Open Enrollment Begins Soon — Should You Change Plans?

Open Enrollment Begins Soon -- Should You Change Plans?

Open enrollment for health insurance in 2016 begins  again on November 1, 2015.  Now is the time to consider if you are happy with your current coverage — or if the plan you have now still fits your budget.  But, before you switch plans, you will want to ask your insurance agent a few questions so that you purchase the plan that is right for your needs and those of your family.

What is the yearly deductible?

If you are a healthy person and a bit of a gambler with some savings in the bank, it might make sense for you to purchase a plan with an annual deductible of $5000 or even $7,500. If you frequently need treatment, lab work and procedures to manage a medical condition, it will likely be worth the extra expense to purchase a plan that has a lower deductible.

Is there a ceiling for out-of-pocket expenses?

Most insurance companies have a cap on the amount you will spend on out-of-pocket medical expenses each year. Generally, the lower the cost of the policy, the higher the cap will be set. For example, an economical policy might have an annual cap of $10,000, while a higher-end one might set a cap at $2,500. The danger comes when there is no cap at all, as a plan that covers 80 percent of treatment is not insurance at all if a family member has had medical treatment running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What about prescription coverage?

According to Truveris, a research firm that tracks drug pricing, medication prices for brand, generic and specialty drugs combined increased 10.9% in 2014. While a plan may be less expensive in the short-term, the benefits may not be there in the long-run if you develop or have a disease that requires expensive medication.

Does the plan cover health care and emergency treatment when you are traveling overseas?

Some people take for granted that their insurance policy will cover them wherever they go, but this is not always the case. If you travel frequently, it is worth asking whether the policy you are considering will pay for doctor visits and hospital stays in other countries. It is also a good idea to inquire about emergency medical evacuations, as these can be quite costly. If the policy does not include travel, that does not mean it is an inferior policy, just that you will need to purchase travel insurance before leaving the country.

The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
Are you a self-proclaimed gym rat? (Or own a membership and never use it?) Maybe you even have a treadmill or other indoor exercise equipment at home?  If so, you are shortchanging yourself  by limiting all your exercise to the indoors. And if the weight isn’t budging, you might want to consider getting off your treadmill and heading outdoors! Outdoor exercise has benefits you may not have considered.

You’ll get in shape faster

People who exercise outdoors as opposed to riding a stationary bicycle or walking on a treadmill must adjust to subtle changes in the environment that can result in greater physical fitness. Outdoor cyclists, for example, experience wind drag that is impossible to replicate indoors. When you walk, you’ll encounter different terrain that forces you to use different muscles, such as a long downhill slope.

You’ll have lower levels of stress hormones

It is well known that exercise reduces stress, but the mysterious factor is why levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lower after exercise outdoors than when people exercise inside. It may have to do with what renowned biologist Sir J. Arthur Thomson called “the healing power of nature,” noting that mindful contact with the outdoors could positively affect mental and physical health.

You’ll enjoy it more.

After all, you won’t spy a deer or cardinal when you’re walking on the treadmill. Nor will you feel the wind in your face, the pebbles under your feet or have the opportunity to take a photo of the fascinating way the light meanders through the branches above your head. People who exercise outdoors report feeling a greater sense of vitality, enthusiasm and self-esteem, and less depression, tension and fatigue.

You’ll exercise more often

A recent study in the “International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,” found that people who exercised outdoors consistently clocked more hours of physical activity than those who exercise indoors.  While it’s tempting to watch the clock while on a treadmill, you’re unlikely to do so outdoors. It’s easy to get swept up in the surrounding beauty and lose track of time – all the while getting in better shape.
We’re not saying you should cancel your gym membership or donate the treadmill, because winter weather will eventually return. But until then, the next time you’re getting ready to hop on the treadmill, reconsider and go for a walk outside. The treadmill will still be there when the weather turns cold; in the meantime, you’ll get an extra boost for your mental and physical health.