Responsibly Toss Pills, Don’t Send Them to Landfills

Unused medications pose a threat. For abuse and to the environment.

That’s why the DEA created National Drug Take-Back Day, which is April 26, 2014 from 10 am to 2 pm. During this time you can visit a collection site to hand over your unused medications with the knowledge that they will be destroyed ethically.

Why is this so important?

Unused pills are frequently abused, and often abused by loved ones.

Additionally, prescription drugs not thrown away responsibly can harm the environment. Popular methods like flushing them or tossing them into the trash can pollute local ground water, soil and ecosystems.

Some regions, such as Snohomish and Kitsap counties in Washington, have even made it a crime to throw away medications!

Here are some local drug collection sites in the Puget Sound region. You can use this website to find one close to you:

SEATTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT NORTH PRECINCT             

10049 COLLEGE WAY NORTH

SEATTLE, WA 98133

SEATTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT EAST PRECINCT  

1519 12TH AVENUE

SEATTLE, WA 98122

KIRKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT

LOBBY – CITY HALL

123 5TH AVENUE

KIRKLAND, WA 98033

BELLEVUE POLICE DEPARTMENT

POLICE LOBBY

450 110TH AVENUE NE

BELLEVUE, WA 98004

SEATAC POLICE DEPARTMENT   

SEATAC CITY HALL FRONT LOBBY AREA

4800 SOUTH 188TH STREET

SEATAC, WA 98188

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT

625 WINSLOW WAY EAST

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WA 98110

Have questions? Please leave us a comment or reach out on our Facebook or Twitter channels.

Out-of-Pocket Maximum Reduces Your Financial Risk

Shared Payment of Healthcare CostsWhen it comes to your out-of-pocket maximum, reaching your limit can actually be considered a good thing. An out-of-pocket maximum is the most amount of money you pay toward the cost of your healthcare in one year with the exception of your monthly premium.

Your deductible, copays and coinsurance all go toward your out-of-pocket maximum for in-network doctors. Once you’ve reached that amount your health plan pays for the rest of your healthcare that year. The out-of-pocket maximum is designed to limit your financial risk  when you are dealing with a chronic or serious healthcare issue.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) set a limit on the maximum out-of-pocket cost for individual or group health plans effective Jan. 1, 2014 and later.  The limit is $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families and could change in 2015. Your out-of-pocket maximum may vary depending on the plan you choose: Gold plans generally have the lowest and Bronze plans have the highest.

What Counts?

  • Your annual deductible
  • Coinsurance and copayments for doctor visits and other medical treatment
  • Prescription drugs

What Doesn’t Count?

  • Your monthly bill (premium)
  • Your share of bills from non-network providers
  • Spending for treatments that are not eligible for coverage by your plan
  • Payments for adult vision or adult dental care

Hit Your Limit ?

You can find out how much you’ve spent toward your out-of-pocket maximum by logging in to the member area of premera.com. In the left nav, select Benefit Plans, then click on the Medical Plans link to see your deductibles and maximums.

Questions?  Call customer service at the number on the back of your ID card.

Taxes and Your Health Plan: Use our Tool to Track Medical Expenses for Tax Time

Spring’s here and that means…

Taxes!Homepage

Did you know that you could deduct qualified medical expenses?

But rather than needing to scour through your receipts drawer, we figured it would be easier to create a quick and handy tool to track your health-related expenses.

That’s where our Spending Activity Report comes in! It’s a tool that automatically sums up your health expenses that have been funneled through Premera.

Here’s a quick guide to introduce you to it:Spending Activity Report Page

First go to www.premera.com and hover over Member Services on the navigation panel. Under Manage My Account is the link for the Spending Activity Report. Alternatively, you can scroll to the bottom of the screen, and under New Features is a link to the report.

Next, click on the Spending Activity Report hyperlink. You’ll then be prompted to log-in to your account.Spending Activity Report

Now you’re in the tool! Here you’ll find a summary of your health claims. It includes the total amount billed by your doctor or health professional, the amount of this total your health plan paid for and the amount you paid for out-of-pocket. Also displayed are any discounts provided and the total amount you saved because of your health plan.

You can choose to see a report of your healthcare expenses in different time periods (Jan. 1, 2013 – Dec. 31, 2013 is the timeframe you want). Now, the only number you need to worry about for tax purposes is the amount paid under Your Responsibility.

Have questions? Please leave us a comment or reach out on our Facebook or Twitter channels. Happy tax season!

Healthy Meal Makeover: The Smoothie

By Heather Snively, MS, RDSmoothie

The “smoothie” category covers a wide range of products and recipes that many people are surprised to find out aren’t necessarily “healthy.” Along with beneficial fruits and vegetables, many pre-packaged and store-made options contain added sugar. When a smoothie is intended as a meal, it may not offer enough protein for lasting energy.

So, what’s a smoothie-lover to do? Make your own! Follow these simple guidelines to ensure it’s healthy:

  1. Start with a vegetable. Choose one that works well like spinach or kale. Vegetables are one of the best things you can add to a smoothie because you get vitamins, minerals and fiber without a lot of calories.
  2. Add in fruit. Fresh or frozen, aim for about 1 cup. The different colors in fruit represent different phytonutrients, so select a variety of colors and maximize the nutritional benefits.
  3. Pick your protein. There’s no need for protein powders; using simpler ingredients are great. Great options include: plain unsweetened yogurt (choose Greek for a higher protein content), silken tofu or raw nuts or seeds.
  4. Add liquid. You can simply use water. As far as nutrition goes, you’re already there if you added veggies, fruit and protein! Add juice or milk if it fits your personal taste preferences.

Experiment to find the ratio of ingredients that work for you! If it’s intended as a meal, shoot for more protein than if it’s a snack. Keeping the components simple ensures that your creation is going to provide great nutrition.

If you’re a smoothie lover, what ingredient combos do you use? Comment below, or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Heather Snively, MS, RD, is a nutrition and wellness manager at Guckenheimer, an on-site corporate restaurant management and catering company.  She received her Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Washington in 2011.  Heather is passionate about helping others determine the best way to enjoy food and stay healthy.  Her food philosophy is simple:  moderation in all things, except for vegetables—eat all the vegetables you like.

Buying an Individual Health Plan After Open Enrollment

Federal healthcare reformNow that the 2014 Open Enrollment period has closed for Affordable Care Act individual and family plans, opportunities to enroll in a new plan are limited to persons who have a qualifying event. Some examples of qualifying events include:

  • Getting married
  • Losing health insurance through your employer
  • No longer being eligible for Medicaid
  • Birth of a child
  • Permanent change of residence where your health plan no longer services your new location

Check here for a comprehensive list of the 13 categories of qualifying events.

In order to qualify, you must show supporting documentation to prove your eligibility. You will need to apply and submit this documentation within 60 days of the qualifying event. The special enrollment period for qualifying events runs until Dec. 31, 2014. If you aren’t eligible for special enrollment, the 2015 open enrollment period starts on Nov. 15, 2014.

If you have any questions regarding the special enrollment period, specifics around qualifying events or how to enroll in a plan, Premera is here to help. Call us at 1-877-PREMERA.

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