Category Archives: Propia Health

How A Complete Body Health Check Up Can Uncover Hidden Diseases

Dalai Lama: “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health… “

You get your car tuned-up every year. Why wouldn’t you get an annual medical check-up as well? An annual health check-up or periodic health check is useful as it can help to detect and identify diseases or the warning signs of an impending disease very early. This makes treatment a lot more effective, less expensive and less invasive. In addition to detecting such diseases before a patient turns seriously ill, such periodic check ups also give you a detailed update on various health parameters like cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and body weight. This helps to gauge your overall health and it enables health care providers to assess health risks and advise you on lifestyle on dietary measures to counter such risks.

Benefits of an annual health check up

There are several advantages of a regular complete body health check up with a doctor. One of the most important benefits is the prevention of disease. Preventive health checks are important especially for individuals with risk factors for different health conditions. A master health check up can also aid in the early detection and treatment of a health problem, which is valuable especially in cases of cancer. The examinations and laboratory tests that will be done during a health check up vary depending on an individual’s age, sex, family history, and lifestyle. Health check ups also promote better patient-doctor relationships and allow the doctor to promote healthy habits through patient education.

Composition of a regular health check-up

Besides an overall physical examination, which includes the eyes and teeth, a standard health check up is meant to assess the functioning of the heart, lungs, digestive system, liver, kidneys and, immune system status. Sometimes certain cancer-specific tests like PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) for men and mammography and some gynecological examinations in women are also included.

A body health check up primarily comprise pathology (blood and urine), imaging (x-ray and ultra-sonography), lungs function test and cardiac stress test. These tests should ideally be carried out in an accredited laboratory or a hospital which is equipped with the best diagnostic tools. It is very important that the results of these tests be interpreted and examined by qualified physicians.

Common investigations in a regular health check up

A regular health check up will comprise of the following investigations:

1. General Physical Examination (body weight, blood pressure, pulse rate, etc.)

2. Laboratory investigations:

a) Complete Haemogram: It is a panel of tests to examine different components of blood and used as broad screening test for such disorders as anemia, infection, and many other diseases.

b) Lipid Profile: Used to assess the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

c) Liver Function Test: Used to assess the functioning of the liver or diagnose liver diseases.

d) Kidney Function Test: Used to evaluate how well the kidneys are functioning.

e) Blood Sugar: Used to measure blood glucose for checking pre-diabetes and diabetes.

f) Chest X-ray: Used to examine the chest and the organs and structures located in the chest.

g) ECG/Treadmill Test: Used as a diagnostic tool to measure the rate and regularity of heartbeats and for assessing cardiac stress.

h) Ultrasonography of the abdomen: Diagnostic imaging technique used for visualizing organs and structures in the abdomen including the liver, gall bladder, spleen, pancreas and the kidneys.

The Pomegranate Fruit For Better Heart And Eye Health

If you are a fan of great tasting fruits that are good for you that eliminate the compliant that a lot of people have that foods that are good for you don’t taste good, then you should add the Pomegranate fruit to your diet. This fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that provide you with a variety of health benefits ranging from better heart health, good digestive health to better immunity and prostate health as well. However, did you know that the Pomegranate fruit is also good for your heart and your eyes as well? Therefore, here is some information as to the reasons why you should include the Pomegranate fruit in your diet:

Eye Health: This fruit is rich in Vitamins A, B and C and E. Vitamin A is known as the Vitamin that supports vision health. This is true from the point of view of the fact that a deficiency in this vitamin can cause night blindness. Therefore, if you are concerned about doing the things that you need to do to improve your night vision this nutrient can help you to achieve that objective. In scientific studies research has shown that Vitamin B consumption has reduced the risks for age related vision disorders such as Macular Degeneration and cataracts.

Heart Health: This fruit is rich in Potassium. Potassium has been shown in scientific research studies to improve heart health. Due to the fact that the body’s circulation system is connective consuming an adequate amount of Potassium in your diet can increase circulation to the heart. An increase in circulation to this organ also benefits your eyes. This is due to the fact that a healthy heart equals a properly working visual system. Also, Vitamin C supports both heart health and eye health as well. This is due to the fact that it lowers blood pressure and also supports eye health by maintaining healthy pressure levels in the eyes thereby reducing the risks for the age related eye disease Glaucoma.

Prostate Health: A research study measured the rates of Increasing PSA levels in men and the effects that drinking Pomegranate Juice would have on this aspect of their prostate health. This study revealed that drinking Pomegranate Juice significantly slowed the rate of increasing PSA levels in men with unhealthy levels of PSA in their system as well as those who were suffering from prostate cancer. This is good news for you if you have concerns about your prostate health as there is a connection between a reduction in PSA levels and a reduced risk for prostate cancer and problems associated with the enlargement of the Prostate.

The Pomegranate fruit is a healthy fruit that provides a series of health benefits. Some of these include better heart health, better digestive health and better eye health as well. There is a connection between heart health and eye health. The nutrients contained in the Pomegranate fruit consists of vitamins A,B,C and E and it also contains Potassium; nutrients that work together collectively to improve the health of both the eyes and the heart as well. By consuming this fruit you can do the things that you need to do to increase your heart health and eye health at the same time.

Health And Wellness Products

Health and wellness products will mean very different things to different people.

Wellness can be defined as ‘the pursuit of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
For the benefit of this article, wellness products are being looked at in the context
of ‘over the counter drugs, health supplements and health remedies.

While for some people, wellness products might be viewed as an aid to recovery
from illness, for others it might be a means of further enhancing some
aspect of their current health. The variety of and uses for such products
are as numerous as are the the definitions of wellness products or wellness
programs, depending of course upon who is promoting them at any given time.

Whatever your reasons for pursuing alternative care health or health and wellness
products, a common goal is to achieve optimised health and well-being.

There are powerful media images hailing the benefits and safety of many over the
counter drugs, supplements and health and wellness products, every where you turn
these days. They have equally strong claims of being the one and only miracle cure
or solution for one ailment or another. How accurate are these claims though, and
what are the real costs to you in monetary and health risk terms?

Immediately after reading this article, go take a look and do a quick add-up of the
total cost of all the health and wellness products you currently have in stock. I’m
sure the figure will surprise you just as much as learning about the very real and
harmful side effects which can be caused by some of these drugs or supplements
that are supposed to be contributing to your overall state of wellness.

You may also be surprised to know that many of the ‘over the counter drugs you
buy on a regular basis, simply treat the symptoms and not the real health issue.
Needless to say, this approach of focusing on the symptom, side-steps
the crucial requirement of getting to the root cause of your condition or whatever
it is that ails you.

You’re most likely to pursue a wellness product either because you are becoming
wary of the adverse effects of chemically produced drugs or because you’re keen to
recover from ill-health and improve a specific health condition. In some instances it
might be that you just want to optimise your current state of good health.

While some health and wellness products can be an effective measure toward
improving your health, you should note that long-term use of certain over the counter
drugs and some supplements can cause you more harm than good, with the long-
term implications far outweighing any short-term benefits. You may well find that
you are paying far too high a price on the basis of a mere quick fix promise.

For thousands of years, people in lands far and wide have used natural homemade
remedies to manage their health conditions and wellness needs, without manufactured
health and wellness products, that can be detrimental to health. They have purely relied
upon attaining or maintaining health by plants or by other natural means.
It could be argued that with the emergence of chemical and pharmacological methods,
many forms of this natural means to health and wellness have declined. In fact, even
by today’s standards, there are many so-called under-developed countries where
inhabitants’ rely on nothing more than homemade health and wellness products,
gained via natural methods of plants or plant-based extracts.

While conventional medicine relies on scientifically backed research to substantiate
effectiveness and safety. In contrast, similar cannot be said about some alternative
medicines or health and wellness products. There is no such requirement but their
promotion as regard effectiveness are deemed sufficient in themselves as support
for therapeutic or wellness claims.

Herbal remedies in general are harmless, however, certain claims being made by
some health and wellness products promoters, (under the banner of being
‘natural’)) can insinuate their health and fitness products being the
exclusive answer to your health condition or wellness questions, thus putting you
at great risk. Secondly, how open are they being about what’s really inside? You
should always consult your physician over any health concerns, as well as discussing
with him/her your intention or choice of alternative means for treatment with any
health and wellness product or remedy.

 

Florida Health Insurance Rate Hikes and Quotes

Florida Health Insurance Rate Hike

Florida Health insurance premiums have touched new heights! Every Floridian has the common knowledge that most annual health insurance contracts will endure a rate increase at the end of the year. This trend is not new and should be expected. Every time this issue pops up it seems as though the blame game starts. Floridians blame Health insurance companies; Health insurance companies blame Hospitals, Doctors and other medical care providers, Medical care providers blame inflation and politicians, well, we really don’t know what they do to help the issue… No one seems to be interested in finding the real cause of the health insurance premium rate increase. Most individuals, self employed, and small business owners have taken Florida Health Insurance Rate Hikes as the inevitable evil.

Hard Facts

What are various reports telling us? Why do Health insurance premium have annual rate increases?

Rate of inflation and heath insurance premium rate increase.

America’s health expenditure in the year 2004 has increased dramatically, it has increased more than three time the inflation rate. In this year the inflation rate was around 2.5% while the national health expenses were around 7.9%. The employer health insurance or group health insurance premium had increased approximately 7.8% in the year 2006, which is almost double the rate of inflation. In short, last year in 2006, the annual premiums of group health plan sponsored by an employer was around $4,250 for a single premium plan, while the average family premium was around $ 11,250 per year. This indicates that in the year 2006 the employer sponsored health insurance premium increased 7.7 percent. Taking the biggest hit were small businesses that had 0-24 employees. There health insurance premiums increased by nearly 10.4%

Employees are also not spared, in the year 2006 the employee also had to pay around $ 3,000 more in their contribution to employer’s sponsored health insurance plan in comparison to the previous year, 2005. Rate hikes have been in existence since the “Florida Health Insurance” plan started. In covering an entire family of four, a person will experience an increase in premium rate at every annual renewal. If they would have kept the record of their health insurance premium payments they will find that they are now paying around $ 1,100 more than they paid in the year 2000 for the same coverage and with the same company. The same item was found by the Health Research Educational Trust and the Kaiser Family Foundation in their survey report of the year 2000. They found out that the premiums of health insurance that is sponsored by the employer increases by around 4 times than the employee’s salary. This report also stated that since 2000 the contribution of employees in group health insurance sponsored by employer was increased by more than 143 percent.

One business man predicts that if nothing is done and the Health insurance premiums keep increasing that in the year 2008, the amount of health premium contribution to employer will surpass their profit. Professionals within and outside the field of Florida health insurance, think that the reason for increase in Florida health insurance premium rates are due to many factors, such as high administration expenditure, inflation, poor or bad management, increase in the cost of medical care, waste etc.

Florida health insurance rate hikes affect whom?

Rising rates of Florida health insurance generally affects most of the Floridians who live in our beautiful state. The highest affected individudals are the minimum wage and low wage workers. Recent drops in the renewal of health insurance are mostly from this low income group. They just can’t afford the high premiums of Florida health insurance. They are in the situation where they can not afford the medical care and they can not afford the medical insurance premiums that are assosiated with adequate coverage. Almost half of all Americans are of the opinion that they are more worried about the high health insurance rate and high cost of health care, over any other bill they have on a monthly basis. A survey also finds that around 42% of Americans can not afford the high cost of health care services. There is one very interesting study conducted by Harvard University researchers. They found out that 68% of people who filed bankruptcy covered themselves and their family by health insurance. Average out-of-pocket deductibles for people filed bankruptcy were around $ 12,000 per year. They also found some co-relation between medical expenditure and bankruptcy. A national survey also reports that main reason for people not to take health insurance is the high premium rate of health insurance.

How to reduce Florida’s high health insurance cost? Nobody knows for sure. There are different opinions and experts are not agreeing with each other. Health professionals believe that if we can raise the number of healthy people by improving the lifestyle and regular exercise, good diets etc. than naturally they will need less medical care services which decreases the demands of health care and hence the cost.( This year in Florida the smoking rate has increased by 21.7 percent) One Floridian sarcastically suggested that there are ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ in health care that are needed to reversed. That the state of Florida is to ‘high’ in cost of medical care compare to other States and ‘low’ in the quality of health care.

Where Can You Get Affordable Health Insurance?

What is health Insurance

The main reason why you need an affordable health insurance is to help you plan ahead in case of unexpected costly emergencies. The only way you can accomplish this is to compare prices from most leading insurance companies and also choosing a health insurance plan that best suits you. Back in the days, getting a cheap health insurance plan was simply unaffordable. But these days, individuals, small groups, families and students can choose a health insurance plan that is best for them, e.g. like acquiring a help insurance plan that ensures that an individual suffering from any previous medical condition is not excluded.

Private health insurance plan is totally an unrestricted open market, so those who do not yet have a health insurance plan should consider taking out a plan. For those who are seeking good medical health insurance program, having one is possible through the help of specific companies which specializes in providing health care insurance for individuals and also meeting their requirements and also staying within your budget.

Also for individuals who do not want to use a company, then they can use the internet. One major way Americans get health insurance coverage is mostly through their employers. Many employers them receive health insurance coverage for their workers for a limited time thus enabling them receive health insurance coverage. The internet provides an option for a cheaper health insurance. There are lots of companies that provide all types of health insurance plans, making it possible for you and your family to have a specific reasonable and affordable health care insurance plan. Finding out what kind of reputation the company has and how long the company has been in business is a smart idea.

Having a kind of ideal they have for you is advisable also making sure they have been licensed in your state, because it is of no use getting an insurance with a form which has no license and cant get the exact health insurance you want, many agents will help work hard for you, so you could have an affordable health insurance plan which you and your family could live with without great cost. Everyone wants the best health insurance both for themselves and for their families, but only the best health care insurance can do this with low premiums and full coverage.

What are the advantages of health insurance?

Having the right and the best health care insurance is difficult. In order not to get confused, one needs to decide which the best is by doing his or her research thoroughly. The first step to take includes checking out the credentials and also their past performances of the very company you are considering. Just as on insurance outfits does a background check of individuals before accepting proposals, one should also review the financial status including the customer care services of the insurer, by so doing; you stand the chance to know which health insurance company’s best for you. One major way for you to get ratings of these agencies such as A.M best or Moody’s is by using the better business bureau. Many employers use the health insurance scheme to either attract or even retain their quality employers. The health insurance coverage might be a personal scheme or a group scheme organized and sponsored by the employers for employers who work between 20-29 hours per week.

Companies also do not add cost of fringe benefits alongside health insurance, to the price of their product and service. Over the past decades, the cost of health insurance has increased tremendously, surpassing the general rate of inflation in most past years.

The different types of health insurance includes individual health insurance, affordable employee health insurance which is also known as group health insurance, affordable family health insurance, affordable business health insurance etc, your monthly insurance is determined by certain numerous different things. For instance, most premiums based on or according to your age. So your health insurance rates changes accordingly with the type of health policy you have. If your health insurance is basically for yourselves or your entire family, the procedures must surely have an impact on any quote you are young or advanced in age, self employed receiving health insurance companies will adjust your premium based upon your age and this will also affect the cost of your health insurance.

Sexual Health of Men!

The sexual health of men is not as complicated as that of women. Show a man a certain type of image and if his brain and nervous system are working properly to produce nitric oxide, then a response will usually occur. That’s not to discount any mental, emotional, and spiritual components but it is the physical component that has the greatest impact on man’s sexual health. This article will focus on what men can do to improve the physical component of their sexual health. The side benefit is that these suggestions can also positively impact your overall wellness and how you age.

In all the information I gathered to prepare for this article, two overriding issues kept surfacing. These two health issues were consistently present. The first is hormone levels. The second is cardiovascular health. Most men would understand how hormone levels could apply but few ever consider cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular Health!

Your cardiovascular health is as important to your sexual health as it is to your overall health. The reason why centers on the health of the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels of your body. The creation of nitric oxide occurs in these endothelial cells. Nitric oxide researchers believe that nitric oxide can correct up to 90% of all penile dysfunction. When the endothelial cells are damaged by high blood pressure, high sugar levels, cholesterol, and smoking this decreases nitric oxide production. Endothelial cells and their ability to produce nitric oxide are critical to the sexual health of men.

Hormone Levels!

At its simplest level, sex is just a hormone driven function designed to perpetuate the species. With that said, the sexual health of American men is in trouble. Testosterone levels have been decreasing over the last 20 years. Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. It plays an important role in maintaining bone and muscle mass. Low levels of testosterone have been linked to lowered libido and diabetes. Diabetes can affect the endothelial cells of the blood vessels compounding the problem of lower testosterone levels.

Over the past two decades, the level of testosterone in American males has decreased by 16 percent. Researchers don’t know why. But there are some clues. The recent Nurses’ Health Study revealed some important truths as they apply to women. Some of those truths also apply to the sexual health of men because they affect both hormonal levels and cardiovascular health.

Additionally, as testosterone levels have decreased this has resulted in reduced muscle mass and tone, reduced metabolism and energy and an increase in body fat. Not a sexy combination! You can accept it and do nothing about it. Or, you can begin to live life by making healthier eating and exercise choices. Choices that will help your body actually be younger physically than your chronological age.

You Have Control Over the Process!

Every day you replace approximately 1% of your cells. That means that 1% of your body is new today, 1% is new tomorrow, and 1% is new each and every day of your life. You choose whether those new cells will be nourished properly or poorly. You choose whether you will have healthy and vibrant cells that act young. Or, sickly and sedentary cells that act old.

The sexual health of your body will be affected by the choices you make. I call it “The 1% Solution!” and it will positively affect the cardiovascular and sexual health of your body.

Choices Affecting Sexual Health!

The Nurses’ Health Study highlighted five critical lifestyle and diet behaviors. They are:

o Carbohydrates – Slow verses Fast!

o Fats – Natural verses Artificial!

o Protein – Animal or Plant!

o Body Weight – Your BMI!

o Exercise – Is It Important?

If you look at this list, three critical components emerge: Diet, Weight, and Exercise! Now you might think that this only applies to women. It doesn’t! Each of these factors will affect your cardiovascular health and hormonal balance. Each of these factors also affects the health of your endothelial cells and their ability to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide production is the most important component to the sexual health of men. Let’s look at how all of these factors impact your sexual health.

The Diet Component!

You are what you eat and drink. The sexual health of your body and the cardiovascular health of your circulatory system will be greatly determined by your food and drink choices. These choices will also impact the potential for disease and how you age.

Your first choice is in the area of carbohydrates. Are you choosing foods and drinks that are high in fast carbs (simple sugars)? If you are, then you need to understand that:

o Fast carbs disrupt hormone levels.

o Fast carbs create the potential for high blood sugar that can lead to diabetes.

o High blood sugar can damage the endothelial cells of your blood vessels reducing the production of nitric oxide which is critical for good sexual and cardiovascular health.

Learn to consume foods that are high in slow carbs (complex carbohydrates). Slow carbs will help to keep your blood sugar levels normal and your hormonal levels balanced. Drink water instead of sugary drinks and diet sodas. Drinking water hydrates your system, helps you balance your hormone levels, and aids in weight management.

How Your Attitude to Health Can Help

What is Health?

How do you define health? Is it a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being? Is it merely the absence of disease or infirmity? Or is health a resource for everyday life, rather than the objective of living; a positive concept, emphasising social and personal resources as well as physical capabilities?

Good health is harder to define than bad health (which can be equated with the presence of disease), because it must convey a concept more positive than mere absence of disease, and there is a variable area between health and disease. Health is clearly a complex, multidimensional concept. Health is, ultimately, poorly defined and difficult to measure, despite impressive efforts by epidemiologists, vital statisticians, social scientists and political economists. Each individual’s health is shaped by many factors, including medical care, social circumstances, and behavioural choices.

Health Care

While it is true to say that health care is the prevention, treatment and management of illness, and the preservation of mental and physical well-being, through the services offered by the medical, nursing and allied health professions, health-related behaviour is influenced by our own values, which are determined by upbringing, by example, by experience, by the company one keeps, by the persuasive power of advertising (often a force of behaviour that can harm health), and by effective health education. Healthy individuals are able to mobilise all their physical, mental, and spiritual resources to improve their chances of survival, to live happy and fulfilling lives, and to be of benefit to their dependants and society.

Achieving health, and remaining healthy, is an active process. Natural health is based on prevention, and on keeping our bodies and minds in good shape. Health lies in balancing these aspects within the body through a regimen consisting of diet, exercise, and regulation of the emotions. The last of these is too often ignored when health advice is dispensed, but can have a pronounced effect on physical well-being.

Diet

Every day, or so it seems, new research shows that some aspect of lifestyle – physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption, and so on – affects health and longevity. Physical fitness is good bodily health, and is the result of regular exercise, proper diet and nutrition, and proper rest for physical recovery. The field of nutrition also studies foods and dietary supplements that improve performance, promote health, and cure or prevent disease, such as fibrous foods to reduce the risk of colon cancer, or supplements with vitamin C to strengthen teeth and gums and to improve the immune system. When exercising, it becomes even more important to have a good diet to ensure that the body has the correct ratio of macronutrients whilst providing ample micronutrients; this is to aid the body in the recovery process following strenuous exercise.

If you’re trying to lose weight by “dieting”, don’t call it a diet, first of all – successful dieters don’t call what they do a “diet”. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are both important for maintaining a healthy weight. Even literate, well-educated people sometimes have misguided views about what makes or keeps them healthy, often believing that regular daily exercise, regular bowel movements, or a specific dietary regime will alone suffice to preserve their good health. Despite the ever-changing, ever-conflicting opinions of the medical experts as to what is good for us, one aspect of what we eat and drink has remained constantly agreed by all: a balanced diet.

A balanced diet comprises a mixture of the main varieties of nutriments (protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins). Proper nutrition is just as, if not more, important to health as exercise. If you’re concerned about being overweight, you don’t need to add the extra stress of “dieting”. No “low-fat this” or “low-carb that”; just healthful eating of smaller portions, with weight loss being a satisfying side effect. Improve health by eating real food in moderation. (For many reasons, not everyone has easy access to or incentives to eat a balanced diet. Nevertheless, those who eat a well-balanced diet are healthier than those who do not.)

Exercise

Physical exercise is considered important for maintaining physical fitness and overall health (including healthy weight), building and maintaining healthy bones, muscles and joints, promoting physiological well-being, reducing surgical risks, and strengthening the immune system. Aerobic exercises, such as walking, running and swimming, focus on increasing cardiovascular endurance and muscle density. Anaerobic exercises, such as weight training or sprinting, increase muscle mass and strength. Proper rest and recovery are also as important to health as exercise, otherwise the body exists in a permanently injured state and will not improve or adapt adequately to the exercise. The above two factors can be compromised by psychological compulsions (eating disorders, such as exercise bulimia, anorexia, and other bulimias), misinformation, a lack of organisation, or a lack of motivation.

Ask your doctor or physical therapist what exercises are best for you. Your doctor and/or physical therapist can recommend specific types of exercise, depending on your particular situation. You can use exercises to keep strong and limber, improve cardiovascular fitness, extend your joints’ range of motion, and reduce your weight. You should never be too busy to exercise. There’s always a way to squeeze in a little exercise, no matter where you are. Eliminate one or maybe even two items from your busy schedule to free up time to fit in some exercise and some “YOU” time. Finding an exercise partner is a common workout strategy.

Health Savings Accounts

INTRODUCTON – The term “health insurance” is commonly used in the United States to describe any program that helps pay for medical expenses, whether through privately purchased insurance, social insurance or a non-insurance social welfare program funded by the government. Synonyms for this usage include “health coverage,” “health care coverage” and “health benefits” and “medical insurance.” In a more technical sense, the term is used to describe any form of insurance that provides protection against injury or illness.

In America, the health insurance industry has changed rapidly during the last few decades. In the 1970’s most people who had health insurance had indemnity insurance. Indemnity insurance is often called fee-forservice. It is the traditional health insurance in which the medical provider (usually a doctor or hospital) is paid a fee for each service provided to the patient covered under the policy. An important category associated with the indemnity plans is that of consumer driven health care (CDHC). Consumer-directed health plans allow individuals and families to have greater control over their health care, including when and how they access care, what types of care they receive and how much they spend on health care services.

These plans are however associated with higher deductibles that the insured have to pay from their pocket before they can claim insurance money. Consumer driven health care plans include Health Reimbursement Plans (HRAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), high deductible health plans (HDHps), Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Of these, the Health Savings Accounts are the most recent and they have witnessed rapid growth during the last decade.

WHAT IS A HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNT?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States. The funds contributed to the account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. These may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability.

Another feature is that the funds contributed to Health Savings Account roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent. These can be withdrawn by the employees at the time of retirement without any tax liabilities. Withdrawals for qualified expenses and interest earned are also not subject to federal income taxes. According to the U.S. Treasury Office, ‘A Health Savings Account is an alternative to traditional health insurance; it is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care.

HSA’s enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.’ Thus the Health Savings Account is an effort to increase the efficiency of the American health care system and to encourage people to be more responsible and prudent towards their health care needs. It falls in the category of consumer driven health care plans.

Origin of Health Savings Account

The Health Savings Account was established under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act passed by the U.S. Congress in June 2003, by the Senate in July 2003 and signed by President Bush on December 8, 2003.

Eligibility –

The following individuals are eligible to open a Health Savings Account –

– Those who are covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).
– Those not covered by other health insurance plans.
– Those not enrolled in Medicare4.

Also there are no income limits on who may contribute to an HAS and there is no requirement of having earned income to contribute to an HAS. However HAS’s can’t be set up by those who are dependent on someone else’s tax return. Also HSA’s cannot be set up independently by children.

What is a High Deductible Health plan (HDHP)?

Enrollment in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is a necessary qualification for anyone wishing to open a Health Savings Account. In fact the HDHPs got a boost by the Medicare Modernization Act which introduced the HSAs. A High Deductible Health Plan is a health insurance plan which has a certain deductible threshold. This limit must be crossed before the insured person can claim insurance money. It does not cover first dollar medical expenses. So an individual has to himself pay the initial expenses that are called out-of-pocket costs.

In a number of HDHPs costs of immunization and preventive health care are excluded from the deductible which means that the individual is reimbursed for them. HDHPs can be taken both by individuals (self employed as well as employed) and employers. In 2008, HDHPs are being offered by insurance companies in America with deductibles ranging from a minimum of $1,100 for Self and $2,200 for Self and Family coverage. The maximum amount out-of-pocket limits for HDHPs is $5,600 for self and $11,200 for Self and Family enrollment. These deductible limits are called IRS limits as they are set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In HDHPs the relation between the deductibles and the premium paid by the insured is inversely propotional i.e. higher the deductible, lower the premium and vice versa. The major purported advantages of HDHPs are that they will a) lower health care costs by causing patients to be more cost-conscious, and b) make insurance premiums more affordable for the uninsured. The logic is that when the patients are fully covered (i.e. have health plans with low deductibles), they tend to be less health conscious and also less cost conscious when going for treatment.

Group Insurance Health Care and the HIPAA Privacy Rule

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. When I hear people talking about HIPAA, they are usually not talking about the original Act. They are talking about the Privacy Rule that was issued as a result of the HIPAA in the form of a Notice of Health Information Practices.

The United States Department of Health & Human Services official Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule is 25 pages long, and that is just a summary of the key elements. So as you can imagine, it covers a lot of ground. What I would like to offer you here is a summary of the basics of the Privacy Rule.

When it was enacted in 1996, the Privacy Rule established guidelines for the protection of individuals’s health information. The guidelines are written such that they make sure that an individual’s health records are protected while at the same time allowing needed information to be released in the course of providing health care and protecting the public’s health and well being. In other words, not just anyone can see a person’s health records. But, if you want someone such as a health provider to see your records, you can sign a release giving them access to your records.

So just what is your health information and where does it come from? Your health information is held or transmitted by health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers. These are called covered entities in the wording of the rule.

These guidelines also apply to what are called business associates of any health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers. Business associates are those entities that offer legal, actuarial, accounting, consulting, data aggregation, management, administrative, accreditation, or financial services.

So, what does a typical Privacy Notice include?

  • The type of information collected by your health plan.
  • A description of what your health record/information includes.
  • A summary of your health information rights.
  • The responsibilities of the group health plan.

Let’s look at these one at a time:

Information Collected by Your Health Plan:

The group healthcare plan collects the following types of information in order to provide benefits:

Information that you provide to the plan to enroll in the plan, including personal information such as your address, telephone number, date of birth, and Social Security number.

Plan contributions and account balance information.

The fact that you are or have been enrolled in the plans.

Health-related information received from any of your physicians or other healthcare providers.

Information regarding your health status, including diagnosis and claims payment information.

Changes in plan enrollment (e.g., adding a participant or dropping a participant, adding or dropping a benefit.)

Payment of plan benefits.

Claims adjudication.

Case or medical management.

Other information about you that is necessary for us to provide you with health benefits.

Understanding Your Health Record/Information:

Each time you visit a hospital, physician, or other healthcare provider, a record of your visit is made. Typically, this record contains your symptoms, examination and test results, diagnoses, treatment, and a plan for future care or treatment.

This information, often referred to as your health or medical record, serves as a:

Basis for planning your care and treatment.

Means of communication among the many health professionals who contribute to your care.

Legal document describing the care you received.

Means by which you or a third-party payer can verify that services billed were actually provided.

Tool in educating health professionals.

Source of data for medical research.

Source of information for public health officials charged with improving the health of the nation.

Source of data for facility planning and marketing.

Tool with which the plan sponsor can assess and continually work to improve the benefits offered by the group healthcare plan. Understanding what is in your record and how your health information is used helps you to:

Ensure its accuracy.

Better understand who, what, when, where, and why others may access your health information.

Make more informed decisions when authorizing disclosure to others.

A Prescription For the Health Care Crisis

With all the shouting going on about America’s health care crisis, many are probably finding it difficult to concentrate, much less understand the cause of the problems confronting us. I find myself dismayed at the tone of the discussion (though I understand it—people are scared) as well as bemused that anyone would presume themselves sufficiently qualified to know how to best improve our health care system simply because they’ve encountered it, when people who’ve spent entire careers studying it (and I don’t mean politicians) aren’t sure what to do themselves.

Albert Einstein is reputed to have said that if he had an hour to save the world he’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only 5 minutes solving it. Our health care system is far more complex than most who are offering solutions admit or recognize, and unless we focus most of our efforts on defining its problems and thoroughly understanding their causes, any changes we make are just likely to make them worse as they are better.

Though I’ve worked in the American health care system as a physician since 1992 and have seven year’s worth of experience as an administrative director of primary care, I don’t consider myself qualified to thoroughly evaluate the viability of most of the suggestions I’ve heard for improving our health care system. I do think, however, I can at least contribute to the discussion by describing some of its troubles, taking reasonable guesses at their causes, and outlining some general principles that should be applied in attempting to solve them.

THE PROBLEM OF COST

No one disputes that health care spending in the U.S. has been rising dramatically. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), health care spending is projected to reach $8,160 per person per year by the end of 2009 compared to the $356 per person per year it was in 1970. This increase occurred roughly 2.4% faster than the increase in GDP over the same period. Though GDP varies from year-to-year and is therefore an imperfect way to assess a rise in health care costs in comparison to other expenditures from one year to the next, we can still conclude from this data that over the last 40 years the percentage of our national income (personal, business, and governmental) we’ve spent on health care has been rising.

Despite what most assume, this may or may not be bad. It all depends on two things: the reasons why spending on health care has been increasing relative to our GDP and how much value we’ve been getting for each dollar we spend.

WHY HAS HEALTH CARE BECOME SO COSTLY?

This is a harder question to answer than many would believe. The rise in the cost of health care (on average 8.1% per year from 1970 to 2009, calculated from the data above) has exceeded the rise in inflation (4.4% on average over that same period), so we can’t attribute the increased cost to inflation alone. Health care expenditures are known to be closely associated with a country’s GDP (the wealthier the nation, the more it spends on health care), yet even in this the United States remains an outlier (figure 3).

Is it because of spending on health care for people over the age of 75 (five times what we spend on people between the ages of 25 and 34)? In a word, no. Studies show this demographic trend explains only a small percentage of health expenditure growth.

Is it because of monstrous profits the health insurance companies are raking in? Probably not. It’s admittedly difficult to know for certain as not all insurance companies are publicly traded and therefore have balance sheets available for public review. But Aetna, one of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies in North America, reported a 2009 second quarter profit of $346.7 million, which, if projected out, predicts a yearly profit of around $1.3 billion from the approximately 19 million people they insure. If we assume their profit margin is average for their industry (even if untrue, it’s unlikely to be orders of magnitude different from the average), the total profit for all private health insurance companies in America, which insured 202 million people (2nd bullet point) in 2007, would come to approximately $13 billion per year. Total health care expenditures in 2007 were $2.2 trillion (see Table 1, page 3), which yields a private health care industry profit approximately 0.6% of total health care costs (though this analysis mixes data from different years, it can perhaps be permitted as the numbers aren’t likely different by any order of magnitude).

Is it because of health care fraud? Estimates of losses due to fraud range as high as 10% of all health care expenditures, but it’s hard to find hard data to back this up. Though some percentage of fraud almost certainly goes undetected, perhaps the best way to estimate how much money is lost due to fraud is by looking at how much the government actually recovers. In 2006, this was $2.2 billion, only 0.1% of $2.1 trillion (see Table 1, page 3) in total health care expenditures for that year.

Is it due to pharmaceutical costs? In 2006, total expenditures on prescription drugs was approximately $216 billion (see Table 2, page 4). Though this amounted to 10% of the $2.1 trillion (see Table 1, page 3) in total health care expenditures for that year and must therefore be considered significant, it still remains only a small percentage of total health care costs.

Is it from administrative costs? In 1999, total administrative costs were estimated to be $294 billion, a full 25% of the $1.2 trillion (Table 1) in total health care expenditures that year. This was a significant percentage in 1999 and it’s hard to imagine it’s shrunk to any significant degree since then.

In the end, though, what probably has contributed the greatest amount to the increase in health care spending in the U.S. are two things:

1. Technological innovation.

2. Overutilization of health care resources by both patients and health care providers themselves.

Technological innovation. Data that proves increasing health care costs are due mostly to technological innovation is surprisingly difficult to obtain, but estimates of the contribution to the rise in health care costs due to technological innovation range anywhere from 40% to 65% (Table 2, page 8). Though we mostly only have empirical data for this, several examples illustrate the principle. Heart attacks used to be treated with aspirin and prayer. Now they’re treated with drugs to control shock, pulmonary edema, and arrhythmias as well as thrombolytic therapy, cardiac catheterization with angioplasty or stenting, and coronary artery bypass grafting. You don’t have to be an economist to figure out which scenario ends up being more expensive. We may learn to perform these same procedures more cheaply over time (the same way we’ve figured out how to make computers cheaper) but as the cost per procedure decreases, the total amount spent on each procedure goes up because the number of procedures performed goes up. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is 25% less than the price of an open cholecystectomy, but the rates of both have increased by 60%. As technological advances become more widely available they become more widely used, and one thing we’re great at doing in the United States is making technology available.

Overutilization of health care resources by both patients and health care providers themselves. We can easily define overutilization as the unnecessary consumption of health care resources. What’s not so easy is recognizing it. Every year from October through February the majority of patients who come into the Urgent Care Clinic at my hospital are, in my view, doing so unnecessarily. What are they coming in for? Colds. I can offer support, reassurance that nothing is seriously wrong, and advice about over-the-counter remedies—but none of these things will make them better faster (though I often am able to reduce their level of concern). Further, patients have a hard time believing the key to arriving at a correct diagnosis lies in history gathering and careful physical examination rather than technologically-based testing (not that the latter isn’t important—just less so than most patients believe). Just how much patient-driven overutilization costs the health care system is hard to pin down as we have mostly only anecdotal evidence as above.