Is An Indemnity Health Care Insurance Plan Still A Good Option?

It wasn’t to long ago that the most popular form of health insurance was the indemnity heath care plan. This form of health insurance also sometimes referred to as a “fee-for-service” health care plan were preferred over other coverage or plans provided by health insurance companies or providers because they gave the insured the opportunity to choose their own hospital, doctor or health care specialist. Unfortunately, with the rapidly rising costs of medical treatment and hospitalization these plans have taken a back seat to managed health care plans. In fact, most of today’s companies only really offer their employees the opportunity to sign up for a managed health care plan if they even offer health insurance coverage as a benefit of employment.

As was previously mentioned indemnity health care plans were extremely popular because they gave the freedom for anyone subscribing to this form of insurance the ability to keep their own doctor or physician and seek health care from a hospital of their choice. The mainstream version of health care coverage now being offered today is a managed care system where the insured must choose from a list of providers that are part of the managed health care plan. Health Maintenance Organizations or HMOs are what normally comes to mind when people discuss this form of healthcare coverage.

As you can imagine when consumers were offered the choice of choosing their own doctor it came with a price. The fact is indemnity health care plans frequently ended up costing more for their participants based on what the health insurance company or provider deemed as a reasonable charge for any medical treatment or service rendered. In most cases the insurance company would only end up paying 80% of the total bill thus causing the patient to have to cover the remaining 20%. This percentage breakdown only represented the reasonable amount of allowable charges. Anything above that amount was also paid for by the insured so as you can see the amount to b paid for by the individual consumer can easily exceed 20% of the total hospital bill.

As if paying more for the right to see your own doctor or medical health care specialist wasn’t bad enough many indemnity health care plans required a premium payment and a deductible, which was usually paid annually. Still even with these additional costs most folks were happy with and preferred the indemnity health plan simply because of the comfort level afforded by the ability to choose their own health care provider.

In today’s managed health care plans a Preferred Provider Organization or PPO offers many of the same features as an indemnity health plan. These plans offer a much larger list of doctors and physicians to choose from with a good chance that the insured’s health care provider will be on the list. They also offer better rates if someone forgoes their own doctor and chooses a medical care specialist from among the PPO network of providers. Any medical care sought outside of the network results in higher expenses in the form of a deductible before the PPO will start contributing towards the extra costs associated with seeking medical treatment elsewhere.

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The Easy Way To Choose The Right Family Health Insurance Plan

If you’ve taken on the daunting task of choosing the right health insurance for your family chances are you’re in for a wild ride. The fact is trying to pick a family health care plan can be both confusing and difficult for many consumers. Although many plans have the major differences between them based on the monthly premium or health insurance rate and the restrictions they impose there are a few other minor features that should be explored.

Many health care providers will stipulate or mandate a required pre-health screening or physical before they will allow you to sign up for the plan and actually start providing health care coverage. The reasoning behind this is based on the fact that a majority of the new health care companies and providers are now positioning their coverage resources towards preventive medicine and hospital visits as opposed to treating pre-existing conditions. Other factors that will cause health care insurance plans to differ will be the rates they charge for smokers, consumers suffering from chronic or frequent illnesses and even people suffering from diabetes and other more extreme medical conditions.

One vital bit of information that someone researching to find the most suitable health insurance plan for their family should know would have to be the difference between a managed care health plan and a fee-for-service or indemnity plan. Many people prefer the indemnity plan based on the fact that it allows you the opportunity to choose the medical profession, doctor or health care specialist that you wish to use as your primary health care provider. It also eliminates the need for a referral when seeking specialized or outside treatment. Naturally, this freedom to choose your own doctor and hospital comes with a higher price in the form of a larger required deductible and the consumer paying as much as 20% of any health care that is provided.

The managed care system or plan is the most talked about plan and is discussed and advertised for quite frequently. Just in case you’re not sure what these plans are, think Health Maintenance Organization or HMO as that is really one of the more popular forms of this type of health care insurance coverage. Other plans similar in nature include the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), and the Point-of-Service Plan (POS).

Since the HMO seems to be the most widely known it only seems fair to provide more in-depth knowledge on what it truly is and what it does for consumers. A typical HMO offers a large amount of health care benefits and a good value in health care coverage. Normally a deductible isn’t required and there is a nominal co-pay on prescriptions. This coverage plan is usually provided for a small monthly premium or fee.

The major difference between an HMO and an indemnity plan (aside from the deductible portion) is how the primary health care provider is chosen. Remember with an indemnity plan the consumer gets to choose whoever they want as their doctor. In an the consumer or individual seeking health care insurance is given a list of doctors to choose from that will become their family’s primary care physician. Also a referral system is heavily used in an HMO on the off chance that you need to seek additional medical guidance and help from a medical specialist.

Finding the most suitable family health care insurance can be extremely confusing and difficult or it can be rather simple, quick and easy. Knowing the difference between an indemnity plan and a managed care system can aid in the choosing of an adequate health care insurance plan for your family.

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Are You Eligible For Breast Augmentation?

Breast augmentation is used for cosmetic reasons, to reconstruct one’s breast after a mastectomy or to rectify chest wall deformities and as part of a male to female sex change surgery.

Sometimes, the loss of breast tissue or its complete removal because of a disease, mastectomy or accident can be the reason why women turn to breast enlargement. In fact, in extreme cases, breast augmentation is usually performed consequently with masectomy for better and faster effects.

Types of breast implants

There are two types of breast implants used in breast enlargement; saline and silicone gel filled implants. The saline implants have a silicone shell filled with sterile saline liquid while the silicone gel ones have a silicone shell filled with silicone gel.

Though women have different reasons for undergoing breast enlargement, there are some criteria that have to be met before surgeons will operate on you. Of the lot, age is a very important factor, where you have to be at least 18 years old for augmentation. Younger women are denied the operation as their breasts are not fully developed at that age.

Need to be in good health

You have to have good physical health to undergo breast enlargement. This is why your medical records will be checked, and you will be asked if you have any medical conditions, allergies, if you are on any medication and if you have been admitted to a hospital for other reasons.

It is possible to undergo breast enlargement if you have an adverse medical history, on the approval of a qualified and suitable doctor. However if you suffer from an infection, your surgery date may be postponed till the infection has cleared.

Pregnant women are usually not permitted to undergo augmentation as pregnancy and childbirth changes the breast tissue volume and shape. So postpone your breast augmentation plans till after childbirth.

If you meet any of these criterions, and feel that you need to undergo breast augmentation, consult a reputed cosmetic surgery to understand the procedure, and to find out if you are eligible for breast augmentation.

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Some Foods That Can Enhance Your Breast Size

The allure and wish for a bigger and fuller breast size in woman is very difficult to resist. Most women live and die with this huge. Reports have it that some women even at an old age still longer to have their bosom big and smooth with life. Yes a lady with a bigger and well loaded chest can more easily be attracted to the opposite sex. As men find it hard to take their eyes and thought of a woman with a big breast size. As a result of the obvious risk which is associated with breast surgeries, the report that some foods can help increase the size of a woman’s breast will be good news to many.

So for those that want to keep fit and still maintain the beauty that comes with bigger breast size, then you have something to cheer about. This is true because there are more foods that will help you gain that breast size you desire to have.

Having a very healthy diet plan which when added to these foods will enhance your chances of having those wonderful breasts that will be extremely difficult for a man to resist. A good combination of this breast enhancement foods to your meal and diet plan will yield that will beat your own imagination.

The question is which of these breasts enhancement foods are best and which are really going to work for me. Over the years there has been a lot of plants and herbs which a lot of people around the world made use of to improve on their breast health. One of such kind of herb is known as Fenugreek. This quality herb has been used by millions over the year. They are used to promote quality breast health in nursing mothers. What this herb does is to increase the supply of milk to the breast by the human body. Other ladies use it to improve the look and beauty of their breast. This herb has nice components that are very good for the health as it also helps to reduce the level of cholesterol content in human system.

One other wonderful hear that has been used over the years for breast enhancement is the Saw Palmetto. This herb is of a high nutritional composition. It’s has been used for decades by man and women with any negative effect to the body system. Most women use it to enhance their breast size as it helps to develop the breast tissues. It’s a wonder herb that can also improve the human urinary system when properly used. Despite the fact that this herb is very medicinal, it should not be abused in any way.

The funnel is another herb that can improve the human breast. The herd has some very tasty seed and can be likened to the fenugreek herb. This breast enhancement herb can be added to tea as it tastes really nice. Wild Yam is another breast enhancement food that is worth mentioning. This food when taken by a woman can help her develop bigger breast.

When you are taken these breast enhancement foods, you must ensure that they are taken in the right quantity. A lot of women can abuse these foods because of their desperation for bigger breast instantly.

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Natural Breast Growth

Certain features on our bodies are predetermined at birth, such as how tall we will be, what color our eyes are, and when natural breast growth will stop. For many of us, this is the one that is quite upsetting, and possibly the one we wish we could change most. It seems cruel that our boobs will stop growing long before our hips and thighs! Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to help stimulate natural breast growth and maybe trick nature into thinking we were destined to have bigger boobs.

Herbal supplements are often helpful, and usually very safe. You can get them individually, and take one or more different ones as a part of a daily vitamin regimen, or you can buy combination products that are made especially to stimulate natural breast growth. Products with Gingko Biloba, fennel, carrot root, and soy are popular choices for breast enhancement. You can also find foods and drinks that include some of these in their main ingredients. However, foods may not be very effective, as they usually only carry small amounts of the right herbs, and you would have to eat a lot to get any benefit.

In the same herbal ballpark are creams that you massage into the breasts. These include roughly the same active ingredients as the supplements, but they don’t have to fight through the digestive system and travel around your body to get to their destination. Some studies show that creams may be more effective, and work faster than pills. These are also pretty safe. If you have sensitive skin, or have had allergies to lotions or perfumes in the past, it might be best to try out a small amount on your arm or leg before slathering up your more tender areas.

These supplements and creams can help, but it is important to keep up a good overall health. You should strive to eat healthy foods and stay fit, both for your boobs and the rest of your body. A healthy, fit body looks best, no matter what size breasts you were born with. If you use products to help stimulate natural breast growth, they will work best if you are already in good health.

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Small Business Health Insurance – The Best Policy Is A Great Agent

I have been a health insurance broker for over a decade and every day I read more and more “horror” stories that are posted on the Internet regarding health insurance companies not paying claims, refusing to cover specific illnesses and physicians not getting reimbursed for medical services. Unfortunately, insurance companies are driven by profits, not people (albeit they need people to make profits). If the insurance company can find a legal reason not to pay a claim, chances are they will find it, and you the consumer will suffer. However, what most people fail to realize is that there are very few “loopholes” in an insurance policy that give the insurance company an unfair advantage over the consumer. In fact, insurance companies go to great lengths to detail the limitations of their coverage by giving the policy holders 10-days (a 10-day free look period) to review their policy. Unfortunately, most people put their insurance cards in their wallet and place their policy in a drawer or filing cabinet during their 10-day free look and it usually isn’t until they receive a “denial” letter from the insurance company that they take their policy out to really read through it.

The majority of people, who buy their own health insurance, rely heavily on the insurance agent selling the policy to explain the plan’s coverage and benefits. This being the case, many individuals who purchase their own health insurance plan can tell you very little about their plan, other than, what they pay in premiums and how much they have to pay to satisfy their deductible.

For many consumers, purchasing a health insurance policy on their own can be an enormous undertaking. Purchasing a health insurance policy is not like buying a car, in that, the buyer knows that the engine and transmission are standard, and that power windows are optional. A health insurance plan is much more ambiguous, and it is often very difficult for the consumer to determine what type of coverage is standard and what other benefits are optional. In my opinion, this is the primary reason that most policy holders don’t realize that they do not have coverage for a specific medical treatment until they receive a large bill from the hospital stating that “benefits were denied.”

Sure, we all complain about insurance companies, but we do know that they serve a “necessary evil.” And, even though purchasing health insurance may be a frustrating, daunting and time consuming task, there are certain things that you can do as a consumer to ensure that you are purchasing the type of health insurance coverage you really need at a fair price.

Dealing with small business owners and the self-employed market, I have come to the realization that it is extremely difficult for people to distinguish between the type of health insurance coverage that they “want” and the benefits they really “need.” Recently, I have read various comments on different Blogs advocating health plans that offer 100% coverage (no deductible and no-coinsurance) and, although I agree that those types of plans have a great “curb appeal,” I can tell you from personal experience that these plans are not for everyone. Do 100% health plans offer the policy holder greater peace of mind? Probably. But is a 100% health insurance plan something that most consumers really need? Probably not! In my professional opinion, when you purchase a health insurance plan, you must achieve a balance between four important variables; wants, needs, risk and price. Just like you would do if you were purchasing options for a new car, you have to weigh all these variables before you spend your money. If you are healthy, take no medications and rarely go to the doctor, do you really need a 100% plan with a $5 co-payment for prescription drugs if it costs you $300 dollars more a month?

Is it worth $200 more a month to have a $250 deductible and a $20 brand name/$10 generic Rx co-pay versus an 80/20 plan with a $2,500 deductible that also offers a $20 brand name/$10generic co-pay after you pay a once a year $100 Rx deductible? Wouldn’t the 80/20 plan still offer you adequate coverage? Don’t you think it would be better to put that extra $200 ($2,400 per year) in your bank account, just in case you may have to pay your $2,500 deductible or buy a $12 Amoxicillin prescription? Isn’t it wiser to keep your hard-earned money rather than pay higher premiums to an insurance company?

Yes, there are many ways you can keep more of the money that you would normally give to an insurance company in the form of higher monthly premiums. For example, the federal government encourages consumers to purchase H.S.A. (Health Savings Account) qualified H.D.H.P.’s (High Deductible Health Plans) so they have more control over how their health care dollars are spent. Consumers who purchase an HSA Qualified H.D.H.P. can put extra money aside each year in an interest bearing account so they can use that money to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Even procedures that are not normally covered by insurance companies, like Lasik eye surgery, orthodontics, and alternative medicines become 100% tax deductible. If there are no claims that year the money that was deposited into the tax deferred H.S.A can be rolled over to the next year earning an even higher rate of interest. If there are no significant claims for several years (as is often the case) the insured ends up building a sizeable account that enjoys similar tax benefits as a traditional I.R.A. Most H.S.A. administrators now offer thousands of no load mutual funds to transfer your H.S.A. funds into so you can potentially earn an even higher rate of interest.

In my experience, I believe that individuals who purchase their health plan based on wants rather than needs feel the most defrauded or “ripped-off” by their insurance company and/or insurance agent. In fact, I hear almost identical comments from almost every business owner that I speak to. Comments, such as, “I have to run my business, I don’t have time to be sick! “I think I have gone to the doctor 2 times in the last 5 years” and “My insurance company keeps raising my rates and I don’t even use my insurance!” As a business owner myself, I can understand their frustration. So, is there a simple formula that everyone can follow to make health insurance buying easier? Yes! Become an INFORMED consumer.

Every time I contact a prospective client or call one of my client referrals, I ask a handful of specific questions that directly relate to the policy that particular individual currently has in their filing cabinet or dresser drawer. You know the policy that they bought to protect them from having to file bankruptcy due to medical debt. That policy they purchased to cover that $500,000 life-saving organ transplant or those 40 chemotherapy treatments that they may have to undergo if they are diagnosed with cancer.

So what do you think happens almost 100% of the time when I ask these individuals “BASIC” questions about their health insurance policy? They do not know the answers! The following is a list of 10 questions that I frequently ask a prospective health insurance client. Let’s see how many YOU can answer without looking at your policy.

1. What Insurance Company are you insured with and what is the name of your health insurance plan? (e.g. Blue Cross Blue Shield-“Basic Blue”)

2. What is your calendar year deductible and would you have to pay a separate deductible for each family member if everyone in your family became ill at the same time? (e.g. The majority of health plans have a per person yearly deductible, for example, $250, $500, $1,000, or $2,500. However, some plans will only require you to pay a 2 person maximum deductible each year, even if everyone in your family needed extensive medical care.)

3. What is your coinsurance percentage and what dollar amount (stop loss) it is based on? (e.g. A good plan with 80/20 coverage means you pay 20% of some dollar amount. This dollar amount is also known as a stop loss and can vary based on the type of policy you purchase. Stop losses can be as little as $5,000 or $10,000 or as much as $20,000 or there are some policies on the market that have NO stop loss dollar amount.)

4. What is your maximum out of pocket expense per year? (e.g. All deductibles plus all coinsurance percentages plus all applicable access fees or other fees)

5. What is the Lifetime maximum benefit the insurance company will pay if you become seriously ill and does your plan have any “per illness” maximums or caps? (e.g. Some plans may have a $5 million lifetime maximum, but may have a maximum benefit cap of $100,000 per illness. This means that you would have to develop many separate and unrelated life-threatening illnesses costing $100,000 or less to qualify for $5 million of lifetime coverage.)

6. Is your plan a schedule plan, in that it only pays a certain amount for a specific list of procedures? (e.g., Mega Life & Health & Midwest National Life, endorsed by the National Association of the Self-Employed, N.A.S.E. is known for endorsing schedule plans) 7. Does your plan have doctor co-pays and are you limited to a certain number of doctor co-pay visits per year? (e.g. Many plans have a limit of how many times you go to the doctor per year for a co-pay and, quite often the limit is 2-4 visits.)

8. Does your plan offer prescription drug coverage and if it does, do you pay a co-pay for your prescriptions or do you have to meet a separate drug deductible before you receive any benefits and/or do you just have a discount prescription card only? (e.g. Some plans offer you prescription benefits right away, other plans require that you pay a separate drug deductible before you can receive prescription medication for a co-pay. Today, many plans offer no co-pay options and only provide you with a discount prescription card that gives you a 10-20% discount on all prescription medications).

9. Does your plan have any reduction in benefits for organ transplants and if so, what is the maximum your plan will pay if you need an organ transplant? (e.g. Some plans only pay a $100,000 maximum benefit for organ transplants for a procedure that actually costs $350-$500K and this $100,000 maximum may also include reimbursement for expensive anti-rejection medications that must be taken after a transplant. If this is the case, you will often have to pay for all anti-rejection medications out of pocket).

10. Do you have to pay a separate deductible or “access fee” for each hospital admission or for each emergency room visit? (e.g. Some plans, like the Assurant Health’s “CoreMed” plan have a separate $750 hospital admission fee that you pay for the first 3 days you are in the hospital. This fee is in addition to your plan deductible. Also, many plans have benefit “caps” or “access fees” for out-patient services, such as, physical therapy, speech therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc. Benefit “caps” could be as little as $500 for each out-patient treatment, leaving you a bill for the remaining balance. Access fees are additional fees that you pay per treatment. For example, for each outpatient chemotherapy treatment, you may be required to pay a $250 “access fee” per treatment. So for 40 chemotherapy treatments, you would have to pay 40 x $250 = $10,000. Again, these fees would be charged in addition to your plan deductible).

Now that you’ve read through the list of questions that I ask a prospective health insurance client, ask yourself how many questions you were able to answer. If you couldn’t answer all ten questions don’t be discouraged. That doesn’t mean that you are not a smart consumer. It may just mean that you dealt with a “bad” insurance agent. So how could you tell if you dealt with a “bad” insurance agent? Because a “great” insurance agent would have taken the time to help you really understand your insurance benefits. A “great” agent spends time asking YOU questions so s/he can understand your insurance needs. A “great” agent recommends health plans based on all four variables; wants, needs, risk and price. A “great” agent gives you enough information to weigh all of your options so you can make an informed purchasing decision. And lastly, a “great” agent looks out for YOUR best interest and NOT the best interest of the insurance company.

So how do you know if you have a “great” agent? Easy, if you were able to answer all 10 questions without looking at your health insurance policy, you have a “great” agent. If you were able to answer the majority of questions, you may have a “good” agent. However, if you were only able to answer a few questions, chances are you have a “bad” agent. Insurance agents are no different than any other professional. There are some insurance agents that really care about the clients they work with, and there are other agents that avoid answering questions and duck client phone calls when a message is left about unpaid claims or skyrocketing health insurance rates.

Remember, your health insurance purchase is just as important as purchasing a house or a car, if not more important. So don’t be afraid to ask your insurance agent a lot of questions to make sure that you understand what your health plan does and does not cover. If you don’t feel comfortable with the type of coverage that your agent suggests or if you think the price is too high, ask your agent if s/he can select a comparable plan so you can make a side by side comparison before you purchase. And, most importantly, read all of the “fine print” in your health plan brochure and when you receive your policy, take the time to read through your policy during your 10-day free look period.

If you can’t understand something, or aren’t quite sure what the asterisk (*) next to the benefit description really means in terms of your coverage, call your agent or contact the insurance company to ask for further clarification.

Furthermore, take the time to perform your own due diligence. For example, if you research MEGA Life and Health or the Midwest National Life insurance company, endorsed by the National Association for the Self Employed (NASE), you will find that there have been 14 class action lawsuits brought against these companies since 1995. So ask yourself, “Is this a company that I would trust to pay my health insurance claims?

Additionally, find out if your agent is a “captive” agent or an insurance “broker.” “Captive” agents can only offer ONE insurance company’s products.” Independent” agents or insurance “brokers” can offer you a variety of different insurance plans from many different insurance companies. A “captive” agent may recommend a health plan that doesn’t exactly meet your needs because that is the only plan s/he can sell. An “independent” agent or insurance “broker” can usually offer you a variety of different insurance products from many quality carriers and can often customize a plan to meet your specific insurance needs and budget.

Over the years, I have developed strong, trusting relationships with my clients because of my insurance expertise and the level of personal service that I provide. This is one of the primary reasons that I do not recommend buying health insurance on the Internet. In my opinion, there are too many variables that Internet insurance buyers do not often take into consideration. I am a firm believer that a health insurance purchase requires the level of expertise and personal attention that only an insurance professional can provide. And, since it does not cost a penny more to purchase your health insurance through an agent or broker, my advice would be to use eBay and Amazon for your less important purchases and to use a knowledgeable, ethical and reputable independent agent or broker for one of the most important purchases you will ever make….your health insurance policy.

Lastly, if you have any concerns about an insurance company, contact your state’s Department of Insurance BEFORE you buy your policy. Your state’s Department of Insurance can tell you if the insurance company is registered in your state and can also tell you if there have been any complaints against that company that have been filed by policy holders. If you suspect that your agent is trying to sell you a fraudulent insurance policy, (e.g. you have to become a member of a union to qualify for coverage) or isn’t being honest with you, your state’s Department of Insurance can also check to see if your agent is licensed and whether or not there has ever been any disciplinary action previously taken against that agent.

In closing, I hope I have given you enough information so you can become an INFORMED insurance consumer. However, I remain convinced that the following words of wisdom still go along way: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!” and “If you only buy on price, you get what you pay for!”

©2007 Small Business Insurance Services, Inc.

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Increase Breast Size Naturally at Home

Women’s breasts are one of the most important parts of her body, they make her look beautiful and at the same time attract men towards her. But some women are not blessed with a good breast size so they develop a certain type of inferiority complex and remain depressed. The good news is that it is not a thing to worry about if you have small breasts because some time proven methods can help you increase your breast size so let us discuss about them without any further delay.

Dietary Changes

Diet plays a major role in how we look. You might have heard people saying for example- he eats so many burgers he looks like one now. So eat wisely avoid junk or processed food, include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet and try to eat home cooked food as often as possible. Increase protein in your diet and avoid caffeine. Vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage and sweet potatoes help maintain healthy breasts.

Useful Herbs

There are certain herbs which are helpful in enhancing breast size. In ayurveda herbs like fenugreek and saw palmetto have been traditionally used in improving breast health. Fennel seeds have also been found to be very effective in enhancing breasts. These herbs are easily available in health stores in capsule form.


Like other parts of the body breasts also need some exercising so that blood flow to the area increases and they remain healthy and disease free. Best exercises for breasts are push ups and dumb bell flies. Although this will not increase the breast size but will firm them up resulting in beautification of the breasts.

So these were some of the proven methods which can help in enhancing your breasts without any need for surgery. The best thing is that not only your breasts size will increase but your overall health will improve by following this lifestyle.

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There Are Two Kinds of People in the US – Those Who View Health As Static and Those Who Don’t

Introduction: We’re Not #1

I believe Americans need a new way of thinking about health. Look where our current perspectives on the subject have gotten us – we are last among the world’s 17 most industrialized nations in all the key indicators of health. It’s hard to believe but true: we’re last in life expectancy; we have the highest rates of obesity, infant mortality, low birth weights, heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, homicide rates, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The lead author of the Institute of Medicine, NIH sponsored study that revealed this situation remarked that “Americans get sicker, die sooner and sustain more injuries than people in all other high-income countries.” (That’s a quote from the report.) Then he added this coup de grace: “We were stunned by the propensity of findings all on the negative side – the scope of the disadvantage covers all ages, from babies to seniors, both sexes, all classes of society. If we fail to act, life spans will continue to shorten and children will face greater rates of illness than those in other nations.”

Two Ways to Think of Health

I believe Americans are overly passive about their health. Good health can only be attained and maintained by conscious deeds. These deeds require planning and disciple. Examples include exercising regularly and vigorously, dining in ways that nourish the body without causing problems and otherwise behaving in positive, active ways.

The level of health you will enjoy is clearly affected by your lifestyle choices. Your health status depends to a great extent on whether you invest in your well being or not. If you make little or no such investments, your health will depend on chance, genetics, the aging process and the timeliness of the quality of medical care you receive.

If, on the other hand, you do invest, if you seek, protect and defend an advanced state of well being, the nature of the health status you will have will be dramatically different – and better.

Therefore, we need to distinguish these two kinds of health situations – one passive, one active.

The Institute of Health report that places America last reflects that segment of America that is passive. If the quite small segment of the American population that practices active health were separated, if their health data were compiled and compared, I’m sure we would be #1.

For these and related reasons, I propose we view health in two different ways – by making a distinction between static health – which is how most view and approach their health, and earned health. The latter is what you get when you invest wisely in your own well being.

It’s a way of life I call REAL wellness.

Health As Currently Perceived

The WHO definition of health is unrealistic (nobody, not even the most devout wellite, enjoys “complete physical, mental and social well-being,” at least not every day). Most think of health in far less exalted ways. Most think they are well if they are not sick. This is pathetic. It equates with not needing immediate medical attention. For the vast majority, this is a “good enough” view of health. Thinking that way is a self-fulfilling prophesy. It means that not healthy is the best you can hope for. This is the static definition of health and it must be reformed and at least accompanied by another, comparison perspective for those Americans willing to do their part. That would be earned health.

I think we need ideas about health that remind people of a key fact, namely, that a passive situation is not as effective, desirable, protective or rewarding as a dynamic earned state of health. We should all be aware that static health, the default setting you get for just existing and doing nothing special to enhance health, can and must be reinforced and boosted.

Employing a term like earned health might remind people that health can be much more than non-illness. The term earned health can signal the availability of a richer level of well being. It can remind everyone that health at its best is more than a static condition. Health is a dynamic state; it gets better with effort, worse if ignored.

Earned health represents a higher health standard. Earned health is more ambitious and more consistent with a REAL wellness mindset and lifestyle than the current norm of health as non-sickness.

The Static/Earned Health Continuum

This continuum is another way of expressing Dr. John Travis’ original, simple line drawing model of health along a continuum, with “premature death” on the far left side of his continuum) and an ever-changing dynamic of “high level wellness” at the other, right side extreme. The “0” in the middle represents a neutral point, which could be simple non-sickness.

The Static/Earned Health Continuum

-10 ______________ 0 ______________ +10

Earned health is what happens from the neutral point to the +10 indicator. Everyone moves along an imaginary continuum of this kind every day, because health is dynamic, under constant change. By living wisely with the right behaviors, we fuel a state of health that is better than if we allow health status to be determined by the passage of time (i.e., the aging process, chance, medical interventions, circumstances and events.

This continuum is a simple way of depicting the basic fact that earned health evolves largely due to our own efforts to improve and protect our well being; static health, on the other side is affected by what happens to you.

By the way, Dr. Travis made regular expansions to his original model. You can view the latest edition and read more the continuum here. A related construct that will interest wellness enthusiasts is Dr. Travis Wellness Energy System.

Earned health is not determined or advanced by medical interventions. Static health, that is, health along the continuum from the center to the left of the of the continuum, is so influenced.

The Path to REAL Wellness

To become healthier in an earned sense, it’s up to us to act so as to move along the right side of the continuum.

The failure to appreciate the different nature of health, earned from static, partly accounts for why America can have so much medical care and yet not enjoy the best quality of health status. After all, modern medicine is a wonderful thing but there are two problems: people expect too much of it and too little of themselves.

Understanding the difference between static and earned health might encourage people to be less passive – to realize the need for and value of REAL wellness lifestyles.

A Fable

Here is a fable to express the limits of medicine to boost health status versus the power of our own behaviors.

Imagine a country where everyone owns high powered luxury cars – they cost next to nothing and are easily replaced. In this mythical country, everyone gets unlimited free medical care of the highest quality, plus all the medications they need plus there are highly skilled trauma teams set up at every intersection. The thing is, the people in this mythical country can do whatever they like – there are no laws governing auto safety. Everyone drives way over the speed limits, nobody wears seat belts, there are no air bags and no stop signs, traffic signals or rules of the road. One more thing – brakes haven’t been invented yet.

Interpretation of the Fable

The greatest advances in the mythical society would not follow from introducing more doctors, hospitals, drugs or trauma teams. Changes in customs and driver behaviors would, on the other hand, go a long way to promote a healthier society.

Changes in lifestyles are also the key to better health outcomes in the real world, our country in particular. We have a great health care system – now we need sensible people making wise lifestyle choices that make life not just healthier but more rewarding, more fulfilling and more attractive. We need to help people understand that health is not only a static phenomenon: Earned health offers so much more.

The philosopher Epicurus (c. 341-270 BCE) offered this bit of wisdom long ago: “It is impossible to live pleasurably without living prudently, honorably, and justly; or to live prudently, honorably, and justly, without living pleasurably.”

We all want to live pleasurably. Let’s recognize and act on the other qualities that enable us to earn active positive health. Let’s embrace REAL wellness lifestyles.

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Breast Health – Dispelling Fears

(The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice; please consult a physician if you have questions about breast health issues raised in this article.)
The primary, if not number one, concern of American women is that they will develop breast cancer. At least that was the biggest fear of those who answered a government survey in 2005. Dread of the disease lurks in the hearts of those who have witnessed their friends and relatives die of it.  Adverse breast health also has a psychosocial component, fueled by fears of loss of femininity, beauty, youthful appearance, sex appeal, marital intimacy and other factors valued in Western culture.
Women need not fear the disease as they have in the past. I had it at 43, and again at 52. Now at 56 I am cancer free, living a full life. Not only do I garden, enjoy my sons, and write, but I also volunteer for the American Cancer Society and the National Lymphedema Network, an organization dedicated to helping people with lymphedema, a swelling that can be caused by cancer surgery or radiation. Helping others takes my mind off my plight. 

While in 2009 new cases of invasive breast cancer in the U.S. are predicted by the American Cancer Society to be 192,370 and deaths 40,170, the good news is that fewer women are dying of the disease than in prior years. New treatments have revolutionized patient care, the result of multiple clinical trials testing new chemo regimens and targeted therapies such as Herceptin, Tykerb, Avastin, and aromatase inhibitors. Early detection also plays a role: the sooner the disease is found, the sooner it can be treated before it spreads. Mammograms, clinical checkups, and self-exams are important prevention tools, especially starting at age 40 if no other risks exist.
A closer look at breast health reveals that while some risk factors can’t be changed, including age, genetics, race, and family history, some lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. One proven factor appears to be obesity. If a woman falls within that category (a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 or more), she should try to lose weight. Another factor in the breast-cancer-risk equation is exercise: swimming, walking, climbing and jogging exemplify the kind of aerobic activities that are beneficial to breast health.
Women who never bore children, and those who gave birth to their first child after 30, face a slightly higher risk of breast cancer.  Being pregnant multiple times in her twenties improves breast health for women, perhaps because pregnancy reduces the total number of lifetime menstrual cycles.
Those using birth control pills have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women who never used them.  A doctor can elaborate on the risks and benefits of birth control pills.
Another factor shown to increase the risk of breast cancer is long-term use of progesterone hormone therapy (PHT) or estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). Again, a knowledgeable physician should be able to discuss the pros and cons of using these types of hormone therapies. One suggestion might be to use the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time necessary.
Breast-feeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, particularly if it lasts 1½ to 2 years. This could be because breast-feeding lowers a woman’s total number of menstrual periods, as does pregnancy.

Studies have shown that use of alcohol increases the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Women who consume two to five drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who don’t drink.  For optimum breast health experts suggest limiting drinks to one a day, preferably only two to three times a week.
If a close family member had breast cancer, the woman should make sure she is monitored more closely, and ask her doctor if she should be checked for the BRCA-1 or -2 gene and if she is a good candidate for daily tamoxifen or some other preventative drug, or even for preventative surgery. 
It is important to remember that while breast health should be monitored regularly, there is no need to obsess over it or fear it to the point that activities like work and parenting get shoved aside. In other words, we should enjoy life! A breast cancer diagnosis is not the end of the world. 
Women are encouraged to take charge of their lives and dispel the myths that might be keeping them paralyzed in fear of their breast health going awry. 

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Information on Breast Cancer – The Tale of Three Chemos

(The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice; please consult a physician if you have questions about breast health issues raised in this article.)
My first time through breast cancer the highways of treatment over which I traveled were the typical “cut, poison, and burn” routine. First the surgeon extracted the tumor and surrounding tissue in a lumpectomy. Then I endured a chemotherapy called CMF, a toxic, colorless cocktail of three chemicals: cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil.  Finally, my breast was radiated for six weeks to seal the fate of any remaining cancerous cells lurking within.  This article focuses on my experience with chemo.
The most common short-term side effects of chemotherapy include fatigue, hair loss, nausea, mucositis (irritation of the lining of the mouth and intestines), increased risk of infection (due to low white-blood-cell counts), and anemia (due to low red-blood-cell counts). 
I didn’t experience all of these side effects. My hair thinned, but did not disappear. My blood-cell counts decreased, but not so much that I couldn’t take a cross-country two-week vacation. I didn’t suffer any infections during the entire three months of chemo treatment.
Between chemotherapy infusions the technicians religiously took blood samples from me like overeager vampire bats. The blood draws were performed to determine if my red- and white-blood-cell counts were too low for me to be treated.  Because my blood was being checked so frequently, my good arm (the one without the lymph nodes removed from the armpit) was feeling the effects of these extra pokes in addition to the I.V. pricks. Fortunately, my veins did not collapse.

The nurses frequently solved the I.V. problem by sticking my arm in a bucket of hot water to make the veins more accessible. While this technique was not fool-proof, by God’s grace it usually worked and the veins in my arm were able to tough out the entire treatment. 
While I did not lose all my hair, the CMF concoction stopped my periods cold about one month after the first infusion. My research to uncover information on breast cancer revealed that CMF was more likely to trigger menopause than regimens containing Adriamycin (chemical name: doxorubicin) or Taxol/Taxotere (chemical names: paclitaxel/docetaxel).   But Adriamycin is a particularly harsh chemo drug, more so than CMF, causing certain hair loss, markedly reduced white- and red-blood cell counts, and usually severe nausea. And Taxol/Taxotere can cause peripheral neuropathy, a numbness in fingers and toes.
As a normal ten-year period of menopause was condensed into a few months due to chemo, my body found itself adjusting to a sudden reduction in estrogen, leading to night sweats, hot flashes, and mood swings. Not to mention bone loss, insomnia, and risk to the heart. It was difficult to determine whether menopause or chemo treatment was causing any particular symptom. I used a Chillow foam pillow for night sweats, melatonin for inducing sleep, and calcium and Vitamin D to prevent bone loss.
Exhaustion was another challenge. To prevent fatigue often accompanying chemotherapy, patients should initiate mild-to-moderate exercise such as walking 10-20 minutes every day.  Physical activity after treatment not only can improve fatigue, but offers psychological benefits.  Breast cancer patients who exercise feel more resilient and less depressed than those who are sedentary.
When I was tired from lack of sleep and did not eat or exercise properly, I noticed I couldn’t concentrate well. This mental fog, commonly known as “chemo brain,” causes temporary confusion and inability to do calculations, as well as mild forgetfulness. I addressed my concentration and memory problems by making lists, leaving messages on electronic calendars or voice mail to remind myself of things, and using a daily planner to jot down notes regarding urgent tasks. 

As to dietary alternatives during chemo, a physician can recommend their use only if they have been proven effective for their intended purpose.  My own anecdotal evidence is that supplements (such as melatonin and iron) can help. To me, their sole benefit was to alleviate certain side effects of Western medicine. With diminished side-effects, I was a happier patient, willing to brave continued treatment with clinically proven drugs.
When I conducted cyberspace research to locate information on breast cancer, I consulted only reliable websites. Those displaying the HONcode logo are considered to be more reputable than websites without it. This logo represents a certification that the website complies with the Health on the Net principles, designed to increase the accuracy, objectivity, and trustworthiness of Internet health information. 
As you can see, this tale of three chemos, C, M, and F, is not one of woe. Nor is it usually a tale of total hair loss. Once chemo is through, the breast cancer patient is nearing the final stretch on the road to wellness.

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