Fight Continues To Raise Smoking Age

shutterstock_239806006It’s been proven time and again that cigarettes have a hugely negative impact on the health of smokers. They’ve been directly linked to everything from cancer to diminished immune systems and much, much more. There’s a reason that tobacco manufacturers are now required by law to print health warnings on their cigarette packages, after all. Yet people still choose to smoke them. As a way to increase their efforts against the adverse health effects of tobacco, the state of Hawaii raised the smoking age from 18 to 21, making it the only state to do so. California legislation has considered following suit.

Younger individuals aren’t as worried about their health as older adults, which makes them more susceptible to trying and becoming addicted to tobacco use. Tobacco companies recognize this and have targeted younger Californians with their advertising. The younger an age that they turn a person into a smoker, the more business they’ll have from that individual over their lifetime.

Among the reasons for the initiative to increase the age restriction on tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 are that it will help reduce the number of Californians that become addicted to tobacco use at an early age, and that it will save California money on healthcare costs, since sustained tobacco use is directly linked to a variety of chronic illnesses. However, there are a number of people opposing the proposition. These people believe that since the age of 18 is considered an adult age, people that are 18 years old should retain the right to make their own decision regarding whether to smoke cigarettes or not. Additionally, opponents to the proposed law point out that the state could end up losing money. This is because the state taxes cigarette sales, and if sales go down, so will the money coming from taxes.

There are both pros and cons to raising the age restriction on tobacco purchase, but one thing is certain—tobacco is harmful to the health of those that use it. For more information about proposed health laws and health insurance in general, visit the Benefits Store today.

What to Include as Income on Your Marketplace Application

shutterstock_190551629In order to apply for a health insurance plan on the marketplace, California residents will be required to provide an estimate for how much their household income will be for 2016. It’s important that applicants supply an estimate for the upcoming year and not for last year in order to qualify for the proper amount of savings. The following are a few things applicants should know about providing an estimated income on their application:

  • For the most part, applicants should provide their gross income, which is their total income before taxes and other deductions are applied.
  • Applicants may have the option to provide their income estimate as either monthly or yearly.
  • Household income doesn’t just include the estimated income of the person filling out the application. It also consists of the income of their spouse (if they have a spouse) as well as their tax dependents—even tax dependents that aren’t in need of coverage.

The Types of Income Used

The following are the types of income that applicants will have to include in their estimate:

  • Federal taxable wages—If the applicant’s pay stub includes federal taxable wages, they should use that number. If it doesn’t, then they should use the gross income number and subtract the amount taken out by the employer for health insurance, retirement plans and child care.
  • Self-employment income—Applicants should include their net self-employment income, which is what they made minus their business expenses—they will be asked what type of work they do.
  • Social security—The full amount of both taxable and non-taxable social security income needs to be included before any deductions. Social security disability income should be included as well; however, supplemental security income should not be included.
  • Retirement income—IRA and 401(k) withdrawals should be included.

Other forms of income that have to be included include tips, unemployment compensation, alimony, capital gains, investment income, rental and royalty income, and excluded foreign income.

For additional information and advice regarding a marketplace application or about health insurance in general, be sure to visit us at The Benefits Store today.

Covered California’s Open Enrollment Deadline

shutterstock_309518777Residents of California that need federal premium assistance in order to buy brand-name health insurance can receive it under the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act by enrolling in Covered California. By enrolling in Covered California, residents may qualify for a private insurance discount or receive health insurance via California’s Medi-Cal program. However, there is a deadline for enrolling in Covered California. Enrollment opened up on November 1st, 2015 and will end on January 31st, 2016.

Covered California Open Enrollment Process

The following is the process that residents will go through in order to sign up for health insurance via Covered California:

  • Shopping and comparing plans—Residents simply need to enter some personal information in order to receive an estimate for how much health insurance will cost. The less a resident makes on an annual basis, the more financial assistance they will receive.
  • Applying for an insurance plan—Once a resident finds a plan that suits them, they can apply through Covered California. Residents will need to provide personal information that includes their ID, income information, social security number, zip code and proof of citizenship or lawful presence. Anyone that needs assistance during this step can simply click on the Find Local Help button located on the home page.
  • Review choices—Once residents have applied, they can review their private insurance options. Companies included in Covered California include Anthem, BlueCross, Blue Shield of California, CCHP, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, LA Care, Molina Healthcare, Oscar, Sharp, Valley Health Plan, Western Health Advantage and United Health Care.
  • Begin payments—Residents will be able to make their first month’s payment online or they can choose to wait until a bill comes to their home via the mail.

Covered California can help ensure that all of the state’s residents get the healthcare insurance that they need at an affordable rate. Be sure to visit the Benefits Store today in order to receive more information about Covered California enrollment or about health insurance and the Affordable Care Act in general. Remember, the open enrollment date will end this month on January 31st.

Is It the Flu or a Cold?

shutterstock_272092772Winter is right around the corner, which means more and more people are going to be coming down with a cough. Dealing with a cough and a stuffy nose can be quite aggravating, especially if your symptoms begin to worsen. But are you suffering from the common cold or have you caught the flu? It can be difficult to tell the two apart sometimes, especially in the beginning stages.

The Common Cold

If you have a cold, the first symptom you’ll typically have is a sore throat, which usually only lasts for a day or two. Following the sore throat, you’ll experience nasal symptoms, such as congestion or a runny nose. This is usually accompanied by a cough during the fourth and fifth days of your cold. Expect your mucus to take on a darker and thicker appearance. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold, and it is very contagious in the first three days; however, it should go away within a week.

The Flu

Symptoms of the flu are similar to those of a cold, but they come on much more quickly. They include sore throats, coughs and congestion. However, unlike the common cold, the flu will typically also cause symptoms such as a fever, headaches, muscles aches and muscle soreness. Once you develop these symptoms, it’s a good indication that you have the flu. More severe versions of the flu virus can also result in diarrhea and vomiting. Some of the lesser symptoms, such as the cough and sore throat, will usually improve within two to five days. However, if you started off with a fever, it can return after a few days if you have the flu. The flu will also cause you to feel fatigue and weakness, and sometimes even extreme exhaustion, which never occurs with a cold.

Although the common cold and the flu share a number of symptoms, you can usually identify the flu by a fever and exhaustion. We advise you to get your flu shot soon and to contact The Benefits Store for professional service for all California Medical Plans.

Maternity Plans with Dental Coverage Encourage Better Overall Health

shutterstock_309488807Women that are pregnant or planning a pregnancy may not be thinking too much about the health of their teeth, but recent studies conducted by Cigna show that dental health should be more of a concern due to the impact it has on both the mother’s overall health and the baby’s. Because of this, employers should strongly consider adding dental coverage to their maternity plans.

The Importance of Dental Health for Pregnant Women

Pregnancy hormones can actually affect a woman’s dental health. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the physiological changes that women experience during pregnancy can result in the following dental health issues:

  • Gingivitis
  • Gingival lesions
  • Tooth enamel erosion
  • Loose teeth
  • Periodontitis

There’s also the risk of infection, including gum disease and tooth decay, and all of these issues can in turn affect the health of the baby. Then there are some of the daily routines that pregnant women often go through that can affect their dental health.  This can include taking certain prescribed medications, such as medications for high blood pressure, asthma or diabetes, which dry the mouth and can in turn result in gum disease, bacteria growth and tooth decay.

Why Maternity Plans Should Include Dental Coverage

The Cigna study showed that 63 percent of the surveyed pregnant women believed they had excellent dental health before pregnancy—this number dropped to 55 percent during their pregnancy. Also, 43 percent of those surveyed didn’t even bother going to the dentist for a check up during their pregnancy period. The main reason? They were worried about the costs. This is a problem since pregnant women are more likely to develop a dental health issue—which, left untreated, could grow into a bigger problem that will be more costly to treat. By including dental coverage in your maternity plans, you’ll be encouraging pregnant women to get a dental check up.

Dental health is often ignored during pregnancy—but it shouldn’t be, as pregnancy can affect the health of women’s teeth. For more information about maternity plans and California medical plans in general, contact The Benefits Store today.