Scrub a Dub: Wash Your Hands to Prevent Infection and Illness

Scrub a Dub: Wash Your Hands to Prevent Infection and Illness

American author John Steinbeck once wrote, “A sad soul can kill you quicker than a germ.” While certainly a poetic statement, and even somewhat true, those pesky germs—found everywhere and on everything—can still make you sick. Fortunately, washing your hands is one of the best defenses against the infections and illnesses they induce. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing can reduce respiratory illnesses—such as the common cold—in the general population by 21 percent. Other U.S. public health authorities have stated that bad hand hygiene cause nearly 50 percent of food-borne illness outbreaks.

When to Wash Your Hands

While it may seem like common sense to wash your hands whenever you do something that might cause you to come into contact with—or spread—germs, many people don’t do it. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health by researchers from Michigan State University revealed that only 5 percent of their subjects washed their hands properly after using the restroom. Thirty-three percent used water without soap, and 10 percent didn’t bother to wash their hands at all.

Other situations that require handwashing include:

  • Before, during and after food preparation
  • Before eating a meal or snack
  • Before and after caring for someone who is ill
  • Before and after treating a wound
  • After assisting a child in using the restroom or changing a diaper
  • After blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • Before touching your eyes (as when inserting or removing contact lenses)
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

How to Wash Your Hands

We all learned how to wash our hands as children, but we may not have learned to do so correctly. It takes 15 to 20 seconds of vigorous handwashing with soap and water to kill of all the germs according to the CDC. However, the Michigan State University study found that most people who bothered to wash their hands only spent about six seconds. Make sure you—and your family—are handwashing correctly by following these steps from the CDC:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (any temperature will do).
  2.  Apply soap generously.
  3.  Rub your hands together vigorously to create a lather. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under the tips of your nails.
  4. Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  5.  Rinse your hands thoroughly under clean, running water.
  6. Dry your hands with a clean towel or allow them to air dry.

If you don’t have access to soap and water, you can utilize an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Look for one that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Studies have found that non-alcohol hand sanitizers do not work well on all classes of germs, can cause germs to develop a resistance to the sanitizing chemical, and are more likely to irritate the skin than alcohol-based hand sanitizers are.

Because even alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been found less effective against certain types of germs, it’s best to wash your hands with soap and clean, running water whenever possible. And remember: the fewer doctor visits you make each year, the lower your overall healthcare costs, even with insurance.

 

 

When Health Insurers Can Charge You More

When Health Insurers Can Charge You More

During the inaugural enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an estimated 9.3 million previously uninsured Americans obtained healthcare coverage. Whether you’re one of them or among the other millions who had to choose new ACA-compliant insurance plans, you may still be confused about the factors that affect your healthcare premiums. According to Healthcare.gov, there are five factors that influence health insurance plan prices. These include location, age, family size, tobacco use and plan category. We’ll take a closer look at them below.

Location:

Where you live is one of the biggest factors affecting your insurance premiums. This is primarily a result of local regulations, cost of living and the number of insurers competing for consumer business in a given area. There may even be significant rate variations within a single state. For example, Kaiser Health News reported last year that a 40-year-old in Philadelphia would need to spend $300 per month on a mid-level insurance plan, 77 percent more than the premium for the same type of coverage in Pittsburgh.

Age:

Your age also plays a large role in determining your health insurance premium. Insurers can charge older people up to three times the amount that younger people pay. In the past, some companies charged older individuals significantly more than the 300 percent spread allowed by the new law. For example, an analysis conducted by HealthPocket prior to the ACA rollout found that policies in Delaware, Oregon, Alaska and Wyoming all had average premiums for 63-year-old consumers that were 350 percent higher than those quoted for 23-year-olds were.

Family Size:

Obviously, a plan that covers a spouse or dependents will always cost more than one that is for an individual alone.

Tobacco Use:

While the ACA prevents insurers from factoring individual health status into their premiums or denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, it made a bit of an exception for tobacco. The law allows insurers to charge tobacco users up to 50 percent more for coverage than those who don’t use tobacco must pay. However, a “glitch” in the government’s computer payment system attached to the healthcare marketplace is currently preventing calculation of the tobacco surcharge. Reports say it’s unlikely they will fix it until at least 2015.

Plan Category:

ACA-compliant healthcare plans come in five categories (catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold and platinum) that have variations in the percentage of costs paid by the insurer. While bronze plans have lower premiums, the out-of-pocket costs are higher. Platinum plans, on the other hand, have lower out-of-pocket costs and higher premiums.

The ACA no longer allows insurers to factor gender into their plan premiums. This means women are no longer required to pay higher premiums than men do. The provisions of the ACA protect consumers against “unreasonable” rate increases as well. Any insurance company that wants to raise premiums on non-grandfathered plans 10 percent or more must publicly justify the increase.

 

If you’re concerned about your health insurance premiums, want to get a head start on choosing a plan for 2015, or are currently uninsured, contact your insurance agent to discuss your coverage options today.