Is a Medicare Advantage plan the right choice for me?

Does original Medicare leave you wanting more? A Medicare Advantage plan might be a better option. Medicare Advantage plans combine Medicare parts A, B, and D into one plan and are referred to as “MA Plans” or “Part C”. These plans are offered by private companies and approved by Medicare, and Medicare pays these companies to manage your benefits. Medicare Advantage plans must cover all of the services that original Medicare covers and may also offer extra benefits such as dental care, eyeglasses, or wellness programs. Eligibility requires that you have Medicare Part A and Part B, and live in the plan’s service area.

Each Medicare Advantage plan has different premiums and costs for services, so it is important to compare plans in your area and understand plan costs and benefits before you join. Understanding if your doctors are in the plan’s network, and whether your prescription drugs are covered under the plan are some of the most important things to check before enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan.

The Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors, or SHIBA, are an excellent resource for helping to determine if a Medicare Advantage plan is right for you. Contact SHIBA of Washington at 1-800-562-6900, and they will put in you in contact with a local representative.

CHAS Health’s Patient Services Coordinators (PSCs) can assist with applications for cost-savings programs that help with monthly premiums and prescription drug costs. Call CHAS Health at 509.444.8200 to schedule an appointment with a PSC at any of our CHAS locations. Walk-ins are also welcome. Come see us today!

Tips for a Healthy Fall

Later, summer.
It’s been real. But, it’s time to welcome back short days, crisp air and colorful leaves of fall time. Time to stow away swimsuits in favor of sweaters for apple picking. Fall is incredible in the PNW; beautiful weather, colorful leaves and fall foliage make it for a great time of year for both exercise and wonderfully fresh seasonal foods. Here are some tips to make your fall a healthy and happy one:

All hail The Great Pumpkin!
Pumpkins are more than just pies and jack-o-lanterns, they are rich with vitamins A and C. Of course pumpkin seeds are a wonderful and healthy fall treat. There are a ton of possibilities with pumpkins. Check some of these healthy recipes out:

12 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

Get your flu shot and yearly check-up.
This one is pretty simple. You don’t want to be sniffling, aching, coughing and sneezing all winter long. Get your shot, keep the flu away. Schedule your appointment today by calling 509.444.8200

Boost your immune system! Hydrate throughout the day. adequate hydration has a huge impact on your immune system. Water helps all of your body’s systems function at optimum levels. Eat foods that add to your immune system with probiotics and vitamin C such as yogurt, oranges, peppers, garlic, yes even pumpkins can pack vitamin C.

Get outdoors. The bright colorful leaves on the trees add a visual treat to your walks as do the crunching of leaves under foot. What better season to put on a beanie and get active? In addition, outdoor time increases vitamin D levels, which can make you happier and improve concentration according to Harvard Medical School

Keep the treats in check. When you are stuck inside with delicious Halloween candy everywhere, it can be hard to resist eating 10 mini Snickers in a row. Don’t resist entirely, just don’t become a sugar zombie. Also, when it comes to game days make healthier choices by setting out veggies and dip instead of chips. You can also cut some of your favorite unhealthy snacks in to smaller portions.

Skin Care in Spring

Spring is finally in the air in the Inland Northwest. The sun is starting to make appearances, as is the snow, rain, hail, wind – all in the same afternoon. It’s that time of year we eagerly anticipate future seasons and don gym shorts in 45-degree weather – fooling ourselves that it’s warm enough for this attire, am I right? In the same day, wearing a winter coat rated for -50 degrees is more than acceptable. Going between the icy temperatures of the morning, balmy afternoons, wind, and Gobi Desert of the indoors, the skin on your hands and lips starts to become dryer and rougher. As someone who’s dealt with psoriasis a majority of their adult life, I’ve often struggled with dry skin and keeping my condition under control. With the help of several dermatologists throughout the years, I feel like I have a solid plan of action when it comes to protecting my moisture –starved skin.

 

Moisturize

I hate putting lotion on, I hate the feeling, I hate the smell, I hate rubbing it in! However, it’s the first line of defense against dry skin and can be very effective. Whenever I am lax about putting it on, I notice my skin start to crack, so I have embraced it as a reluctant friend. Recommended: CeraVe, O’Keeffe’s Working Hands, Vaseline, Eucerin, Nivea Cream (particularly effective with cracking). After you wash your hands, slap some lotion on ‘em!

Cover-up

Trap that moisture in! Even when the wind isn’t whipping, the sheer cold on your skin dries it out. Slip on some gloves whenever you are going outside. I’m very techy (always on my phone) so I find this particularly annoying. However, there are some great gloves for relatively cheap (around $10) that work well with touch screen devices and keep the variety of temperatures from chapping your hands.

When you are at home, you can also wear gloves to help create an occlusive barrier (traps moisture). Slip some cotton gloves on after you put lotion on. Even wearing them for a few minutes while you read or watch the entire season of Stranger Things can vastly improve your hands (or go for that medical professional look and put a pair of medical exam gloves on while you sleep – no one can judge your look under covers). Keeping in moisture is the look you’re going for here.

Speaking of moisture, choose your soap carefully; many popular soaps can in fact dry your skin out terribly (I’m looking at you AXE). I’m a big fan of Dr. Bronners, Nubian Heritage African Black Soap and dead sea soaps. Take a bath once in a while instead of a shower, and gently pat dry if you are having very dry flare ups. Also, turn the temperature down on your showers. Taking a warm shower vs a hot shower makes a big difference.

 

Exercise

Since I have young kids at home, exercise took a back-burner (okay, to be fair it was never on the front burner), so it has been difficult to regularly try to stay fit and healthy. It is such an important piece to keeping your skin healthy though. By increasing blood flow, exercise helps nourish skin cells and keep them vital.

Exercise can be rough when the weather is unpredictable, but try to get out and burn some extra calories; go for a walk, run, bike ride, enjoy the outdoors while you can- you never know, it could completely change in an hour. Indoors can also offer some great exercise opportunities; in home, with an exercise ball, kettlebells, yoga mat. Or branch out of your norm, join a gym, see what classes are available at the YMCA, join a yoga studio, or even check out CrossFit. Another idea is to walk the mall, if you can avoid the temptation of buying a new set of shoes, doing laps around the mall can be an amazing way to burn calories in a warm environment. Whatever your choice, try to get that heart rate up this time of year.

 

De-stress

Be sure to take time for yourself and relax. Take time to stop and enjoy what you have and those around you.

Don’t be embarrassed.

People can be the worst. It’s so frustrating when you are just starting to feel good about your skin and the guy at the store asks you, “dude, what happened to your hand?”

  1. a) That’s none of your business
  2. b) I thought it was starting to look pretty good…so, thanks.

It only makes it worse for people to comment on your skin or wonder what they’re thinking. Let it go. You can’t control what comes out of people’s mouth. All you can do is your best at keeping your skin healthy. J
*See your provider before making changes to your skin care and exercise routine.

 

by Matt Grebe, Content Manager

 

Weight Gain – 5 tips to get back on track

Blame it on the wild winter we had. Or perhaps you were too stressed about something in your life to worry about what you were eating? Maybe you had “just a sliver” of a few too many desserts, cakes, slices of pizza, etc. – because a little bit won’t hurt, right? Or to borrow an outdated Jamie Foxx lyric, “blame it on the a a a a a alcohol.” Whatever the excuse, it happened and you’ve acquired some excess weight over the past few months.

It’s easy to get in to a mode of sedentary lifestyle and casually eating when you aren’t even hungry. I mean, cheddar and sour cream chips are so darn tasty – why not?

We’ve worked with our providers to put together a solid plan to get you back on track. Here are our top 5 tips to get you back on track:

  1. Give yourself a break – You aren’t a bad person for switching off the exercise and food intake side of your brain for a bit. You’re a person – it happens to everyone. Too often people throw in the towel because they feel they’ve blown it or it’s too hard. They then give themselves permission to continue to over-indulge thus making it more difficult! No one is perfect and we all fall away from our best intentions and eat the wrong things, skip the gym or get a bit lazy and make excuses. The most important thing to remember is not to berate yourself about it but rather spend the energy getting back on track.
  2. Learn from the experience – If you don’t recognize what led you to fall off the healthy eating wagon, you’ll probably react the same way the next time the situation arises. Write down a list of the situations that trigger you to overeat, and plan an alternative for each. For example, if parties are your downfall, have a healthy snack beforehand to keep your appetite in check.
  3. Be kind – Don’t try to punish yourself with incredibly restrictive diets and over exercise. You may lose weight short term this way, but usually this sets up a pattern of gaining and losing weight. Look at the big picture and understand that weight loss requires a small decrease in calories over a longer period of time. Also, don’t deprive yourself. If you go out once or twice a month to Zips, it won’t kill your diet (depending on how much you drown your meal in tartar sauce-but that’s more of a personal issue. Guess who might be going to Zips tonight…). Just be sure that the majority of the time you’re getting a good dose of fruits, veggies and protein.
  4. Plan ahead – When you get hungry, that’s the moment you tend to overeat. Plan some healthy snacks throughout your day. If you’re away from home, be sure to bring a snack pack or two with options such as carrot sticks, trail mix, almonds, or fruits.
  5. Shake a leg – Can’t make it to the gym, don’t have time for a run? Do something small during a break. Go for a 15-minute walk, take the stairs, etc. Every little bit adds up to the bigger picture of being more active. It can also relieve stress you may have been building up (another reason people tend to overeat). When it is exercise time, try to find something you enjoy. There are a ton of activities out there, you just have to find the right one.

by Bill Bomberger and Matt Grebe

Spring Allergies- Common Activities to Minimize Symptoms

With the spring season here and pollen in the air, there are a few daily activities you can do to minimize allergy symptoms including:

Eat healthy foods- Improper eating habits aggravate many health problems, including asthma and seasonal allergies. Foods that contain antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables can help battle inflammation which helps with controlling allergies.

Reduce stress– When you are stressed, your body releases stress hormones which sends signals to various parts of your body to prepare for actions. If this is a common occurrence in your body and there is not a physical release, the stress can affect your immune system. In addition, a weakened immune system increases your chances of allergic reactions.

Use your air conditioner– Having windows or doors open is a common way to bring allergens inside your home so instead close your windows and use an air conditioner.

Clean door mats– Cleaning your door mats prevents mites, mold, and fungus- all common allergens, from being tracked into the home.

Spring clean– Dust is a common allergen and cleaning in those tough to reach areas can help minimize allergy symptoms.

These are simple tasks you can do to minimize allergy symptoms, but if you still suffer from symptoms, seek treatment from your health care provider.

 

By Sarah Giomi, Communications Intern and Bill Bomberger, PA-C

Spring Allergies- Symptoms and Treatment

Spring season brings the blooming of many plants and flowers and that means the blooming of spring allergies. What are allergy symptoms and how can you treat them? The most common allergy symptoms to look for are:

  1. Runny nose
  2. Watery eyes
  3. Sneezing
  4. Coughing
  5. Itchy eyes and nose
  6. Dark circles under the eyes

If you experience these symptoms during the spring allergy season, you should visit your primary care provider who can refer you to an allergist for tests. There are two forms of common allergy tests including a skin test, also known as a prick test or a blood test.

The skin test involves either a pricking of the skin with a tiny amount of allergen, or injecting a small sample of a diluted allergen under the skin of your arm and back. If you are allergic to the substance, a small red bump, also known as a hive, will form. The blood test is also another common option for an allergen test.

If the symptoms are caused by an allergy, there are over the counter prescriptions and medications that a provider can prescribe to ease the symptoms.

This is the 3rd part in a 4 part allergy series, be sure to follow for more!

By Sarah Giomi, Communications Intern and Bill Bomberger, PA-C

Spring Allergies- Is it an Allergy or a Cold?

Spring is here and so are allergies but how do you know your child’s runny nose is from allergies instead of a cold?

Colds are caused by a viral infection, while allergies are caused by your immune system overreacting to harmless substances.  Several of the symptoms are the same for colds and allergies, however there are a few differences that may give you a clue to the true culprit.

  1. Length of symptoms. Colds last 1-2 weeks while allergy symptoms can go on for weeks or months.
  2. You will not get a fever, chills, or body aches with allergies, however these are common symptoms of colds.
  3. A common symptom of allergies is itching: itching skin, itching eyes, itching throat, and itchy nose.  This does not occur with a cold.
  4. Colds tend to develop thicker nasal secretions, while allergies tend to have clear watery discharge.

Understanding the differences can help you decide what steps to take to give your child the right treatment they need!

This is the 2nd part in a 4 part allergy series, be sure to follow for more!

By Sarah Giomi, Communications Intern and Bill Bomberger, PA-C

Spring Allergies- What am I Allergic to?

Spring is officially here, flowers and plants are blooming and that means spring allergies are on their way but how can you prevent allergy symptoms?  The best way to avoid allergy symptoms is to avoid allergens (things you are allergic to).  The most common allergies are listed below with some tips on how to avoid them:

Pollen:  Try to avoid time outside when pollen counts are high.  Pollen is worse in the spring when flowers are blooming, on hot and windy days, worse in the morning, and better after rain and on cooler days.  You can track the pollen counts online.   Always keep windows shut to prevent pollen from entering your house.  Recirculate air in your car so the pollen outside doesn’t get inside.  Change clothes and take a shower after spending a lot of time outside to wash away any pollen.  Never dry clothes outside.

Dust:  Wash all bedding every 1-2 weeks in hot water.  Vacuum frequently and use a damp cloth to dust all flat surfaces (furniture, blinds, woodwork).  Remove carpet from the bedroom if possible.  Remove all stuffed animals from the bed.  Make sure your air conditioner has a clean HEPA filter.

Mold:  Keep humidity low in your house. Make sure to clean humidifiers frequently, and try to keep moisture from collecting anywhere in your house.  If you do notice mold in a small area, use bleach to try to get rid of it.  Avoid decomposing plants, such as jumping in leaves in the fall.

Pets:  Remove carpets because animal dander often gets trapped in carpet.  Keep the pets out of the bedroom.  Bathe your pets often.  Make sure to wash your hands after petting your animal.

If you have been avoiding allergens and your symptoms continue, talk to your doctor about possible treatments or to have allergy testing to determine the allergen your body is reacting to.

This is the 1st part in a 4 part allergy series, be sure to follow for more!

 

By Sarah Giomi, Communications Intern and Bill Bomberger, PA-C