October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

shutterstock_162825059Breast cancer is one of the most serious conditions affecting women around the world. Breast cancer is the second most prevalent form of cancer found in women behind skin cancer and roughly one out of every eight American women born today will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. Because of this, getting tested regularly is incredibly important, which is why October was designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was established as a way to spread awareness of breast cancer and to encourage women to get a mammogram, which is a screening test that can identify breast cancer. By identifying signs of breast cancer during the earlier stages of development, there is a much better chance of treating it.

So far, around 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer have been reported in 2015. Around 60,290 non-invasive cases have been reported as well. An estimated 40,290 women are expected to die in 2015 due to breast cancer. However, the death rate caused by breast cancer has been dropping steadily since 1989. This is due in part to efforts to spread awareness about breast cancer and to encourage women to get tested early. Earlier detection allows for more effective treatment.

Because one of the risk factors of breast cancer is aging, women between the ages of 40 and 49 should speak with their doctors about when they should get a mammogram. Women between the ages of 50 and 74 should begin getting mammograms every two years. Women that have had a first-degree relative, such as a sister or mother, diagnosed with breast cancer are twice as at risk to develop breast cancer.  In fact, less than 15 percent of women who have breast cancer have had a family member who was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Because it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we encourage all women to speak with their doctors about receiving a mammogram and we encourage everyone to speak with the women in their families about breast cancer. For more information, contact us at The Benefits Store today.

 

The Impact of the Coming “Cadillac” Tax

shutterstock_170812631The Cadillac Tax is a 40 percent tax that won’t be tax deductible and that will be levied on employer-sponsored health coverage that offers high-cost benefits. The annual tax is scheduled to take effect in 2018 – although it’s not without opposition.

What is the purpose of the Cadillac Tax?

The Cadillac Tax has been put into place as a way to reduce the tax preferred treatment of employers that provide health care as well as to reduce any excess health care spending by both employees and employers. Additionally, the Cadillac Tax will assist with financing health care coverage expansion under the PPACA (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).

The tax will be 40 percent of the health coverage cost that exceeds the threshold amounts that were predetermined—$27,500 for family coverage and $10,200 for individual coverage. However, these thresholds will be updated by 2018 to reflect inflation. This will include the contributions made by both the employer and their employees.

What is the potential impact of the Cadillac Tax?

The 40 percent tax is not something employers are going to want to pay, which is why many employers are already beginning to review and trim down their health plans in order to help minimize the impact of the Cadillac Tax.

Employers with generous health plans that include flexible spending accounts will be heavily affected by the Cadillac Tax. Flexible spending accounts are popular with employees since they let them put aside tax-free money for medical expenses. The tax threshold doesn’t just take into account the premiums, but will also factor in other benefits offered to employees by their employers, such as any money that’s put into their flexible spending accounts. What does this mean? Many employers are likely to begin limiting how much their employees can add to their FSA accounts—or they may simply stop offering them altogether. In addition to trimming down their health plans, this could lead to lower quality health plan options for employees.

For more information about the upcoming Cadillac Tax, contact us at the Benefits Store today.

 

New Credit Card Scam Alert: How to Keep Your Information Safe

shutterstock_115341850There are always new credit card scams being perpetrated, which means that you can never be too careful with how you use your credit cards. The last thing you want is to have your credit card information stolen, after all. Unfortunately, a new credit card scam is making the rounds, so be wary.

The new scam involves criminals that already have millions of stolen credit card account numbers. The scam they are pulling involves tricking the holders of those accounts to reveal their three-digit or four-digit security pin numbers that are printed on the backs of all credit cards. You’re probably wondering, “How exactly do they do this?”

What will happen is that you’ll receive a phone call from someone claiming to work for the fraud-prevention department of your credit card issuer. As “proof” that they are from your credit card company, they will read the number of your account to you. Remember, they have your credit card information and not your actual credit card—you are probably still in possession of it. They will then ask you about a recent purchase and whether or not you made it. They will identify this purchase as a “suspicious transaction.” When you tell them that you did not make the purchase, they will recommend that you get a new account number—and that you won’t have to worry about the fraudulent charges since they will be removed. The catch is, you’ll have to provide them with that three-digit or four-digit code on the back of your card to prove to them that it is still in your possession.

So how do you know if you’re speaking to a legitimate representative of your credit issuer? Ask for their name and employee ID. Then hang up and call the 800-number listed on the back of your card. Ask to speak to the fraud-prevention department and provide the information you have. They will be able to verify whether or not it was a scam.

Always be careful when giving out credit card information. Contact us at the Benefits Store today for advice concerning protecting your information with IDShield today.

Insurance Companies Face Giving Refunds Under the Affordable Care Act

shutterstock_226572406The Affordable Care Act ushered in a lot of change into the healthcare industry that is affecting insurers as well as those that are purchasing the insurance. One example of this is a new stipulation under the Affordable Care Act that requires all insurers to spend a minimum of 80 percent of their premiums on medical care. Insurers that do not meet this figure are required to issue refunds.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that one of the biggest insurers that was affected by this new regulation was Blue Shield of California. They did not meet the 80 percent figure – according to the Times, they only spent 76.8 percent of their premiums on medical care, falling just short of the Affordable Care Act’s required number. This has resulted in Blue Shield of California owing a total of $82.8 million in rebates to its customers, including both consumers and small employers. Broken down further, they will have to pay roughly 400,000 individual consumers around $61.7 million in total. This works out to an average rebate of $136. They will have to pay roughly 19,000 small businesses a total of $21.1 million.

According to Blue Shield of California, it plans on sending out rebate checks and letters to all of its eligible consumers by September 30th of this year. The main reason that they missed the 80 percent threshold established by the Affordable Care Act, according to Blue Shield of California, is because of the enrollment uncertainty of the new act. However, Blue Shield of California is the only major insurer that is being forced to send out rebates to their individual customers and small employers. The other major California-area insurers, including Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente, have released statements that they were able to meet the 80 percent threshold and that they do not owe any refunds for this year.

For additional information about the rebates owed by Blue Shield of California, or for information about the Affordable Care Act and health insurance in general, be sure to contact us at the Benefits Store today.

How do Bone Fractures Really Heal?

shutterstock_189309122Fractured bones are relatively common injuries treated by orthopedists. All fractured bones go through a similar healing process that consists of four stages. Depending on the severity of the fracture, the healing process can take a longer time. The following are the basic stages of the process of healing of bone fractures:

  1. The inflammation stage – Bleeding caused by the fracture within the bone and the tissue surrounding it will cause the affected area to swell. This inflammation will likely occur the first day the bone is fractured and can continue for upwards of two to three weeks.
  2. The soft callus stage – After two or three weeks, the pain and inflammation should begin to decrease. Once this happens, the fractured bone will begin to stiffen and new bone will begin forming; however, this new bone won’t be visible by x-ray yet. The soft callus stage will last between four and eight weeks after the fracture occurred.
  3. The hard callus stage – After the soft callus has formed, the new bone will begin to bridge the bone fracture. It’s at this point where the new bone can be spotted via x-rays. It should take between eight and 12 weeks for the hard callus to completely fill the fracture.
  4. The bone remodeling stage – Once the new bone has filled the fracture, the affected area will begin to remodel itself, which means that any deformities caused by the original injury will be corrected. Depending on the severity of these deformities, the bone remodeling stage could end up taking up to a few years to complete.

Although bone fractures typically heal without issue for most patients, there are a few problems that can occur in particularly severe bone fractures. The biggest potential issue is compartment syndrome, in which severe swelling results in not enough blood getting to the muscles in the affected area. This can lead to long-term disability. For more information about related health insurance advice, contact us at the Benefits Store today.