Special Notice for Premera Members Impacted by the Washington State Wildfires

Our thoughts are with all of our members who are affected by wildfires in central Washington right now. We want to help you focus on staying safe and supporting your friends and family.

If you or any covered member of your family takes prescription medications that have been lost or damaged, you can get an early refill at any pharmacy in our network. If you need care and you’re not able to see your usual local physicians, our customer service team can help you identify alternative physicians that are in-network for your plan. You can reach us at (800) 722-1471.

Confused about healthcare tax credits?

179305756We’re not surprised! Recent rulings from the court of appeals have left many of us with more questions than answers about who’s able to receive premium tax credits to help pay toward their healthcare.

What are tax credits?

Premium tax credits lower the monthly cost of your health insurance. To qualify, you need to purchase your own insurance (not receive it through your employer) and have a household income under a set amount each year. Find out if you could qualify for tax credits here.

Why are they in the news?

There are a number of ongoing court cases related to tax credits- centering around who is eligible to receive them, based on how the Affordable Care Act was drafted. On Tuesday, July 22, two different appeal courts delivered rulings on this issue. One court, The US Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia, ruled that consumers can only receive tax credits if they live in a state which runs its own exchange. Washington State runs its own exchange and in 2014, so did Oregon.

The second court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA, ruled that consumers in all states can receive subsidies – irrespective of whether their exchange is run by the state or they use the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov. In the Pacific Northwest, Alaska uses Healthcare.gov and Oregon is due to transition to Healthcare.gov for 2015 open enrollment.

What does this mean for consumers?

Right now – consumers won’t see any changes as a result of these rulings. The government announced that it intends to seek a review of the ruling delivered by the D.C Court of Appeals. If they are unsuccessful in that review, they still have the option to take the matter to the US Supreme Court, so the issue is a long way from being resolved.

For now the message is that consumers who qualify can still get tax credits no matter which state they live in.

Three Reasons Washington Metallic Plan Members Should Consider Dental Coverage

Dental healthIf you bought a 2014 metallic plan either directly from Premera or through Washington Healthplanfinder, your coverage includes 10 essential medical benefits. Based on the Affordable Care Act and Washington state mandate, these 10 benefits include dental coverage for kids under age 19, but not for adults.

The good news is 2014 metallic plan members can increase their health protection by adding adult individual dental coverage by July 31. Here’s why it might make sense for you to add dental to your coverage:

  1. Dental health is related to overall health. Research shows a link between inflammation in the mouth and the potential for disease elsewhere in the body, heart disease and diabetes in particular. Learn more from WebMD.
  2. Low cost for preventive care. You can get routine preventive services with deductible waived and little or no cost. Annual services covered at 100% include: up to two oral exams, bitewing x-rays, and up to two cleanings per year.
  3. Predictable cost for a broad range of basic and major services. For more than 200 dental procedures, you pay a fixed copay after meeting your deductible. See what’s covered and what you would pay.

Please note that, unlike health plans offered on Washington Healthplanfinder, an individual adult dental plan’s costs can’t be reduced through premium tax credits.

Find out more about Premera’s individual adult dental plans for metallic plan members, or apply now. Questions? Call us at 877-PREMERA.

There’s an App for That: Managing Food Allergies When Dining Out

Mobile phone app in restaurantSecond in a series about food allergies

By Alison Acerra, MS, RD

Since restaurants aren’t required to label food allergens, your best course of action before ordering is to share your allergy concerns with the staff. Don’t be hesitant to ask how foods are prepared, along with the ingredients used. And feel free to request modifications to accommodate your food preferences.

Food, Restaurant Apps Help You Avoid Problems

For food allergy sufferers, the more you know about food ingredients, the better your chance to enjoy a meal. Here’s where technology is your friend, with the explosion of apps to guide your food choices. Among my favorites:

  • iAvoid Food Allergy: Helps users identify presence of any of the Top 8 by entering product names and or ingredients.
  • Eatfindr: Whether you are going soy free, dairy free or all organic, this is an easy-to-use app which helps find local restaurants that match your food preferences.
  • Yummly: For iPhone and iPad, this app and site lets you search for recipes that meet your lifestyle preferences, including dietary restrictions.
  • My Food Facts: This iPhone app and site lets you choose your favorite recipes and swap out common food allergy ingredients with safe substitutions.

Alison Acerra, MS, RD, is the national nutrition and wellness manager for Guckenheimer, a food service organization that is focused on the impact of food on wellness in the workplace. Alison has worked in a variety of clinical settings at high profile Silicon Valley companies and specializes in weight management, cardiovascular disease and diabetes prevention and management, as well as culinary nutrition.

Look to the Label: Managing Food Allergies

Managing Food AllergiesFirst in a series about food allergies

By Alison Acerra, MS, RD

Food allergies are a growing issue affecting more children and adults than ever. And the bottom line is: The only way to manage a food allergy is to avoid the offending food and ingredients that contain it.

A food allergy is an auto-immune response and the body’s way of defending itself against what it perceives as a harmful substance. Symptoms can range in severity from a mild skin rash to a life threatening reaction.

Spotting Allergens Using Food Labels

Fortunately, it’s now much easier for individuals with common food allergies to make safe choices. These allergens are known as the “Top 8” and include wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy, nuts and tree nuts. FDA labeling laws require manufacturers to list the presence of an ingredient that is, or contains, protein from one of the Top 8 on nutrition facts labels.   This information is provided in one of two ways:

  1. In the ingredient list: the ingredient that contains an allergen may be listed and followed by the food allergen it contains in parenthesis. Example:   Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, whey (milk), eggs)
  2. The label may include a “contains” statement. Example: “Contains Wheat, Milk, Egg, and Soy.”

Some food labels will include advisory statements such as “processed in a facility that also processes (name of allergen), however this is not mandated. Unfortunately, the current regulations do not alert consumers of presence of allergens through unintentional cross-contact which might occur in the manufacturing process.

Alison Acerra, MS, RD, is the national nutrition and wellness manager for Guckenheimer, a food service organization that is focused on the impact of food on wellness in the workplace. Alison has worked in a variety of clinical settings at high profile Silicon Valley companies and specializes in weight management, cardiovascular disease and diabetes prevention and management, as well as culinary nutrition.

 

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