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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Including Taking Advantage of Our Health Insurance Policies

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In additional to the most wonderful time of the year, it is also one of the busiest times of the year. However, it is important to stay focused on personal health insurance policies with regard to deductibles, annual maximums and flexible spending accounts.

“Now is the time to take charge of our lives as well as our insurance accounts. In order to use your insurance policies to your best benefit, you must know the status of these policies. ”
<p>Now is the time to take charge of our lives as well as our insurance accounts. In order to use your insurance policies to your best benefit, you must know the status of these policies. </p>

You want to make sure you use your plan to your best advantage to get the most out of your premium dollars. In addition, when we are proactive with our overall health, we are able to prevent minor issues from becoming major issues which is good for our physical and financial health. According to Meegan Carter, Vice President of Revenue Cycle for Norman Regional Health System, "A little bit of planning can go a long way in maximizing the great health and wellness benefits employees get from employers in exchange for their hard work and dedication. Make the most of it and we all win!".

Deductibles

Insurance benefit contracts are typically for a 12 month period, known as policy year. The plan deductibles start over at the beginning of the following policy year. Considering many health insurance policies begin on January 1st and end on December 31st, now is a good time to review your policy. If you have health care or dental needs and you have met your annual deductible, it may be in your best financial interest to have those services completed this year. If you wait until 2017, you may have to meet a new deductible before your insurance benefits will start to pay out. Also, if your insurance benefits are changing for the next year, you may have higher out of pocket expenses with regards to deductibles, coinsurance and copays.

Here is an example. Let's say you have a $500 deductible (which you’ve met for 2016) and then your insurance company will pay 80% of the remaining bill. You know you need a medical procedure that costs $1,000. Your out of pocket expense could just be $200 in 2016. If you wait until 2017, you will have to start your deductible over again which means your out of pocket expense would be $600: $500 deductible + $100 (80% of the remaining $500) = $600.

Annual Maximums

Some insurance plans have an annual maximum. After the insurance company pays a certain amount in total for health care services, the remaining expenses will be your responsibility. Most often, dental plans operate in this fashion. For example, the dental insurance may only pay a maximum of $1,500 per year. Any expenses above that amount would be your responsibility to pay in full. If you have not met your annual maximum and you still need some dental services, now is the time to make that appointment to see your dentist before we bring in the New Year. The same is true for any other health benefit that has an annual maximum. Talk to your dentist about scheduling the root canal or the fillings that you have been putting off.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)

If you elected to have money deducted from each paycheck for your flexible spending account, you want to make sure you use that money. You would have set up this account with your employer during your annual benefit election time. These accounts are designed to help set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for expenses that are not covered by your insurance policy including deductibles, coinsurance and copays. Most often, there is a 'use it or lose it rule. If you still have money remaining in your FSA, considering having an eye exam and purchasing a new pair of glasses or contacts. You could also schedule that elective procedure you have been putting off. The deductible, coinsurance, copays and some other non-covered items could be paid for with your Flexible Spending money. You can get a list of covered expenses from your FSA company.

Now is the time to take charge of our lives as well as our insurance accounts. In order to use your insurance policies to your best benefit, you must know the status of these policies. Let’s be proactive in order to keep ourselves as physically and financially healthy as we can.

May your Days be Merry and Bright…and Safe!

Monday, December 5, 2016

The holidays are a cheerful time. It is a time for family, friends and community. While you are celebrating, you need to be careful. There could be a Grinch out there who could damper the joyful holiday spirit and possibly want our valuables. According to claims data over the past three years, there were nearly 15,000 home thefts during the holidays and travel months of November, December and January.

“We need to be alert and in tune with the appropriate precautions necessary to stay safe and enjoy the holidays with family and friends.”
<p>We need to be alert and in tune with the appropriate precautions necessary to stay safe and enjoy the holidays with family and friends.</p>

Here are a few tips to help keep everyone jolly and safe at home and when you are out this holiday season.

Parking Lots

  • Stay focused: When driving in a parking lot, chose a spot that is well lit and located closer to the entrance of the building. Also, look around before you get out of your car or the building. Notice if there is anyone walking or hanging around the parking lot. You do not want to be on your phone completely distracted to everything going on around you.
  • Keys in Hand: Try not to have your hands completely full of shopping bags and presents. If possible, it is important to have your keys in hand so you have easy access to your car. It is best to avoid being focused on finding your keys at the bottom of your purse in a dark parking lot.
  • Out of Sight: Do not leave valuables in sight in your car. Try to use your trunk or other covered spaces within your car. It may just be too tempting for the holiday Grinch when they walk by your car.
  • Safety in Numbers: Not only is it fun to go shopping with family and friends, there is always safety in numbers. If you did not drive together and parked in separate areas, it would be smart to walk together to one car and then drive to the other car. Also, there is usually a security guard in shopping areas and offices that could always walk you to your car.

Credit Cards

  • Online shopping: When you are making those online purchases, make sure you are using legitimate websites. Start with well-known stores. In addition, it is important that webpage is secured before you start to enter your credit card. Look for the 'https:' in the URL.
  • In-store Shopping: Make sure you pay attention to your credit card and that it ends up back in your wallet before you leave the cash register. We all become so distracted. It would be easy to leave a credit card behind as we rush to go check off the next person on the holiday gift list or the next to-do item.

Traveling

  • Social Media: Save the status updates for later. Four out of five burglars used social networks last year to find out when people were not home. Telling friends and family your holiday plans on social media may seem harmless, but that social media message can be an advertisement to burglars that says, "I'm not home." Don't let your social media behavior while you're gone put your home at risk for a burglary.
  • Merry and Bright: Keep some lights on at your house. If a burglar has a choice, they will select a darker house over a well-lit one.

According to Shane Cohea, Director of Safety, Security, and Emergency Preparedness for Norman Regional Health System, "We need to be alert and in tune with the appropriate precautions necessary to stay safe and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Being rushed could create a vulnerable situation for those who are distracted." We all need to plan ahead and slow down so our days can be merry and bright... and safe.

National Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Friday, November 18, 2016

While lung cancer is a concern all year, November has been designated as Lung Cancer Awareness month in order to bring attention to the 2nd most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. While Skin Cancer has the largest number of diagnoses, lung cancer is actually the leading cause of cancer deaths. There are steps we can take to reduce our risk based on lifestyle choices. Changes in behaviors and early diagnosis can enable treatment to allow people to live a more productive and healthier life.

“Tobacco products are an addiction that is very hard to quit. Norman Regional has a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist who can provide you with the tools necessary to help you. Ready to try?”
<p>Tobacco products are an addiction that is very hard to quit. Norman Regional has a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist who can provide you with the tools necessary to help you. Ready to try?</p>

The best method of preventing lung cancer is tobacco cessation. Smoking is believed to cause 80% of the lives lost to lung cancer. The Great American Smoke-out is a perfect time to make the potentially life-saving step and stop utilizing tobacco products. The annual Great American Smoke out is celebrated on the 3rd Thursday each November. The first event was held on November 16, 1977 in San Francisco with the hope that people would stop smoking for 24 hours and then eventually quit. According to the American Cancer Society, there has been a reduction in cigarette smoking since the 1960s. However, cigars, pipes and hookah, all of which are dangerous and addictive, have seen a large increase in utilization. E-cigarettes are also on the rise. This year, The Great American Smoke-Out will be held on November 17th.

Tobacco products are an addiction that is very hard to quit. Norman Regional has a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist who can provide you with the tools necessary to help you. Ready to try? We are here for you. For information about our Quit Smart class, please call (405) 307-3175.

Another resource available to assist you is the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline. Primarily funded by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, or TSET, this hotline is a toll-free support line with an enhanced selection of services. You can receive free text and email support, phone and web coaching, patches, gum, lozenges and more. Please call 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit OKhelpline.com to register and receive nonjudgmental support from specially trained Quit Coaches who can help provide services tailored just for you.

Norman Regional Health System offers a low dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer. This non-invasive and painless test (Computed Tomography) is taken of the chest area. This low dose scan provides detailed x-rays, reviewed by radiologists, who can detect early stage lung cancers that may not show up on traditional x-ray methods. A patient is notified of any abnormalities by a specialized nurse navigator who will help the patient determine their next steps. Patients will receive a letter when the findings are normal. This screening can be used as a baseline or a point of reference for any future tests that may be needed.

The cost is only $79 and does not require a referral from a physician. Insurance will not be billed.

This screening is recommended for the following people.

  • Between the ages of 55 to 74
  • Have smoked more than a pack a day for 30 years
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years
  • Have been exposed to second-hand smoke for an extended period of time
  • Had or have a job with exposure to radon, asbestos or diesel exhaust

You can check with your insurance company to see if this is a covered test. If you are using your own insurance to pay for the test, please make sure to follow the necessary steps as required by your insurance company in order for the test to be covered and to avoid being billed anything above your copay or deductible and coinsurance.

The lung cancer screenings are performed at all three of Norman Regional Health System campuses: Norman Regional Hospital on Porter Avenue, Norman Regional HealthPlex on Tecumseh Road and Norman Regional Moore on Telephone Road. The test takes about 15 minutes. Patients can call (405) 307-2290 to schedule their screening today. Norman Regional's comprehensive lung services also include board-certified pulmonologists and interventional pulmonologists. If you have a finding on a lung cancer screening, our team is available to provide follow-up care and treatment including biopsies.

There is not time like the presence! Take that important life-saving step of turning your back on tobacco products. Norman Regional Health System is here for you with the resources and support you need to be successful.

UPDATE - Patients with Parkinson’s Fighting Back

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Since June, Oklahomans living with Parkinson’s have been fighting back with a local Rock Steady Boxing program created through a partnership with Norman Regional's Rehabilitation Services and The Health Club. Rock Steady, a national non-profit, certified Debbie Bennett, a NRHS occupational therapist and Stacy Hyden, an NRHS physical therapist to bring this unique program to Norman, Oklahoma. It is inspiring to watch this group work overcome some of their difficulties they have from Parkinson’s disease.

“Rock Steady boxers are such an inspiration to me and each other. It's been a great experience watching them improve so much!”
<p>Rock Steady boxers are such an inspiration to me and each other. It's been a great experience watching them improve so much!</p>

During their Tuesday and Thursday weekly classes, the group has become a family supporting and encouraging each other to work hard. Debbie and Stacy are their fearless leaders who show such compassion and support to help the participants stay motivated and successful. Debbie is known for her great sense of humor and ready to give out big hugs. Debbie passionately said, "Rock Steady boxers are such an inspiration to me and each other. It's been a great experience watching them improve so much!"

The program that launched 4 months ago focuses on core strength, improving balance and posture as well as flexibility and speed. For those not living with Parkinson's, some routine tasks are taken for granted. On the other hand, Parkinson’s causes hands to tremor and creates some significant balance issues. Many participants agreed that something as simple as putting on your clothes became a difficult undertaking. It was very liberating when their balance improved enough to step into their pants on your own without needing support. It is an important accomplishment not taken for granted.

According to Bob Pritchard, who started at the initiation of the program, he was reassured about his progress when he ran into a friend who he had not seen in 6 months. The friend immediately recognized his overall improvement. He received a big hug from Debbie with that announcement.

In addition to the encouragement among the class participants and leaders, there is another constant support system known as the corner men or corner people. This boxing term was affectionately given to their spouses, family members and friends who ensure the participants are able to get to class, help with exercises outside of class and are there when a helping hand is needed.

The Rock Steady program is already having such a positive impact on so many people. It is not too late to join this exciting program. The classes are open to anyone diagnosed with Parkinson's Diseases, however, in order to participate, an initial assessment is required. The Health Club is located at 3720 W Robinson St #124 in Norman. To inquire about the cost of the assessment, class fees or equipment, you may contact you may contact Lisa at (405)307-1722.

September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Many people are not familiar with thyroid cancer considering it is not one of the more common cancers in the United States. Thyroid cancer is quite treatable. Therefore, it is very important to be aware of this disease.

“The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck that looks like a butterfly and produces hormones which regulate the body's metabolic rate...”
<p>The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck that looks like a butterfly and produces hormones which regulate the body's metabolic rate...</p>
  • What is the thyroid?
  • Where is the thyroid located?
  • What is the function of the thyroid?

These are all very important questions. The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck that looks like a butterfly and produces hormones which regulate the body's metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance.

Thyroid cancer, which affects women more often than men, cannot be prevented. However, the treatment for thyroid cancer has been found to be successful. Surgery can be performed as well as a therapy which includes radioactive iodine. After a thyroidectomy or the total removal of the thyroid gland, on-going hormone therapy is necessary. It is rare that thyroid cancer spreads throughout the body. However if indicated, radiation and chemotherapy can be considered in these situations.

The American Thyroid Association discusses four types of cancer. They are listed below in the order of most to least common.

  • Papillary Thyroid Cancer accounts for about 70% - 80% of the diagnosed cases and can affect people of all ages. Papillary cancer tends to grow slowly. Even if it spreads to the lymph nodes, the general outlook is still very positive.
  • Follicular Thyroid Cancer makes up 10% - 15% of thyroid cancer in the United States. This is a significant decrease in the number of cases compared to those with papillary thyroid cancer. Patients tend to be older in age. In addition to spreading to the lymph nodes, this type of cancer can grow in the blood vessels and possibly spread to the lungs and bones.
  • Medullary Thyroid Cancer – only accounts for 5% - 10% of all thyroid cancers. It could be based on hereditary and other endocrine problems. Genetic testing can be performed.
  • Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer only affects less than 2% of the patients with thyroid cancer. This cancer is the most aggressive type and least responsive to treatment.

According to Dr. Tom Connally, the Medical Director of the Norman Regional Health System Endocrine Surgery Program and an expert in the area of minimally-invasive thyroid and parathyroid surgeries, "It is important to discuss your treatment options with a physician to determine the most effective method for you based on your situation, age, health and medical history."

The overall prognosis for thyroid cancer is very optimistic, considering it is curable for the vast majority of patients diagnosed. And that is very good news for people facing a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.