Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to choose an individual health insurance plan:

When shopping for an individual health insurance policy, check with an agent who represents several health insurance carriers and ask for a price comparison. It pays to do your homework.

Can I be covered for pre-existing conditions if I purchase a policy? 
In most cases, If you have been insured with no more than a 63 day lapse in coverage, then you will have coverage for pre-existing conditions. If you have been uninsured for a longer period, then it is likely that your pre-existing conditions would be excluded for at least 12 months.

Do I want to keep my doctor? If you have a particular physician you like, you will want to make sure that he or she is a preferred provider to get the maximum benefit from the coverage.

What is my current and anticipated health care need? 
Consider the services you and your family will need on a regular basis. If you or a family member is prescribed medication on a regular basis, you will want to discuss that with the agent.

What will my out-of-pocket expenses and monthly premiums cost? 
Does it make sense for me to pay a premium for lower out-of-pocket costs? 

Does the plan cover prescriptions and X-rays? 
Prescriptions are one of the most used benefits of health plans. Review the coverage of any health plan to determine if your current prescriptions are covered and at what level. X-rays are a routine part of some treatments, so it's wise to make sure X-rays are covered in each plan you consider.

Do I prefer certain specialists? 
Some plans limit not only your visits but also who you can see and what is covered. If you want to see a naturopath or chiropractor, be sure to ask your insurance agent about coverage for these services. Similarly, prosthetics, orthotics, psychotherapy and many other rehab services may likely have specific limitations as well. Be sure to inquire about insurance caps on services/specialties you may use. Sometimes you may have coverage, but the services may have a low yearly or lifetime cap on billed charges.

What do I look for if I can't afford a policy that covers routine care? 
Look for comprehensive plans with higher deductibles rather than cutting back on coverage. A basic hospital/surgical plan might cost less, but if you end up in the hospital, the last thing you need to add to your list of worries is how you're going to pay for follow-up care once you're released.

What will it cost me for emergency care? 
Look at what costs, including co-pays or co-insurance, or services such as hospital and surgery care, apply towards the deductible.

What are some of the improvements as a result of the National Health Care legislation? 
One example is more coverage availability for some preventive healthcare. For those defined as preventive, there are no deductibles, coinsurance or copayment.


Stephanie Owen Nelson is the owner of Pacific Crest Insurance in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Mom may be the first to notice it. As she is holding her tiny 3-month-old baby in her lap admiring perfect
fingers and toes, she looks down and sees a flat spot on the little head.

Plagiocephaly is the medical term for an abnormally shaped head caused by external forces. While still
inside mom, the head may be compressed due to cramped space as in the case of multiples, breech positioning, or lengthy time in the birth canal. Once the baby is delivered, the head will often correct on its own in the first six weeks of life.

But sometimes things don't get better with time. Sometimes, other factors exist that make things more difficult. These factors can vary from simple routines where the baby's head rests on a hard surface (car seat, stroller, swing, etc) for extended periods to more complicated issues like muscle imbalances of the neck and trunk. Then when a baby sleeps on the back, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to reduce risk of sudden infant death syndrome, the flat spot never has a chance to correct.

Often dismissed as a purely cosmetic issue, there can be growth and developmental implications to the diagnosis of plagiocephaly. Fortunately, with early recognition, intervention and proper treatment, many head shapes can be corrected to normal.

Conservative treatment is watchful waiting to see if the head will correct on its own. Pressure is greatly reduced once a baby has enough strength to hold up his head and to roll over. Mom and dad can help by giving their baby lots of tummy time. If muscle imbalances seem to be the culprit, a physician will refer the infant to be evaluated and treated by a therapist to help stretch and strengthen muscles.

In the case of moderate to severe deformity, a cranial remolding helmet is required and a physician will refer the baby to an orthotist for evaluation and treatment. An impression of the infant's head is taken and a helmet will be made to help correct the shape as the child grows. The helmet provides gentle pressure to hold sections of the head, which have appropriate shape and voided areas to allow the head to round out where needed.

Helmet treatment is generally started between 6 and 12 months. Generally, the sooner a child gets a helmet, the faster the head corrects since the growth rate of the head is fastest in the first 12 months of life. Treatment is possible until around 18 months of age , at which time the bones in the head will fuse together in a permanent shape. Early identification is the key to successful treatment.

Tips to improve head shape at home
-when your baby is awake provide supervised tummy time as much as possible
-do not spend prolonged periods of time in a car seat
-alternate crib sleeping position as a baby will tend to look toward the door or light source
-after your infant has fallen asleep, rotate the head off of the flattened area
-alternate your arm carrying position so that both sides of the body develop strength symmetrically
-let your baby lay on his/her tummy on your chest
-alternate diapering and bathing position as a baby will tend to look at you during these activities

Mary Fischer is a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist at ADAPT Prosthetics & Orthotics.