3 Things to Know Before You Pick a Health Insurance Plan

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Choosing a health insurance plan can be complicated. Knowing just a few things before you compare plans can make it simpler.

  1. The 4 “metal” categories: There are 4 categories of health insurance plans: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. These categories show how you and your plan share costs. Plan categories have nothing to do with quality of care.

Which metal category is right for you?

Bronze

  • Lowest monthly premium
  • Highest costs when you need care
  • Bronze plan deductibles — the amount of medical costs you pay yourself before your insurance plan starts to pay — can be thousands of dollars a year.
  • Good choice if: You want a low-cost way to protect yourself from worst-case medical scenarios, like serious sickness or injury. Your monthly premium will be low, but you’ll have to pay for most routine care yourself.

Silver

  • Moderate monthly premium
  • Moderate costs when you need care
  • Silver deductibles — the costs you pay yourself before your plan pays anything — are usually lower than those of Bronze plans.

Gold

  • High monthly premium
  • Low costs when you need care
  • Deductibles — the amount of medical costs you pay yourself before your plan pays — are usually low.
  • Good choice if: You’re willing to pay more each month to have more costs covered when you get medical treatment. If you use a lot of care, a Gold plan could be a good value.

Platinum

  • Highest monthly premium
  • Lowest costs when you get care
  • Deductibles are very low, meaning your plan starts paying its share earlier than for other categories of plans.
  1. Your total costs for health care: You pay a monthly bill to your insurance company (a “premium”), even if you don’t use medical services that month. You pay out-of-pocket costs, including a deductible, when you get care. It’s important to think about both kinds of costs when shopping for a plan.

When choosing a plan, it’s a good idea to think about your total health care costs, not just the bill (the “premium”) you pay to your insurance company every month.

Other amounts, sometimes called “out-of-pocket” costs, have a big impact on your total spending on health care – sometimes more than the premium itself.

Beyond your monthly premium: Deductible and out-of-pocket costs

  • Deductible: How much you have to spend for covered health services before your insurance company pays anything (except free preventive services)
  • Copayments and coinsurance: Payments you make each time you get a medical service after reaching your deductible
  • Out-of-pocket maximum: The most you have to spend for covered services in a year. After you reach this amount, the insurance company pays 100% for covered services.

So how do you find a category that works for you?

  • If you don’t expect to use regular medical services and don’t take regular prescriptions: You may want a Bronze plan. These plans can have very low monthly premiums, but have high deductibles and pay less of your costs when you need care.
  • If you qualify for extra savings on out-of-pocket costs OR want more of your costs covered: Silver plans probably offer the best value. If you qualify for extra savings (“cost-sharing reductions”) your deductible will be lower and you’ll pay less each time you get care. But you get these extra savings ONLY if you enroll in Silver plan. This can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year if you use a lot of care. Even if you don’t qualify for extra savings, Silver plans offer good value — moderate premiums and deductibles, and better coverage of your out-of-pocket costs than a Bronze or Catastrophic plan provide.

If you expect a lot of doctor visits or need regular prescriptions: You may want a Gold plan or Platinum plan. These plans generally have higher monthly premiums but pay more of your costs when you need care.

  1. Plan and network types — HMO, PPO, POS, and EPO: Some plan types allow you to use almost any doctor or health care facility. Others limit your choices or charge you more if you use providers outside their network.

Types of Marketplace plans

Depending on how many plans are offered in your area, you may find plans of all or any of these types at each metal level – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Some examples of plan types you’ll find in the Marketplace:

  • Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO): A managed care plan where services are covered only if you use doctors, specialists, or hospitals in the plan’s network (except in an emergency).
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A type of health insurance plan that usually limits coverage to care from doctors who work for or contract with the HMO. It generally won’t cover out-of-network care except in an emergency. An HMO may require you to live or work in its service area to be eligible for coverage. HMOs often provide integrated care and focus on prevention and wellness.
  • Point of Service (POS): A type of plan where you pay less if you use doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers that belong to the plan’s network. POS plans require you to get a referral from your primary care doctor in order to see a specialist.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): A type of health plan where you pay less if you use providers in the plan’s network. You can use doctors, hospitals, and providers outside of the network without a referral for an additional cost.

Source: Healthcare.gov

CVS Health Fights Back on High Cost Drugs by Launching Industry’s Most Comprehensive Approach to Saving Patients Money

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cvs health logo

New CVS Health initiative seeks to solve one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of consumer financial worry.

Recognizing the threat of rising drug prices and high out-of-pocket costs, CVS Health providing most advanced solutions for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

CVS Pharmacists are key resource for patients in identifying opportunities to maximize their prescription benefits and save money at the pharmacy counter in communities nationwide.

CVS Caremark mitigating impact of high drug costs by providing members and prescribers with robust information and innovative tools to choose lower-cost prescription drugs.

The high cost of prescription drugs is one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of financial worry for consumers across the nation. While CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) has made significant progress in mitigating the impact of high list prices set by pharmaceutical manufacturers, for too many Americans annual out-of-pocket drug costs are still significant. In response, CVS Health announced today that it is fighting back by launching the most comprehensive program in the industry to help patients save money on their medications.

According to a recent national poll, commissioned by CVS Health, 83 percent of Americans said they were concerned personally about the impact of rising prescription drug prices.[1] As prescription drug prices continue to rise and enrollment in high deductible health plans grows, many patients are shouldering higher costs for their prescription medicine.

CVS Health will address this problem with a robust set of initiatives, including the new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder, which will enable the company’s retail pharmacists for the first time to evaluate quickly and seamlessly individual prescription savings opportunities right at the pharmacy counter. This new tool further enhances existing savings opportunities the company’s pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) CVS Caremark is currently offering its clients such as the preventive drug lists that make medications for many common, chronic conditions available at a $0 copay. In addition, CVS Caremark provides real-time, member-specific drug costs and lower-cost alternatives to prescribers through their electronic health record system and to CVS Caremark members through the member portal and newly updated app. These programs are part of CVS Health’s commitment to helping consumers find the lowest cost prescription drugs by offering more pricing transparency for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

“Today’s consumers are faced with higher prescription drug prices than ever before and many of them are now paying for a larger share of their prescription drug costs out of their own pockets at the pharmacy counter due to growth in high deductible health plans,” said Thomas Moriarty, Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer, CVS Health. “Until now, patients haven’t had the appropriate tools available to them to help them manage these costs. To address this, CVS Health is giving expanded tools to patients, prescribers and pharmacists so they can evaluate prescription drug coverage in real-time and identify lower-cost alternatives. We are committed to finding the right drug at the lowest possible cost for patients to ensure they are able to access and stay on the medications they need. That’s our promise.”

At the Pharmacy Counter

The new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder enables the retail pharmacist to quickly and seamlessly review a patient’s prescription regimen, medication history and insurance plan information to determine the best way for them to save money on out-of-pocket costs – with the primary goal of helping the patient find the lowest cost alternative under their pharmacy benefits plan.

“Our direct experience is that patients who are confronted with high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter are less likely to pick up their prescriptions and are less likely to be adherent to their prescribed therapy,” said Kevin Hourican, Executive Vice President, Retail Pharmacy, CVS Pharmacy.

“Armed with the information available through our Rx Savings Finder, our more than 30,000 CVS pharmacists can play an important role by helping patients save money on their medications, providing advice on how and when to take them, and ultimately helping them achieve better health outcomes,” Hourican added. “We are beginning this process with our CVS Caremark PBM members and expect to roll it out more broadly throughout the year.”

The Rx Savings Finder will show pharmacy teams:

  1. First, if the prescribed medication is on the patient’s formulary and is the lowest cost option available.
  2. Second, if there are lower-cost options covered under the patient’s pharmacy benefit – such as a generic medication or therapeutic alternative with equivalent efficacy of treatment.
  3. Third, if the patient may be able to save money by filling a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day prescription.
  4. Finally, if neither a generic nor a lower-cost alternative is available, other potential savings options for eligible or uninsured patients where allowed by applicable laws and regulation.[2]

Pharmacists can also help patients enroll in the ExtraCare Loyalty Program and sign them up for Pharmacy and Health Rewards. Through Pharmacy and Health Rewards, patients receive $5 in ExtraBucks for every 10 prescriptions filled, earning up to $50 in ExtraBucks annually.

At the Doctor’s Office

Another component of the company’s comprehensive savings approach is the recently launched real-time benefits program, which helps bring greater drug price transparency to prescribers and CVS Caremark members. At the point-of-prescribing, providers are able to see the member-specific cost for a selected drug, based on a member’s coverage, along with up to five lowest-cost, clinically appropriate therapeutic alternatives based on the patient’s formulary. PBM members have access to the same information on the CVS Caremark app and member portal. Early results show that prescribers accessing the real-time benefits information through their electronic health record switched their patient’s drug from a non-covered drug to a drug on formulary 85 percent of the time. In addition, when the patient’s drug is covered, prescribers using real-time benefits switch their patient to a lower-cost alternative 30 percent of the time. When the prescriber switched to a lower-cost drug, the difference was approximately $75 per prescription.
“We have been working hard to keep prescription medications affordable for patients,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. “In fact, in 2017, nearly 90 percent of our PBM plan members spent less than $300 out-of-pocket for their prescription medicines. While this signals progress, for those patients that cost is not insignificant. That is why we are committed to doing even more across our enterprise to help patients find and access the lowest cost drug at the pharmacy which ultimately will help improve clinical outcomes and remove higher downstream medical costs from the system.”

Using Pharmacy Benefit Management Solutions

CVS Health is also making a variety of PBM solutions available to help further drive down drug trend for its PBM clients and drug costs for the patients they support. The company’s Point of Sale (POS) rebate offering allows the value of negotiated rebates on branded drugs to be passed on directly to patients when they fill their prescriptions – and the savings from this program can be significant. In 2013, CVS Health led the industry with the introduction of POS rebates to clients, and today nearly 10 million members are covered by and able to benefit from the program.

In 2017, despite manufacturer brand list price increases on drugs near 10 percent, CVS Health PBM strategies reduced drug trend for CVS Caremark commercial clients to the lowest level in five years, keeping drug price growth at a minimal 0.2 percent. In fact, 42 percent of CVS Caremark commercial clients spent less on their pharmacy benefit plan in 2017 than they had in 2016. CVS Caremark helped members reduce monthly out-of-pocket costs and improve adherence to its highest level in seven years in key categories such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.

Prescription drug trend is the measure of growth in prescription spending per member per month. Trend calculations take into account the effects of drug price, drug utilization and the mix of branded versus generic drugs as well as the positive effect of negotiated rebates on overall trend. The 2017 trend performance is based on a cohort of CVS Health PBM commercial clients, employers and health plans.

About CVS Health

CVS Health is a pharmacy innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Through its more than 9,800 retail locations, more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 94 million plan members, a dedicated senior pharmacy care business serving more than one million patients per year, expanding specialty pharmacy services, and a leading stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, the company enables people, businesses and communities to manage health in more affordable and effective ways. This unique integrated model increases access to quality care, delivers better health outcomes and lowers overall health care costs. Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at https://www.cvshealth.com.

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[1] The Morning Consult poll was conducted from February 22-26, 2018, among a national sample of 1992 registered voters. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

[2] Prescriptions submitted for reimbursement to Medicare, Medicaid or other federal or state programs are not eligible..

Kern County native creates app meant to protect farmworkers from heat-related illness

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teen engineer

Farmworker’s days are long, their work is tedious and sometimes weather conditions turn the job into a dangerous one. 

“I heard their stories of swollen backs and how their feet would ache after work and just the kind of brutal conditions they worked in, especially back then”, said Faith Florez.

Florez grew up in Shafter, a small farming community in Kern County in a family that is all too familiar with working in the fields and the risks of the job.

“My grandma Estella, she picked roses, cotton, almonds, and then my poppa, her son went on to again pick roses cotton almonds and migrate between seasons between the fields,” she said.

So, the high school senior, who now lives in Los Angeles set out to make a change at farms throughout the central valley.

“I don’t want to hear about a farmworker that died because they were too far away from water and shade,” said Florez.

Flores created the Calor App, which will let farmers now when they could possibly be in danger.

“The application is ultimately designed to prevent instances of heat stroke amongst agricultural workers,” said Florez.

Calor, the Spanish word for heat, began with a simple idea for Florez.

“It definitely wasn’t an overnight thing,” she said.

Her idea, became more of a reality when she submitted it as a proposal to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, where a group of graduate students unanimously hose to take on the project.

“I went into it super passionate,” Florez said.

Continue onto ABC News to read the complete article.

6 Apps That Save Your Money While You Barely Lift A Finger

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Apps do a lot of things, including help us spend money. To kick off the year right, we’ve rounded up some apps that help us save ― or at least help us spend less. Here are a few that could tune up your budget in 2018, with hardly any effort on your part at all.

1. Earny

What it does: Obtains refunds automatically when prices drop on items you’ve already purchased
What it costs: Free

It’s so frustrating when you see that something you just bought is now on sale for less than you paid. About the only thing worse is not realizing it, especially if you bought the item from a retailer that will price match.

Meet Earny, which automatically monitors when retailers reduce the prices on items you purchased. When that happens, Earny goes one step further: It contacts the company to get the difference back, without your so much as lifting a finger.

2. Raise

What it does: Offers gift cards for less; sells unwanted cards for cash
What it costs: Free

Gift cards have wormed their way into our spending life, despite our tendency to lose them a lot. In 2015, there was about $130 billion in gift cards sold, almost $1 billion of which then went unspent. Yet we keep buying more: Consumers dropped about $150 billion on gift cards last year, according WalletHub.

Sometimes we intend to use them for ourselves, especially if we can find them discounted. The Raise app is one place to look.

Before you shop online or in stores, search the Raise marketplace to find discounted gift cards by brand, category or value. Shipping is always free on the physical cards, and shoppers save an average of 12 percent on purchases, according to a Raise spokesman.

On the other hand, if you have gift cards you don’t want, sell them on Raise for cash.

3. Cardpool

What it does: Operates an exchange for discounted gift cards
What it costs: Free

Similar to Raise, Cardpool works as a platform for users to buy and sell gift cards. Buyers can get up to 92 percent of a gift card’s value. Sellers may have to wait a bit longer for their money because, unlike Raise, Cardpool doesn’t post the funds directly to the seller’s bank account. Instead, the payment comes in the form of an Amazon eGift Card or a bank check sent via snail mail.

Continue onto Huffington Post to read the complete article.

New Year’s resolutions for career success in 2018

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By Eric Titner

A new year is often looked at as an opportunity for making positive changes, and we’re all familiar with the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions—as we end each year and look forward to the next, we take stock of the things we want to improve upon or change in our lives.

Those among us who are diligent enough to take things one step further set a plan for achieving our resolutions, and some among us actually follow through by putting in the time and effort to achieve our stated goals. And for the most dedicated and focused among us, sometimes a positive change and lasting result is achieved.

Our New Year’s resolutions can vary across an endless array of categories—from finding love, making new friends, and moving to a new city to acquiring a new hobby or skill set. Among the most popular resolutions that people make involve job- and career-related goals. However, while making a New Year’s resolution for career change and success can be the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in our lives, it’s really just the first step.

Positive intent can be a powerful motivating force for change and growth in our lives, but the truth is that it’s often not enough—this is the reason why the majority of us fail to completely commit and follow through on the resolutions we make each year. The truth is, most resolutions flounder in the starting gate without any real forward progress ever being made, and many others are met with a feeble, half-hearted effort that eventually goes nowhere. We need more than a positive attitude and hope—we need a plan.

According to a recent article on The Muse, “Those who took meaningful steps to achieve their resolutions—setting step-by-step goals or telling their friends and family, for example—were far more likely to achieve their desires than those who made no specific commitments… So if you really want to see results this year, it’s critical that you set your goals with sincerity, and set yourself up for success.”

What are your New Year’s resolutions for career success in 2018? More importantly, do you have a plan for achieving them? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular career-related resolutions, and some advice for taking them past the “good idea” stage and closer to the “goal achieved” category.

I want a promotion.

Who among us doesn’t want a loftier position with a more impressive sounding title and a higher salary, regardless of where we currently work? The truth is, this isn’t always an immediately attainable reality for everyone—maybe you’re just getting started at your current job and it’s too soon to start thinking about a promotion, or maybe the place you work at is small and there’s no clear upward trajectory. Whatever the reason, if you’re seeking a promotion and there’s no obvious path for growth for you in your current job, perhaps this means you should make a more drastic change as part of your New Year’s resolution planning.

However, if there are opportunities for growth on the horizon for you, then take a step back and a deep breath and think carefully before blindly charging into your boss’s office and demanding a promotion.

Take stock of your current situation—have you spent the last year working hard to convince your boss that you are ready, willing, and able to take the next step to a new job with greater responsibility? Has your boss been giving you positive feedback all year about how valuable you are to the company and how everyone is impressed with the job you’ve been doing? If so, then you’ve already been working hard to achieve your goal of getting a promotion—the next step is choosing the right time, place, and method for asking for one. This is highly subjective and based on your individual job situation. Do you have annual review meetings with your boss to discuss such issues? If so, then this would be the ideal time to broach this subject. Or perhaps your boss is open to feedback and discussions whenever they arise. If so, choose a day when your boss seems to be in a good mood and go for it!

Maybe you haven’t been getting great signals that your boss would be terribly receptive to the idea of you asking for a promotion. If this sounds more like your reality, then it may be wise to concoct a more long-term plan. Spend the next several months—maybe even the entire next year—anticipating your boss’s needs, doing your job to the absolute best of your ability, and sowing the seeds for popping the big “promotion question” next year. Like we said earlier, sometimes you need a plan, and there’s nothing quite as defeating or draining as asking for a promotion before you’re ready and meeting rejection.

I want a new job.

Okay so maybe you’ve reached as high and as far as you can possibly go in your current job, faced every challenge, conquered every obstacle, and mastered every skill that you could possible acquire. It’s time–you’re ready for a change. It happens, and it’s a perfectly natural and healthy part of any career path. In fact, job changes are often great opportunities to climb to the next rung on your career ladder. However you should consider some advance planning before you race out of your current job screaming, “I quit!”

Get a feel for the current job market in your field and area. Are there a wealth of opportunities available, or is it slim pickings? Take a subtle poll of the folks in your peer network who work at other companies. Does it sound like you may be able to go after an opportunity through your contacts?

If conditions out in the job market seem great, then plan for your next steps—polish up your resume and cover letter, make sure your interview clothes still fit, and get out there! However, if you’re seeing some warning signs that right now might not be the best time to jump ship, then bide your time and plan accordingly. Don’t forget, you can do some subtle and covert planning for your next job while you’re at your current one so when the iron is hot you’ll be prepared to strike!

I want to make a major job or career change.

Perhaps you’re just not feeling completely happy or fulfilled in your current industry, and something is telling you that perhaps now is the time to make a major change. This could be a good thing—the truth is, job unhappiness is often a major cause of mental and physical distress and could have a wide range of negative effects on our health and well-being.

According to a recent Huffington Post blog post by Alexander Kjerulf, founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Woohoo inc, “Way too many people hate their jobs. Exactly how many is hard to say, but depending on which study you believe, somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent of employees are miserable at work.” Kjerulf goes on to say that hating your job can weaken your immune system, make you gain weight, rob you of sleep, ruin your personal relationships, and even increase your risk of serious illness. Not a good way to ring in the New Year!

So, if you’re eager to make a major job or career change… you guessed it, make a plan. Consider making a list of pros and cons for taking the plunge. If everything in your life is pointing to making a major change, figure out what new goal makes the most sense for you. Take an inventory of your skills and experience, along with your interests and aspirations, and figure out which careers/industries you best align with. Do you have any friends or family who have jobs that sound potentially intriguing to you? If so, ask them more about it. Do your research—the Internet is a great source of information for researching new companies and careers.

Although making a big career change can be a wonderful moment in your life, acting impulsively could really backfire. There are countless stories of people who made quick decisions to leave their current working worlds for new ones, only to discover that they were ill-informed and really had no idea what they were getting into and wound up being just as unhappy—or even unhappier—as they were before. Don’t become just another unfortunate member of this group. Plan wisely and carefully, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a real shot at positive and lasting change.
I want to build new job skills.

This is a great goal for most of us and can really help put you in a better position to achieve the other resolutions on this list in the future—getting a promotion or a new job, or even changing industries. And even if none of these goals are in your immediate future, acquiring new skills can be a rewarding and fulfilling enterprise on its own and help us feel more empowered and effective in our current positions.

If you’re looking to acquire new job skills in the new year, consider the following. Do you want to acquire skills that will make you more effective at your current job or a new one? Your answer to this question will help you determine which skills you should look at. Also, are you looking to invest money towards acquiring new skills? If so, there are a wealth of career and adult education/skill-development programs available across the country; a great place to start is researching the offerings at colleges and universities in your area. You’ll likely come across a wealth of options, both in class and online—you just need to decide which are right for you.

If money is an issue and you’re looking for a more cost-effective approach, there are some great free and low-cost options online. One great resource is Skillshare, an online learning community created, maintained, and curated by veterans and experts in their respective fields who are dedicated to teaching others the skills they’ve acquired.

Here’s the bottom line—many folks who are unhappy with their work lives or who are just eager for a fresh start or new challenge take the new year as an opportunity to make a change, and it’s a great time to do so! Because so many people are focused on career changes at the beginning of a new year, many companies and industries ramp up their hiring during this time—and those among us who are serious and dedicated can take full advantage of this reality. If this sounds like you, perhaps now is a great time to move forward—but do so wisely and plan accordingly. Good luck and Happy New Year!

Continue on to read more articles like this on The Muse

This Geriatrician Says To Do These 5 Things To Live Longer

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A healthful diet can reduce risk for disease and increase longevity

Good nutrition plays an important role in how well you age. Eating a healthful diet helps keep your body strong and can help reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis.Studies even show a link between healthful eating and longevity.

“As we age, the body becomes less efficient at absorbing some key nutrients. Appetite and taste can suffer from loss of sense of smell and taste or from side effects of medications. Bad teeth can make some foods difficult to chew or digest,” said Arthur Hayward, MD, a geriatrician and the clinical lead physician for elder care with Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute. “So choosing foods carefully is smart.”

Here are five tips to help you get the nutrition your body needs:

  1. Avoid empty calories.

Foods with empty calories may contain very few vitamins and minerals. “Convenience foods,” such as packaged snacks, chips and sodas, are common sources of empty calories. Avoid the “bad” carbs—foods that have white flour, refined sugar and white rice.

  1. Choose nutrient-rich foods.

Eat a variety of foods. The more you vary the foods you eat, the more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you get. For example:

* Eat lots of fruits and vegetables—Choose fresh, frozen or no-salt canned vegetables and fruits in their own juice or light syrup.

* Eat foods with protein—Protein is found in lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs and cheese, cooked beans, peanut butter and nuts and seeds.

* Get enough calcium and vitamin D—Calcium and vitamin D are found in milk and milk products, including yogurt and cheese. They are also in green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens) and tofu.

* Include foods high in vitamin B12—After 50, the body produces less gastric acid and absorbs less B12, which helps keep blood and nerves vital. B12 is found in milk, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.

* Eat high-fiber foods—This includes fruits, vegetables, cooked dried beans, and whole grains.

  1. Drink plenty of fluids.

Drink plenty of fluids—enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. Fiber and fluids help with constipation.

  1. If your appetite is poor, eat smaller meals.

Try eating smaller meals, several times a day, instead of one or two large meals. Eating while socializing with others may help your appetite. You might also ask about changing medicines. Medication can cause appetite or taste problems.

  1. Eat soft foods.

As we approach our senior years, chewing food is sometimes difficult. Choose low-sodium canned vegetables or cooked fruits and vegetables. These are often softer. Chop or shred meat, poultry or fish. Add sauce or gravy to the meat to help keep it moist.

For healthy recipe ideas, check out Kaiser Permanente’s Food for Health blog at https://foodforhealth.kaiserpermanente.org.

In addition to eating a balanced diet, aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Ten-minute sessions several times a day on most days are fine. For more information, visit kp.org and everybodywalk.org. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk with your physician.

Source: NewsUSA

Budgeting for College Students: Where to Start

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College marks a significant transition period for many young adults — it’s a time of newfound freedom and the financial responsibilities that come with it.

Whether your funds come from family, student loans, scholarships or your own wallet, you’ll need to budget for expenses like textbooks, housing and, yes, a social life. Knowing who’s footing the bill, what costs to expect and which ones you can live without — ideally before school starts — can reduce stress and help you form healthy financial habits for the future.

Have the money talk

Before you build a budget, go over some important details with the people — parents, guardians or a partner — who will be involved in financing your education. Discussing your situation together will ensure everyone is in the loop and understands expectations.

“One of the biggest obstacles we have [with] teaching young people financial literacy and financial skills is not making money and expenses a taboo subject,” says Catie Hogan, founder of Hogan Financial Planning LLC. “Open lines of communication are far and away the most important tool, just so everyone’s on the same page as far as what things are going to cost and how everybody can keep some money in their pocket.”

Here are some topics to start with:

  • Who is paying for college and how. Have a conversation before the start of each school year to decide if your family will pay for costs out-of-pocket or if you’ll need to get a job, rely on financial aid, use funds from a 529 plan or combine these options.
  • What expenses to expect. In addition to tuition, you’ll have to budget for other college costs, like transportation and school supplies. Make a list of likely expenses, estimate the cost and agree who pays for what. (See more on expenses below.)
  • FAFSA and taxes. Whether a parent or guardian claims you as a dependent or you file taxes on your own determines whose information is required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and who can claim tax credits and deductions. Discuss your financial status before each school year and address any changes, like a raise or job loss.
  • Credit cards and bank accounts. If you’re considering opening a credit cardaccount for the first time, are younger than 21 and don’t work full time, you’ll need a co-signer: a parent or other adult. You’ll want to talk about ground rules, like only using a credit card for emergencies and defining what constitutes an emergency. Approach new financial products with caution and be careful not to take on debt. If you plan to directly deposit funds from a job or allowance, look for a checking account that offers low (or no) fees.

Anticipate your expenses

To determine what you’ll spend each term, keep these college-related expenses on your radar:

  • Textbooks and school supplies. Course materials could eat up a large chunk of your budget. The average estimated cost of books and supplies for in-state students living on campus at public four-year institutions in 2016-2017 was $1,250, according to the College Board. Also plan for purchases like notebooks, a laptop, a printer and a backpack, and read the do’s and don’ts of back-to-school shopping for money-saving tips.
  • Room and board. When it comes to food and living arrangements, weigh your options. Compare the cost of living on campus and getting a meal plan versus renting an apartment and shopping for groceries.

Continue onto NerdWallet to read the complete article.

Hispanic Women are the Key to Hispanic Buying Power

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As Hispanics continue to thrive—in education, career, resources, representation—their access to capital and buying power will increase accordingly, and their purchases will have a significant impact on the economy, not the least of which will be the purchase of a home. It is crucial to learn the best ways to serve Hispanic homebuyers, not only to help them make the best purchases, but to ensure their growth is encouraged and safeguarded rather than delayed or prevented altogether.

According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2015, there were 57 million Hispanics in the United States, accounting for 18 percent of the entire U.S. population; this is a grand increase from 1980 when this group comprised 6.5 percent of the population. In their 2014 population predictions, the Census Bureau estimates that the Hispanic population will more than double by 2060 to 119 million.

NAHREP’s 2015 State of Hispanic Homeownership report shows that in 2015, Hispanic households grew by 245,000, 69 percent of total U.S. household growth. The study articulates, “For the first time in 10 years, the Hispanic homeownership rate spiked upward while overall homeownership rates in the country continued a downward trend.” The report goes on to reveal that between 2000 and 2015, Hispanics were responsible for 66 percent of American labor force growth; in February 2016, the rate of Hispanic unemployment was 5.4 percent, down 7.7 percentage points since August 2009; in 2014 the poverty rate for Hispanics fell to 23.7 percent; and in the same year, the median Hispanic household income rose 7.3 percent to $42,492.

When coupled with a purchasing power of $1.5 trillion, projected to increase and account for 10.6 percent of total U.S. buying power by 2019, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, the potential impact of Hispanics on the housing sector is tremendous.

Education
Education has always been a critical tool to successfully navigate the American workforce and amass the means to become a homeowner; it has only grown in importance, as it is often no longer a question of getting an education, but of what level degree to achieve.

The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reports that the rate of Hispanic high school graduation reached 76.3 percent in 2014, the highest in 31 years. NCES also confirms that the number of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 attending two- or four-year colleges has more than tripled since 1993. Additionally, according to the Pew Research Center, Hispanics who attained less than a ninth grade education decreased from 40.2 to 21 percent between 1980 and 2013.

The Pew Research Center also confirms that Asian-Americans are the population with the highest percentage of bachelor degree-educated or higher people with 51.5 percent, a figure that was 34.2 in 1980 and has improved steadily since. This upward trajectory is mirrored in the homeownership rates of Asian-Americans, which rose from 52.3 percent in 1980 to 59 in 2014, according to AREAA’S State of Asia America 2015 study. Receiving an education doesn’t guarantee homeownership, we cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship, but it is very valuable. As Hispanics achieve higher levels of education they will situate themselves in increasingly favorable positions to accumulate the necessary means and resources to become homeowners, and homeownership in the Hispanic community will increase.

Capitalizing
With the potential they possess, the Hispanic population is of great importance to the real estate industry; Hispanic buying activity means millions of dollars in business, millions of homes being sold and an abundant client base. In order to ensure their growth is reinforced through homeownership, and their business is capitalized on, it is important to learn how to best serve Hispanics.

A recent report, the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate & NAHREP Hispanic Women Survey, sheds light on the secret to unlocking the Hispanics’ purchasing power: women.

The study found:

  • 91 percent of women surveyed believe that buying a home is the soundest investment they can make
  • 66 percent of women surveyed, and 84 percent of non-homeowner millennials surveyed, believe they will be capable of purchasing a home in their lifetime
  • 61 percent think they will make most of the decisions in their next home buying process
  • Half of survey participants expect to remain in their current homes for five years or less before buying their next home
  • On average, the women surveyed stated that they are responsible for 69 percent of household purchases over $100, and one-third of them reported being responsible for all of these purchases
  • 61 percent of respondents don’t think it’s important for their real estate agent to speak Spanish, but, of the participants currently searching for a home, 48 percent prefer a Spanish-speaking agent
  • 73 percent of women surveyed prefer working with a female real estate agent over a male

Providing utmost service to your client is the top priority, and agents must take into account what clients prefer from the start. Great service is crucial, sometimes receiving it from the right person makes a world of difference for consumers. As Hispanics progress in education and in the workforce, they will become equipped to purchase homes, and just as important as being able to buy a home is their desire to do so. The business, buying activity and opportunity is there, and as population estimates predict, it’s here to stay. For professionals hoping to do business with these potential homebuyers, learning the best ways of serving Hispanic women is the key.

Source: www.nawrb.com

Why Aren’t More People Eating Breakfast?

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We may know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean we are taking it to heart and having a hearty breakfast. In fact, although 97 percent of Americans agree breakfast is the most important meal of the day, only 44 percent eat it every day.

The most common reasons people skip breakfast are they weren’t hungry, didn’t feel like eating, or they were too busy. Females are more likely than males to skip a morning meal because of being busy or running late.

Why is breakfast so important? A good way to look at it is that you are breaking the fast. When you go without breakfast, you have deprived your body of calories since the last time you’ve eaten. These calories help feed your brain and without them you may lack energy, and your metabolism needs fuel to kick-start it into action. Breakfast is important, so it’s important to consume a sufficient amount.

Studies show that people who eat a good breakfast actually consume more vitamins and minerals, and less fat and cholesterol, than people who skip breakfast.

Those who make eat breakfast have been shown to be better learners. Children who have breakfast are more likely to have better concentration, problem-solving skills, and hand-eye coordination.

Smart choices for breakfast include whole grains, fruit, and low-fat dairy products.

The whole grains and fruit contain high amounts of fiber, which tend to fill you up faster and will delay symptoms of hunger for hours.

If choosing a dry cereal, look for whole grain as one of the first ingredients. It should contain 3 to 5 grams of fiber, and read the nutrition facts label to make sure sugar doesn’t appear as one of the first three ingredients. Sugar may be listed with a word that ends in “ose,” which means some form of sugar is in the product. Some of the sugar-coated or frosted cereals may have as much as 2-3 teaspoons of sugar for a one eighth cup serving.

Oatmeal is another high fiber choice, and with the instant oatmeal on the market today, it can be prepared in fewer than 2 minutes. When paired with fresh fruit and milk, you have a healthy breakfast in a matter of minutes.

If you just don’t have the time to grab something at home and must go through the drive through of a fast food restaurant, there are healthy choices for you. Many are offering warm oatmeal, whole-grain bagels, rolls, and English muffins. These are better than fat-filled doughnuts, scones, croissants, or biscuits. Skip the oversize breakfast sandwiches, whole milk, bacon and sausage. All of these contribute excessive fat, calories, and cholesterol to your diet.

Breakfast foods don’t have to be traditional. They can be any combination, just make them nutritious and well balanced, and they are limited only by your creativity and imagination.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be the full-course meal. Those can be reserved for weekends. There are many nutritious choices out there that can be ready in minutes.

As your busy day begins, take a few minutes to include breakfast into your morning schedule. Egg in a Nest is quick, healthy and only has 3 ingredients. As an added bonus, your kids may be able to make it themselves depending upon their age.

Scientists Discover Latinos Age Slower Than Other Ethnicities

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UCLA scientists noticed that the blood of Latinos aged more slowly than other groups.

By Elaine Schmidt

A UCLA study is the first to show that Latinos age at a slower rate than other ethnic groups. The findings, published in the current issue of Genome Biology, may one day help scientists understand how to slow the aging process for everyone.

“Latinos live longer than Caucasians, despite experiencing higher rates of diabetes and other diseases. Scientists refer to this as the ‘Hispanic paradox,’” said lead author Steve Horvath, a professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Our study helps explain this by demonstrating that Latinos age more slowly at the molecular level.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Latinos in the United States live an average of three years longer than Caucasians, with a life expectancy of 82 versus 79. At any age, healthy Latino adults face a 30 percent lower risk of death than other racial groups, according to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

The UCLA team used several biomarkers, including an “epigenetic clock” developed by Horvath in 2013, to track an epigenetic shift in the genome that’s linked to aging. Epigenetics is the study of changes to the DNA molecule that influence which genes are active but don’t alter the DNA sequence.

Horvath and his colleagues analyzed 18 sets of data on DNA samples from nearly 6,000 people. The participants represented seven ethnicities: two African groups, African-Americans, Caucasians, East Asians, Latinos and an indigenous people called the Tsimane, who are genetically related to Latinos. The Tsimane live in Bolivia.

When the scientists examined the DNA from blood—which reveals the health of a person’s immune system—they were struck by differences linked to ethnicity. In particular, the scientists noticed that, after accounting for differences in cell composition, the blood of Latinos and the Tsimane aged more slowly than other groups.

According to Horvath, the UCLA research points to an epigenetic explanation for Latinos’ longer life spans. For example, the biological clock measured Latino women’s age as 2.4 years younger than non-Latino women of the same age after menopause.

“We suspect that Latinos’ slower aging rate helps neutralize their higher health risks, particularly those related to obesity and inflammation,” said Horvath, who is also a professor of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “Our findings strongly suggest that genetic or environmental factors linked to ethnicity may influence how quickly a person ages and how long they live.”

The Tsimane aged even more slowly than Latinos. The biological clock calculated the age of their blood as two years younger than Latinos and four years younger than Caucasians. This reflects the group’s minimal signs of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity or clogged arteries, the researchers said.

“Despite frequent infections, the Tsimane people show very little evidence of the chronic diseases that commonly afflict modern society,” said coauthor Michael Gurven, a professor of anthropology at UC Santa Barbara. “Our findings provide an interesting molecular explanation for their robust health.”

In another finding, the researchers learned that men’s blood and brain tissue ages faster than women’s from the same ethnic groups. The discovery could explain why women have a higher life expectancy than men.

Horvath and his colleagues next plan to study the aging rate of other human tissues and to identify the molecular mechanism that protects Latinos from aging.

The research was supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Aging.

Source: ucla.edu

Move Toward Environmental Sustainability with These 10 Inventions

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The concept of environmental sustainability isn’t new. With the risk of sounding like a broken record, sustainability is simply using resources available to our benefit while making sure there will still be enough for the future generations. Being truly sustainable means ensuring development, while also maintaining biological diversity and preserving the balance of the ecosystem by moving toward using renewable sources of energy in all walks of life.

Why bother?
Many believe that human activities have had no role in making climate change a reality. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, climate change is happening, and sitting back while the world burns down is not an option.

The extreme weather brought on by ongoing climate change also wreaks havoc on the world’s natural land resources, making some areas too wet and other areas too dry. And of course, air pollution continues to chip away at the quality of air we breathe, which will result in several health problems. When all these issues become a reality we can no longer avoid, social decline will begin.

Fret not, for there are a few people who have tried creating alternative/green products. These 10 inventions will help you lead an environmentally stable life:

  1. Plastic from banana peels
    As a society, we can try eliminating unnecessary plastics from our day-to-day lives. To help with this process, 16-year-old Elif Beligin from Istanbul developed a chemical process that would help turn banana peels into a resistant bioplastic. His choice of material came after he realized the fruit is naturally wrapped in a wrapper, that provides all the protection it needs, characterized by its flexibility and strength.
  2. Lamps to grow plants in windowless spaces
    Nui Design Studio created the Lamp Mygdal, which acts as a home to a completely autonomous ecosystem that allows plants to even survive in windowless interiors. Translated into English, Mygdal means “fertile soil.” They come in both pendant lamp and standing lamp forms, which are aesthetically pleasing.
  3. Transparent solar panels
    Solar power systems help derive clean energy from the sun, and installing them in your homes will help combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduce your carbon footprint.

The first breakthrough happened in 2014 when researchers at the Michigan State University created a fully transparent solar concentrator that could turn any window or sheet of glass, much like your smartphone’s screen into a photovoltaic solar cell. Solar panels generate energy by converting absorbed photons into electrons. For a material to be fully transparent, light would have to travel uninhibited to the eye, which means those photons would have to pass through the material completely (without being absorbed to generate solar power). To create this panel, the team created something called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which employs organic salts to absorb wavelengths of light that are already invisible to the human eye. Richard Lunt, who led the research at the time, went on and confounded an MIT startup called Ubiquitous Energy, which went on to bring its transparent solar panels to the market.

  1. Edible water
    Skipping Rocks Lab, a Climate KIC start-up program founded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), came up with a solution to the world’s growing plastic problem. They created Ooho, a thin, translucent seaweed sleeve that can hold liquid. It’s edible and completely biodegradable. This little ball is durable enough to not tear unless you want to break into it. The spherical flexible packaging can also be used for other liquids including water, soft drinks, spirits, and cosmetics. Their product is even cheaper than plastic.
  2. The water-saving showerhead
    On an average, a typical 8-minute shower uses around 20 gallons of water. To combat this problem, a U.S.-based company designed the Nebia shower.

Nebia used the same tools and techniques used for building rocket engines and medical equipment to create a new nozzle technology that atomizes water into a million tiny droplets. As a result, this shower head covers 10 times more surface area than a regular shower, which helps reduce water usage by 70 percent. It is a self-installable system that can be adjusted in terms of height and angle of water stream, according to your needs.

  1. Portable wind turbine
    Wind energy is yet another alternative to non-renewable forms of energy. It is a clean fuel source that has the potential to reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent. It is cost-effective and available in abundance. However, one disadvantage is that wind energy requires a large amount of land. Unless you own a farm or a ranch, shifting to wind energy can prove to be difficult. An innovation company called Janulus aims to change that with Trinity, a portable wind turbine that’s available in four different-sized models to accommodate a variety of your power needs. The turbine uses lithium-ion batteries similar to the ones used in electric cars. It is usable in winds as low as 2 mph, and when fully charged, it is capable of charging your iPhone 16 times. The product comes with an app that will turn the device on and off, provide stats on how much power you’re generating and recommendations on its setup, which you can customize based on wind conditions.
  2. Sprout pencil
    To limit the waste that accompanies worn-out writing utensils, three MIT students created Sprout Pencil, a multifunctional alternative, which is composed of cedar, with a biodegradable capsule of seeds and peat in place of an eraser. Once the pencil gets too small to write with, you can place it in some soil and watch it give birth to new life. The pencils come in 14 varieties, and a pack of eight is $19.95, but the company hopes to lower the price so that every student can afford to use these pencils.
  3. Power-generating tiles
    Many companies have been working toward developing a technology that will help tap into the energy expended by pedestrians.

The solution came to 31-year-old Laurence Kemball-Cook back in 2009 when he studied industrial design and technology at the University of Loughborough. Under the banner of his company, Pavegen, he created floor tiles that help convert kinetic energy from footsteps into electricity that can be stored or used in low-power applications, such as lighting, signage, and digital displays.

  1. The feedback band
    To help you calculate your carbon footprint, Layer, a design studio based in London, collaborated with Carbon Trust, an environmental nonprofit that specializes in low-carbon initiatives to create the Worldbeing wristband.

The band works with a smartphone app to help its users monitor their carbon footprint by measuring minute details right from what you had for breakfast, how far you drove the car, and even what you bought in a store. The app gives daily challenges with the incentive of winning a reward or more from low-carbon businesses and helps you reduce your eco-impact. It even shows you how you’re saving planet Earth.

  1. The plastic recycling machine
    Even though most of us know the consequences of using plastic, it is difficult to avoid using it. Unless you start making your own make-up and beauty products and growing your own vegetables, you will notice that plastic is almost everywhere.

To help us deal with this, Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, who designed Phonebloks, came up with Precious Plastic, a series of automated machines that turn plastic into household items. The product is aimed at reducing waste and making plastic recycling more accessible. The machine melts the waste collected and molds them into usable items. He open-sourced the design so that anyone could easily download it.

Source: theplaidzebra.com