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Reframing Healthcare in the Minds of Younger Americans

August 27, 2013 in fitness, health care costs, health care quality, Health Insurance, lifestyle, mental health, nutrition

The clock is ticking towards October 1, 2013 when public insurance exchanges are set to go live and begin offering health plan benefits to an estimated 30 million previously uninsured Americans. And as that day draws closer, all parties involved—plans, providers, employers, and patients—are scrambling to figure out just what it will mean to them from a cost and quality of care perspective. Yet, perhaps one of the biggest conundrums associated with the health insurance marketplace is how to deal with the potential sticker shock facing younger Americans and the ripple effect it could have on everyone. Specifically, with an age band as narrow as 3:1, there is a possibility that premiums for younger people (who tend to be lighter users of service) will be considerably higher in order to compensate for older Americans, who typically utilize more health care services. When combined with a relatively low penalty for not getting coverage, there is a very real fear that many of these ‘young invincibles’ will forgo coverage and simply choose to pay the penalty.

So, the question becomes, ‘how do we articulate the value of health coverage to this younger generation?’ or, in other words, convince them that coverage is relevant (and worth it) to them?

We need to help this younger population understand and believe that healthcare is not solely about supporting the sick – support is also critical for the well. For example: a recent college grad that is just starting out in his/her career and may have issues dealing with the stress of that new job; the twenty-something who runs marathons but wants to improve their nutrition; the new mother who wants to start a workout program to shed some of the baby weight; or the avid skier who suffers a knee injury on the slopes and wants to understand what treatment options are available to them.

These scenarios play out each day across the U.S. and could happen to just about anyone between the ages of 18-35, not solely older people or those with chronic conditions. And there are programs, resources and tools focused on shared decision making and wellness that are critical components of modern healthcare that young people can take advantage of. So at the core, the solution for this current dilemma needs to be about making the younger population aware of these resources because they support behaviors that contribute to better health and wellbeing. Specifically, we need to create a  culture that encourages all people—including the younger population—to think differently about their health, make more informed choices, and understand not only the resources at their disposal but also the value they provide.  If we can do that, we will go a long way in positively impacting the health and wellness of these younger generations and controlling spiraling healthcare costs.

Robert Mandel, MD, MBA, is the CEO of Health Dialog and has more than 15 years’ experience in senior leadership positions in health systems and health plan management. 

Gum, popsicles, Meow Mix, what’s “food” in your state?

February 28, 2013 in Member Stories, nutrition

My state, Massachusetts is debating whether soda and candy are food and should continue to be exempt from the state sales tax.  That made me wonder…what do other states put in the category, “food”?

The always helpful folks at the National Conference of State Legislatures sent me this breakdown. Turns out there’s a lot of variety.

Gum is a food in Colorado but not in California.

Which looks more like food? Gum or… (photo credit, AP)

In D.C., Puppy Chow and other pet foods aren’t subject to the state sales tax,  but pet owners in Arizona pay it.

ice cream? (photo credit/AP)

Florida taxes ice cream and popsicles. Massachusetts does not.

Some states tax prepared food (your pre-made Caesar salad and such) some don’t.  Most take-out food that is hot is taxed.  The rules about taxing prepared cold food varies and are, in a few cases, elaborate:  Here’s Indiana…”food sold without eating utensils provided by the seller” that include “two or more food ingredients combined by the seller for sale as a single item….”  How does Indiana enforce this rule?

Very few states consider vitamins food, or the seeds used to grow vegetables, Read the rest of this entry →

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by HCSavvy

Avoiding the sugar/fat blahs

December 24, 2012 in lifestyle, nutrition

Cookies, candy, cheese rolls, eggnog…the temptations of the holidays are everywhere you turn.  So we put together a list of our favorite tips for avoiding the sugar/fat blahs and the extra pounds.  Please add yours!

Drink a big glass of water before you eat or drink anything else at a party.

Use a napkin, not a plate – it can’t hold as much.

Go for color: carrots, peppers, broccoli, celery.

Give yourself a pedometer and challenge someone to beat your step count every day.

From Kathleeen Zelman at WebMD:

Wear snug clothes and keep one hand busy. When you wear snug-fitting attire, chances are you’ll be too busy holding in your stomach to overeat. While you stand around looking posh in your holiday finery, hold a drink in your dominant hand so it won’t be so easy to grab food.

Chew gum. When you don’t want to eat, pop a piece of sugarless gum into your mouth. This works well when you’re cooking or when you’re trying not to dive into the buffet.  Breath mints work too.

Be a food snob. If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. Read the rest of this entry →

What am I supposed to give my kids to drink?

September 24, 2012 in diabetes, lifestyle, nutrition

Water is the short answer, I know.  But my three teenagers hurl accusations of child abuse when I suggest a “water only” policy at home.

So we drink lots of juice. I don’t buy soda, although the kids do with their own money.  Last week one of my sons started comparing the sugar content in soda with some of the juice in our fridge. Call me stunned.  OK, I’ve been watering down juice (I aim to dilute by half) for years (which the kids also hate) because it’s too sweet.  Still, I had no idea that they were drinking 8 teaspoons of sugar or more in a cup of juice if they got to the bottle before I watered it down.

FYI – sugar on most nutrition labels is measured in grams.  Four grams are roughly equal to one teaspoon.  There are some good visuals here:

Several studies posted online by the New England Journal of Medicine last week compared sugary and non-caloric beverages.  The sugar free or diet stuff is out for me, too many chemicals. And, as I said, water is a tough sell.

So what am I supposed to buy?

A colleague suggests lots of seltzer and persuading my kids to mix a spritzer – that’s worth a try.  Any other suggestions?

Testing out diabetic-friendly recipes

September 4, 2012 in diabetes, Member Stories, nutrition

One day, I hope to educate people about how to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. To get an understanding of what it’s like to live with this condition, I thought I’d try cooking a meal a diabetic might prepare at home. I scoured the internet for diabetic-friendly recipes that were simple, included reasonably-priced, natural ingredients that would be easy to find and weren’t too far of a stretch from the food I would regularly eat. The end result: Finding the recipe and ingredients was pretty easy, but getting the taste right was not. It may take a little more creativity to put together flavorful carb-conscious meals, but there’s information out there to make it possible.

For recipes, I stuck with Diabetic Living magazine’s website, which had loads of options whether you were looking for breakfast, dinner, a quick snack or a family-sized meal. Each recipe comes with nutritional information and diabetic exchange values- important details for diabetics when planning out their meals. When choosing a recipe for this experiment, I realized that cooking with fresh fish can be expensive and most people are turned off by the idea of a tuna casserole. So, for the sake of appealing to a wider audience, I choose the chicken taco casserole.

Diabetic-friendly dinner (Cristina Cruz)

Diabetic-friendly dinner

When I made the casserole, I subbed low-fat cheddar for the monterey jack cheese, but mostly stuck to the recipe otherwise. I felt like I ate more vegetables from this dish than I normally would prepare, which made me realize this recipe is a good way for diabetics to add fresh vegetables to their diet without feeling like they have to eat salad at each meal. Although, leftovers re-heated in the microwave were not as good. I’d recommend re-heating this dish the next day in a toaster oven, if possible, to relive the “fresh out of the oven” experience. Read the rest of this entry →