COVID-19 Pandemic Gives Rise to Telehealth Technology

Social distancing guidelines and safer-at-home recommendations that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic have forced families, businesses, governments, schools, and healthcare systems to figure out entirely new ways to operate. Ingenuity, innovation, and new technologies have allowed many to adapt to this new way of life.

One of these breakthroughs has been the emergence of telehealth / telemedicine. Usage soared in the last year, with consultations rising by 89%, according to First Stop Health. Many are still unaware of the benefits of this new service, so let’s review a few of them.

Reduced Exposure to Illnesses

Flus and viruses normally travel from person to person through respiratory droplets, and the COVID-19 virus is no different. Researchers consider COVID-19 to be a highly contagious virus, with each infected individual possibly infecting up to two or three additional people. Being able to visit a doctor from the comfort of your home eliminates contact with other people and crowded waiting rooms filled with sick patients. This can be especially helpful for those with pre-existing conditions, as they may face more severe complications.

Saves Time & Money

The convenience of being able to talk to a board-certified physician from the comfort of your home means less time spent in a waiting room and less time out of your workplace. This is especially helpful if the medical specialist happens to be located far away from your home. Most virtual telehealth visits last only 17 minutes, compared to in-person appointments, which average two hours (including travel time).

One of the best things about telehealth is its affordability. With many employers expanding their benefits package to include telemedicine, a virtual session can end up being more affordable than a trip to an urgent care center.

On-Demand Healthcare

Telehealth can allow you to receive medical treatment at a moment’s notice – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether that is on a lunch break from the confines of your car, or in the middle of the night when your child comes down with a fever, a medical professional will be available to assist you.

Learn more about the telehealth services available to members, with plans starting at just $9/month for the whole family.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Group Health Planning and Renewals

Just over a year ago we never suspected that wearing a face mask in public and social distancing would become part of our new normal. Concerts, festivals, and sporting events have been rescheduled or canceled, countless businesses have been forced to permanently close, and even Disney World temporarily shut their doors to the public.

With health and safety becoming a major focus this past year for everyone, how can employers prepare for changes to the group health and benefits planning process?

Planning Your Benefits

To accurately plan your health benefits going forward, you’ll want to begin by identifying any trends or changes from this year. Here are a few questions you should be considering:

  • Have your claims gone up?
  • Have you lost employees?
  • Does your plan offer a low or no copay telemedicine product?
  • Is this the year you should consider a level-funded plan (which can save 10%-15% in premium costs)?
  • Do you have capabilities for employees to enroll online without having to collect paper forms?
  • Do you need to get even more creative with plan options and your contribution strategy?

Our team can offer expert advice, creative solutions, telemedicine, and best-in-class digital capabilities so you never need to collect paper enrollment forms again.

The Newness of the Virus

While plenty of data exists for viruses that have been around for decades, there just isn’t a lot of solid information on COVID-19 costs yet – which can make planning for the next year difficult. How long will the virus last? Can normal activities be resumed after a vaccine is received? What kind of long-term health complications may occur from the virus? These are the kinds of questions that the medical, healthcare, and business communities don’t have the final answers to just yet.

We’re here for you.

Need help determining which group health options may work best for your organization? Our licensed benefits counselors are available to answer questions regarding your group health benefits, and may even be able to help you save some money. Learn more about our employer group solutions and what our team can do for you.

How to Work From Home With Pets

Millions of Americans have had to adjust to working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some offices and businesses have reopened their doors, there are many others that are still enforcing remote working conditions. In addition to all the technological changes that has led to, it also means that you and your family have had to adjust to significant changes to your routines—including those involving your pet.

Pet owners should spend 1-2 hours a day with their cat or dog. But when working from home, you can expect that amount of time to increase. It’s important to develop a new sense of normal with your pet, without them expecting your complete attention during working hours.

So, what can you do to make sure you’re still able to be productive while working from home?

Start the Day Off on the Right Paw

When working from home, it may be tempting to sleep in without having to worry about the commute, but that extra time in the morning may be better spent with your pet. Providing food and playtime in the morning will help tire your pet and leave you with more time to work uninterrupted.

Redirect Attention

Have an upcoming call or task that will require your undivided attention and concentration? Be sure to attend to your pet’s needs in advance. Potty breaks, food and water, and toys can help keep your pet distracted and entertained without you (at least for a while).

Practice Positive Reinforcement

Has your coworker been good? Reinforce their good behavior with treats, their favorite toy, or some one-on-one playtime. As with any kind of training, it’s important to reward good behavior and work to improve the bad.

Keeping Your Pet Healthy

As of August 2020, only 20 dogs and cats have been positively diagnosed with COVD-19 in the United States. So while it is possible to pass the virus on to your pet, it appears to be far less contagious to animals than it is to humans.

If your pet ever does get sick, the cost of treatments and medications can put an unnecessary strain on your finances. To help offset these costs, we have teamed up with Nationwide to offer discounts on pet insurance to members. To learn more, or to request a quote, please visit the pet insurance page today.

The 2021 COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period: What You Need To Know

On Thursday, January 28, 2021, President Biden announced plans to reopen the federal health insurance markets for a nation-wide Special Enrollment Period. This action is being taken in response to the massive economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in some of the highest unemployment rates in decades.

When does it start, and how long does it last?

The 2021 Special Enrollment Period will begin on February 15 and run through May 15, 2021. Coverage effective dates for those who enroll during this time will begin on the first day of the month following an enrollment date. (For example, an enrollment date of March 4 will have an effective date of April 1.)

Will there be another Open Enrollment Period later this year?

Yes. The annual Open Enrollment Period will run from November 1 through December 15. Individuals who enroll during this time will have a January 1, 2022 coverage effective date.

I enrolled during the Open Enrollment period last year. Will I need to sign up for my plan again?

No. If you are currently enrolled in health insurance coverage, you do not need to enroll again. However, if you are interested in changing your coverage, this is your chance to secure ACA-compliant health insurance outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period. Just keep in mind that if you decide to change your plan, your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum will reset based on your new coverage details.

Is this only available to those impacted by COVID-19?

No. Even though this is being called a 2021 COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period, you do not need to have experienced COVID-19, or even a Qualifying Life Event to enroll in (or change) coverage.

Get Ready to Apply

To learn more or to begin shopping plans, visit our Health Insurance page or schedule an appointment to speak with a licensed benefits counselor.

The 3 Most Important Reasons to Invest in Dental Insurance

Over the last year we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on staying healthy. We’ve washed our hands to the tune of happy birthday, worn face masks in public, and stayed home instead of going out. But when was the last time we focused on our oral health? Science has shown that problems that begin in our mouths can have an impact on the rest of our bodies.

But aside from daily flossing and brushing, taking care of our teeth and gums can be expensive. Dental insurance can help you cover the cost of keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

So, what else can dental insurance help you cover?

1) Emergencies

Dental pain is often a double-edged sword. There’s the physical pain – and for those without insurance – the pain of a hollowed-out wallet.

If you find yourself experiencing tooth pain, there’s a chance it is the result of something left unattended for too long and now requires major restorative work.

Most dental insurance plans offer deep savings on major restorative dental work and cover all or most preventative care which can help you avoid dental emergencies in the future.

2) Prevention

The American Dental Association recommends that you visit a dentist at least once a year for an exam and cleaning.

You may not always know what dangers could be just around the corner for you and your pearly whites—but a dentist can. Minor issues can lead to bigger and more costly ones down the road.

But the good news is that costly and painful dental problems can often be avoided with regular visits to a dentist and maintaining an oral hygiene routine at home.

3) Orthodontia Coverage

According to the Pennsylvania Dental Association, roughly 4 million people in the U.S. wear braces. But perfectly straight teeth can come at a hefty price.

The cost of dental braces can range anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 (not including any other orthodontia services that may be required to help you achieve perfectly straight teeth).

And while not all dental insurance plans cover orthodontia, the ones that do can save you thousands, making you or your children’s path to a great smile a lot less painful.

Keeping Your Smile Bright

Dental insurance can help you and your family maintain your smiles for years to come. Tackle dental emergencies knowing you’re covered, address concerns before they become problems, and prevent future issues while saving on your out-of-pocket costs.

Visit our dental insurance page to see rates, review plan details, and enroll today.

5 Ways to Help You Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

The holidays are going to look a lot different this year due to COVID-19.

Every year millions of Americans pile into each other’s homes to celebrate the season with food, family, and football. That urge has never been stronger than this year. With millions of people working from home and many states enacting safer-at-home measures, Americans are feeling the financial, physical, and mental health effects of living in a coronavirus-infected world.

But in addition to practicing social distancing, there are several things you can do to remain healthy while minimizing the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 (or any illness).

1) Consult local, state, and federal guidelines and restrictions before traveling.

According to the CDC, “travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.” And as COVID-19 cases continue to spike throughout the country, many experts are urging Americans to avoid holiday travel.

Many states are imposing new limitations on gathering sizes, extending mask mandates, and even issuing mandatory quarantine periods (or negative COVID-19 test) for people traveling from other states. If you or your loved ones are considering traveling internationally during the holidays, please be sure to make sure the country you are traveling to is granting entry to travelers from your point of origin.

2) Embrace video chat.

Technology can help us feel connected to our loved ones when we can’t be there in person—something that has proven to be essential for so many people this year.

Video calls have skyrocketed in popularity this year professionally and personally. Zoom did its part to bring people together safely by lifting their 40-minute limit on free meetings for Thanksgiving Day this year.

Consider using video chat services or avoiding in-person contact altogether through the holidays if you or a family member are at a high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

3) Do your holiday shopping online.

You may want to consider skipping the check-out lines this year and put your health first by shopping for gifts online.

Traditional brick and mortar stores will still be dangerous areas despite heightened cleaning measures. The CDC has listed “Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving” as a higher-risk activity.

Due to the anticipated surge of online shoppers this season, many big-name retailers have announced changes to their traditional holiday sales such as online-only sales, online pick-up options, and more.

4) Wear a mask around others.

Studies continue to affirm the effectiveness of wearing a mask in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And both local and federal government branches have cited the importance of wearing a mask when around other people who do not live in your home. So if you find yourself going out in public or spending time with friends and family, consider wearing a mask to protect yourself and others.

5) Find the right health insurance coverage.

Modern medicine has yet to fully discover the long-term effects of COVID-19 but there are many health conditions scientists can already link to the virus.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “COVID-19 symptoms can sometimes persist for months. The virus can damage the lungs, heart and brain, which increases the risk of long-term health problems.”

Having health insurance coverage for you and your family can help cover the cost of both major and preventative medical care – and now is the best time to get coverage. The annual individual health Open Enrollment period began on November 1 and runs through December 15.

This is the only time of year to enroll in ACA-compliant health coverage unless you experience a Qualifying Life Event.

For more information on health insurance or to start shopping available plans, visit the individual health insurance page today.

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How We Help Members Through the Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment Process

Shopping for something as important as health coverage can feel overwhelming—especially if you’re looking for a plan to help protect your whole family.

With the health insurance landscape changing every year, we know that it can be difficult to stay on top of which carriers and plans are available, so we do all that for you.

Tap Into Our Knowledgebase

By scheduling a 15-minute appointment with one of our licensed benefit counselors you’ll gain access to experts with vast industry insight—who are have studied state regulatory changes and are familiar with the latest available coverage options. Our counselors take the time to get to know your needs, concerns, and budget, to help find you the right plan, not just any plan.

Preparing for Your Appointment

After scheduling your appointment, you’ll want to gather the following information:

  • The basics: your address, phone number, date of birth, SSN, household size, income level
  • Plan and premium details for any employer-based plan available to you or your household
  • List of current medications
  • Name and zip code of the current healthcare providers that you’d like to continue using
  • Payment information

Having this information ready when your counselor calls will help them efficiently guide you toward the best coverage for your needs.

Taking the Next Step

This year’s Open Enrollment period is November 1 – December 15. If you enroll in an ACA-compliant health insurance plan during this period, the effective date will be January 1, 2021. This is the only time of year to receive ACA-compliant health insurance coverage, unless you were to experience a qualifying life event.

If you’re ready to see what the 2021 individual health insurance marketplace has to offer, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a licensed benefit counselor now. (Appointment availability becomes more limited beginning in the second half of November.)

For more information or to start shopping plans, visit the individual health insurance page today.

Changes Coming to Medicare Benefits in 2021

Like health insurance benefits, Medicare benefits can also change from year to year. Most of these changes tend to be minor, but for seniors who may be living on a fixed income it’s important to factor any Medicare rate changes into your budget planning.

So what can Medicare enrollees expect in the coming year?

New in 2021

Medicare premiums are recalculated annually with the changes going into effect on January 1 of the following year.

Medicare is primarily funded by payroll taxes, premiums, and federal budgets. With the coronavirus pandemic affecting the latter source, Medicare Part B premiums would spike in 2021 without Congressional intervention. Protecting enrollees from rising Medicare premiums is an issue that receives bipartisan support and is expected to be addressed in the next coronavirus relief package, or later this fall.

According to CNBC, “The idea is to protect Medicare’s 62.5 million beneficiaries — the majority of whom are age 65 or older — from a spike in Part B premiums due in part to reduced money flowing into the program from pandemic-related economic troubles.”

But while official rate changes haven’t been announced for the coming year and the state of the economy is in uncharted territory, industry experts are still able to make educated estimations on what changes may be forthcoming.

According to USA Today, “The standard Medicare Part B premium is expected to rise 2.7% (or $3.90) to $148.50 per month in 2021 from $144.60 per month in 2020.” Final rates should be announced in October of this year.

Protecting Your Savings

Medicare Supplemental insurance (also referred to as a Medigap policy) helps to fill in the “gap” in coverage between what Medicare Parts A and B cover and what you are forced to pay out of pocket.

If you or a loved one are turning 65 and have questions about your Medicare options, our specialists can help.

Visit https://fcachiro.memberbenefits.com/medicare-supplement-insurance/ today for more information or to request a quote on Medicare Supplemental insurance.

How to Minimize Your Long-Term Care Risk

Watching a loved one struggle with living independently in their old age is hard — being the one struggling must be even harder.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are used as a way of determining a person’s ability to live independently or see if they need help. That help can range from a family member who checks in and runs errands, to a part-time nurse, or even relocating the individual to an assisted living facility or nursing home.

While there is no way to predict whether a person will develop a condition that limits their ability to live independently, modern science has shown that there are things we can do now to help keep us healthy and more active and independent in the future.

Keep Moving

There is no shortage to the benefits associated with exercising. On top of helping you keep unwanted weight, depression, and mobility issues at bay, studies have shown that individuals who exercise regularly tend to be at a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment. The American Heart Association suggests a goal of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week — but it’s always important to talk to a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Eat Right

Much like exercise, maintaining a balanced diet is always a good idea. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables can provide you with a natural source of important vitamins and minerals. The foods we eat can also help boost our immune systems, bone health, and more.

Stay Sharp

Like our bodies, our minds require exercise as well. Learning a new skill, visiting a new place, staying on top of current events, and even playing games, can help keep your mind sharp and slow the rate of mental decline.

Plan Ahead

Just as there is no way to accurately single out individuals who will need long-term care in the future, there is also no foolproof way to prevent it. Accidents, lifestyle, and genetics are just a few of the things that ultimately determine how our minds and bodies age.

But planning ahead in the face of uncertainty can help give you valuable peace of mind. As a member of the FCA, you have unique access to licensed long-term care specialists that can help you decide if long-term care insurance is right for you and your family. To learn more or request more information, please visit https://fcachiro.memberbenefits.com/long-term-care/ today.

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