occur when a person engages in strenuous activity for long periods of time in the heat. If possible, arrange workflows to include times of rest and times to visit a cooling station.

    Drink Fluids Regularly

    The underlying factor in most heat related illness is the inadequate supply of fluids for your body, in other words, drink more water! Heavy sweating depletes a person’s body of fluid and salt and this in turn can cause heat cramps and heat exhaustion. If this occurs, drink cool water or an electrolyte-replacement beverage like Gatorade. To prevent these two illnesses, drink plenty of water before you know you will be outside in the heat so that your body has sufficient fluids in reserve.

    Have a Buddy System

    When you know you will working outside or even playing outside in the heat of the day, make sure you have someone with you. If you should experience a heat related illness while alone, there would be no one available to offer first aid or call for help. As in the case of heatstroke, confusion and weakness along with fainting and possibly convulsions could occur. These are all series symptoms and require immediate action for treatment. The buddy system gives you a safety net of someone else who can recognize these symptoms and can act to save them.

    Take a Dip!

    The best way to beat the heat is by cooling off your body. Not everyone has access to a pool when spending time outside in the heat so if that’s the case, use cold compresses or ice and ice packs to lower body temperature. You can also remove excess clothing and spray your body with cool water. If you do have someone with you and you are experiencing a heat related illness, make sure they are watching you if you jump into a pool.

     

    By following these easy tips to beat the heat you can safely be outside when temperatures are at their peak. Enjoy your summer and stay cool!

  • Identity Theft | CA Benefits Consultants

    July 8, 2019

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    Recently, the “Happiest Place on Earth” wasn’t living up to its name for many families. For almost a full year, malicious software had been installed on point-of-sale systems at several Earl Enterprises restaurants. This software then captured debit and credit card numbers, expiration dates, and cardholder names of users purchasing food at these venues. Identity theft has become too commonplace in our day and age and we need to become better educated on where we are most likely to encounter threats as well as ways to avoid becoming victims.

    How many people are truly affected by identity theft? According to IdentityForce.com, here are some basic numbers:
    • In 2017, 6.64 percent of consumers became victims of identity fraud, or about 1 in 15 people
    • That equals 16.7 million victims last year, an increase of 1 million from 2016
    • Over 1 million children in the U.S. were victims of identity theft in 2017, costing families $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses
    • There’s a new victim of identity theft every 2 seconds
    • Identity theft is one of the most common consequences of data breaches, as 31.7 percent of breach victims experienced ID theft
    • There were 1,579 data breaches exposing 179 million records last year
    • It takes most victims of identity theft 3 months to find out what’s happening, but 16 percent don’t find out for 3 years
    How do you protect yourself from identity theft? Experts agree that there are several basic steps to take to help prevent theft from happening.

    CHANGE PASSWORDS REGULARLY

    If you are anything like me, you frequently forget the passwords you have for the numerous online accounts you manage. One way to manage those passwords, and help you remember to change them, is an online password manager like LastPass. Enter the passwords into this secure account and then you’ll just need to remember one password to access them all. Was there a security breach at your gym? Just log on to LastPass and in one click, you can have a new password for your account and can go along with your day.

    AVOID PUTTING PERSONAL INFO ON SOCIAL MEDIA

    In an era of “over-sharing” you must be cautious about giving away personal information on your social media accounts. Thieves are smart and can mine your accounts for information. When you post about being out on vacation, you open the door for thieves to come rob your home. The same holds true for identity theft. Be careful about posting sensitive information online like maiden name, age, birthday—even your high school! All it takes is one crafty thief to take the background info you’ve posted on social media and open a new credit card in your name. Use caution when you share this sensitive information online.

    CHECK YOUR ACCOUNTS REGULARLY

    Gone are the days of getting a bank statement in the mail every month that you reconcile with your checking account ledger. With almost all of our banking transactions occurring online, many people never check the detailed statements for their accounts. This is exactly what the identity thieves want to happen. Check your bank statements for transactions you didn’t make, medical bills for care you didn’t receive, and credit card statements for cards you do not have. Also, make it a practice to check each of your three credit reports at least once a year—and the best part is that this is free for you to use!

    ID THEFT INSURANCE

    One last way to protect yourself against identity theft is to enroll in ID Theft Insurance. While ID Theft Insurance does not protect against the actual monetary theft, it does cover the costs you, as the victim, will incur while rebuilding your identity. The coverage may include:
    • Phone call and photocopying charges
    • Postage fees for mailing documents
    • Salary loss due to uncompensated time away from work while repairing one’s identity
    • Legal fees
    • Access to a fraud specialist who can assist in restoring good credit and protecting one’s identity again
    • Help with preparing documents, filing police reports and creating a fraud victim affidavit

    Taking these steps will help protect you and your family from identity theft. While it doesn’t guarantee you will be protected all the time, it does make it harder for the thieves to gain access to your protected information—and this can make your identity stay in a happy place—with you!

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