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Activities to Try in 2023

Another year brings opportunities to deviate from what has been planned or the routine and dive into something different. This deviation need not be connected to a job, home, or even family. In fact, it can be a simple activity. With eleven months left in 2023, there is still plenty of time to engage in a new activity or maybe revisit one left behind.

The following snapshots are intended to encourage the imagination, and some exertion, both mental as well as physical. However, they do not contain full instructions.

Instead, they highlight certain aspects of these activities and provide some basic information.

 

Archery

There are few thrills in life that rival those you experience when you draw a bow. All at once, a blend of tension, strength, and power surges through you. Of course, the draw weight varies as does the type of bow used; it could be a traditional recurve bow or a long bow in your hands. Perhaps it is a compound bow that you grip.

Whichever the case, in these seconds as you anchor and aim, right before the arrow is released, there is aggressive concentration on the bullseye ahead. It seemingly taunts you with its fixed and inanimate state, as each worry and distraction is set entirely aside for the purpose. It is about you, the target, and the great precision and force it takes to arrive there. Then, the arrow is loosed. You are living the metaphor. The bullseye must be reached.

The value though of this repeated action is in the marshalling of one’s thoughts in a single direction, regardless of outcome. The euphoria derived from that is rewarding and can endure.

For your health and safety, consult a trained professional for complete guidance in the sport.

 

Solitaire

There is a pleasing organization and structure to Solitaire, isn’t there? In this case, we refer to Klondike Solitaire, by far the most celebrated version of the card game. The stakes too are non-existent. The game can also boost your spirits and serve as a stimulating diversion with a series of choices made that are unrelated to pending, adult responsibilities. A single player and a standard 52-card deck is all that is required; try it screenless with physical cards. In this game of solitaire, the tableau consists of seven card piles and the foundations that are built from it. There is the stock and the waste as well.*

The object of Solitaire is to discard the cards by building the deck into a sequence and by suit from Ace through King. When the entire deck of cards makes up the foundation, the player has won.

So how did such a delightful game come to exist? Solitaire’s origins can possibly be traced to somewhere in Europe hundreds of years ago, with France being a suspected starting point. But this familiar pastime is without a detailed past.

Still, there is documentation of an engraving from 1697 showing a French princess playing a version of the game, while it has also been speculated the game was invented by a mathematician to entertain King Louis XIV.* Its true history notwithstanding, Solitaire continues to draw us in, keeping us guessing at our own games, in the present.

 

Painting

Each of us spends hours admiring art made by others. But what if we used those hours to make some of our own? What satisfaction could it generate? That is where painting comes in. With this pursuit, there does not have to be an objective in mind or any picture on hand as inspiration, though there could very well be both.

Having a few necessary pieces of equipment matters though. A canvas or a piece of wood, a brush, and of course, paint, will jumpstart the process. Move down the aisles of any craft store and you are bound to find acrylic, oil, as well as watercolor paints. There is an abundance of choices.

Brushes are numerous too. There are flat, angle, and round-tipped brushes, just to name a few. But once one of those brushes is taken up in earnest, your curiosities and creative freedom must take precedence. When its paint-covered bristles are first pressed against the blank surface, every emotion or instinct, be it positive or negative, propels you into an artistic odyssey that is solely yours.

There is no scarcity of hobbies to choose and adopt from. But perhaps one of the three activities above can elicit calm and invite catharsis, whether the need for either is pressing or not.

 

*USA Today. 2022. How to play Solitaire

 


unpacking medicare supplement, part four

Unpacking Medicare Supplement: Part 4

With every story, there comes a point when it should naturally conclude. It reaches a place where both protagonist and reader are plenty satisfied, while the need for continuing appears to be nonexistent. One may believe this to be the case for Medigap Maggie's saga of discovery. However, one would be incorrect. Though nearly 65-year-old Maggie successfully acquired Medicare and Medicare Supplement a.k.a. Medigap coverage, there is still additional information that might aid our happy heroine as well as yourself.

The first notable item is Guaranteed Issue Rights. The website Medicare.gov, which has been our primary source for this series, illustrates what they are.

Guaranteed issue rights are rights you have in certain situations when insurance companies must offer you certain Medicare Supplement/Medigap policies. In these situations, an insurance company must:

  • Sell you a Medicare Supplement/Medigap policy
  • Cover all your pre-existing health conditions
  • Not charge you more for a Medicare Supplement/Medigap policy regardless of past or present health problems

In most situations, Medicare.gov indicates, you have a guaranteed issue right when you have other health coverage that changes in some way, like when you lose the other health coverage. Under other circumstances, you have a "trial right" to try a Medicare Advantage Plan and can still buy a Medigap policy if you change your mind.

The document "Choosing a Medigap Policy" contains a chart with the most common situations that would give you the right to purchase a policy, the kind of policy you can buy, and when you can or must apply for it. There are several scenarios included, but within this article, we will provide two of them.

Situation #1

You have a guaranteed issue right if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, and your plan is leaving Medicare or stops giving care in your area, or you move out of the plan's service area. Then, you have the right to buy Medigap Plan A, B, C*, D*, F*, G*, K, or I that is sold in your state by any insurance company. You only have this right if you to switch to Original Medicare rather than join another Medicare Advantage Plan.

You can/must apply for a Medigap policy as early as 60 calendar days before the date your Medicare Advantage Plan coverage will end, but no later than 63 calendar days after your coverage ends. Medigap coverage cannot start until your Medicare Advantage Plan coverage ends.

Situation #2

You have a guaranteed issue right if your Medigap insurance company goes bankrupt and you lose your coverage, or your Medigap policy coverage otherwise ends through no fault of your own. Then, you have the right to buy Medigap Plan A, B, C*, D*, F*, G*, K, or L that is sold in your state by any insurance company. You can/must apply for a Medigap policy no later than 63 calendar days from the date your coverage ends.

Note: Plans C and F are no longer available to people new to Medicare on or after January 1, 2020. However, if you were eligible for Medicare before January 1, 2020, but not yet enrolled, you may be able to buy Plan C or Plan F. People new to Medicare on or after January 1, 2020, have the right to buy Plans D and G instead of Plans C and F.

Additionally, you may have a guaranteed Issue right to buy a Medigap policy if you lose your health coverage, so it is imperative to keep these documents:

  • A copy of any letters, notices, emails, and/or claim denials that have your name on them as proof of your coverage being terminated.
  • The postmarked envelope these papers come in as proof of when it was mailed.

You may also need to send a copy of some or all these papers with your Medigap application to prove you have a guaranteed issue right.

There is also the concern of what to do if you already have a Medigap policy in place, along with other questions that may arise.

Can I switch to a different Medigap policy?

In most cases, according to Medicare.gov, you will not have a right under federal law to switch Medigap policies, unless you are within your 6-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period or are eligible under a specific circumstance for guaranteed issue rights.

Do I have to switch Medigap policies if I have a Medigap policy that's no longer sold?

No. But you cannot have more than one Medigap policy, so if you buy a new Medigap policy, you must give up your old policy (except for your 30-day "free look period" described in the "Choosing a Medigap Policy" document). Once you cancel the old policy, you cannot get it back.

Do I have to wait a certain length of time after I buy my Medigap policy before I can switch to a different Medigap policy?

No. But if you have had your current Medigap policy for less than 6 months, the insurance company offering the new Medigap policy might make you wait up to 6 months before it covers a pre-existing condition.

Why would I want to switch to a different Medigap policy?

Some reasons for switching might include:

  • You are paying for benefits you do not need.
  • You need more benefits than you needed before.
  • Your current Medigap policy has the right benefits, but you want to change your insurance company.
  • Your current Medigap policy has the right benefits, but you want to find a policy that is less expensive.

Can I keep my current Medigap policy (or Medicare SELECT policy) or switch to a different Medigap policy if I move out-of-state?

In general, you can keep your current Medigap policy regardless of where you live provided you still have Original Medicare. If you want to switch to a different Medigap policy, you will have to check with your current or new insurance company to see if they will offer you a different Medigap policy.

The answers to the above questions have been abridged for this article. Please refer to the original Medicare.gov source for complete details, more explanation, and other questions.

Furthermore, there may be Medigap policies available for people with a disability or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).

You may have Medicare before turning 65 due to a disability or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant).

If you are under 65 and have Medicare because of a disability or ESRD, you might not be able to purchase the Medigap policy you want, or any Medigap policy, until you turn 65. Federal law generally does not require insurance companies to sell Medigap policies to people under 65. However, some states require Medigap insurance companies to sell you a Medigap policy, even if you are under 65. Please consult the complete list of states in the original Medicare.gov document.

The ultimate purpose of this blog series has been to inform as well as engage through reliable resources and Maggie's learning journey. Medicare Supplement combined with the details surrounding healthcare in post-retirement is a sizeable subject that can occasionally look nebulous. Ideally, these articles have transformed the topic into something more defined and approachable.

Of course, with that all stated, our protagonist still requires a proper send-off.

Having more than earned a break from managing her health matters, Maggie leaves the dining room table that almost became a student’s desk. She shakes her husband out of his near-catatonic state in front of the living room’s blaring television. Setting aside lingering laundry and long grass, they leave their home and go for a pleasant stroll through their neighborhood, basking together in the warm, welcoming weather.

Though Maggie is a fictional character, her circumstances resemble those of many individuals in their sixties that are preparing to make some key choices. The benefits of having a Medicare Supplement policy are significant as it can provide additional support in the years when it is extremely essential. When seeking a Medicare Supplement plan for yourself or for a loved one, we hope you acquire coverage that strongly aligns with your health needs.

 

Disclaimer: The content throughout the Unpacking Medicare Supplement blog series is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be the basis for any decisions, be it medical, legal, or otherwise.

 

For more info, please visit ManhattanLife Medicare Supplements

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 2022. 2022 Choosing a Medigap Policy

Medicare and You 2023. Medicare & You 2023.

Guaranteed issue rights. Medicare.gov

 

 


Maggie PART 3 Medicare Supplement

Unpacking Medicare Supplement: Part 3

Careful not to overwhelm herself with a deluge of information, Maggie sets aside the reading material before resuming. She rubs her temples and processes how all this impacts her life.

Maggie is planted at her dining room table with a swath of fact-filled papers making an arch across the wood. A Saturday afternoon sun gently pours shafts of light in through a corner window. Maggie turns to glance outside at her lawn, its unmown, yet strong grass having grown so high it appears to valiantly guard the home it sits in front of.

Maggie sighs faintly and takes in the strangely comforting view, witnessing its burst of life. After a few minutes of relaxation and contemplation, Maggie begins studying Medicare SELECT.

It turns out Medicare SELECT is a type of Medigap policy sold in some states that require you to use hospitals, and in some instances, physicians within its network, to be eligible for full insurance benefits with an emergency being an exception.

Medicare SELECT can be offered as any of the standardized Medigap plans. Given the limitations it can present, these types of policies usually cost less. If you do not use a Medicare SELECT hospital or doctor for non-emergency services, you’ll be required to pay some or all of what Medicare doesn’t pay.

You sign up for Medicare SELECT in lieu of getting standard Medigap. Currently, if you purchase a Medicare SELECT policy, you can change your mind within 12 months and switch to standard Medigap.

Maggie mulls things over and concludes that while Medicare SELECT may be less expensive, its potential drawbacks could be too great. She proceeds to follow the steps for obtaining a Medicare Supplement policy. You too can follow these steps inspired by information published through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

  1. Consider your medical and personal needs.
  • Maggie would like Part A coinsurance and hospital costs up to an additional 365 days after Medicare benefits are used up.
  • She would also like the deductibles for Part A covered completely.
  • Additionally, as pointed out before, Maggie is planning to travel the world and requires some foreign travel emergency coverage. This could prove helpful to have in the event something unexpected occurs during her adventures.
  • Maggie realizes then that she wants her Part B excess charges covered.

  1. Pick the most suitable plan.

Maggie scans the various Medigap plans once more, looking at the percentages that each plan covers.

Given the above points, her eyes eventually settle comfortably on Plan G. This plan seems ideal for her.

Now it is simply a matter of obtaining a policy for her plan. To do this, Maggie will need to contact an insurance company that sells Medicare Supplement insurance. One fact to reemphasize is that while all Medigap policies offer the same benefits, the number of plans and premium costs will differ among insurance companies.

  1. Contact the insurance company.

To fully assess her options, Maggie contacts her State Health Insurance Assistance Program or SHIP for a list of companies that sell Medigap policies in her state and their costs. She also contacts her State Insurance Department for further information.

Ultimately, she decides to obtain a policy through ManhattanLife and fills out a form to have an agent reach out to her. Shortly thereafter, Maggie receives a call from a ManhattanLife insurance agent that will assist her.

  1. Purchase your Medicare Supplement policy.

An insurance agent discusses the health plan options in depth with Maggie. While Maggie is already quite interested in Plan G, she listens intently about the other plans to be even more confident in her decision.

Minutes later, after the insurance agent finishes speaking, Maggie ponders a little before saying to the agent: “I’m especially interested in Plan G. Can you help me with a policy for that?”

“Absolutely,” the insurance agent replies. “I’d be glad to.”

Maggie grins as the insurance agent begins to thoroughly explain the details of Plan G and what she can expect with her policy at ManhattanLife going forward. Specifically, she learns how the policy will be processed and when it will go into effect.

At last, Maggie has purchased her Medicare Supplement policy, leaving her feeling terrific and reassured.

She now has her Medicare as well as her Medicare Supplement coverage firmly in place.

Still, ever the pupil and desiring the fullest view of her healthcare landscape, Maggie learns some additional details about Medicare Supplement, including information on Guaranteed Issue Rights.


For more info, please visit ManhattanLife Medicare Supplements

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 2022. 2022 Choosing a Medigap Policy

Medicare and You 2023. Medicare & You 2023. 


medicare supplement manhattanlife part 2 maggie

Unpacking Medicare Supplement: Part 2

After studying Medicare a little further before enrolling, Maggie becomes curious about Medicare Supplement or Medigap. She wonders how it might enhance her health coverage. She then sorts through a number of resources before landing on some valuable pages discussing it in depth. To her amazement, Maggie learns that:

Medicare Supplement or Medigap is a type of insurance policy that helps offset the unaccounted-for parts of Medicare. Original Medicare only covers some of the expenses for healthcare services and supplies.

Yet, a Medigap policy is different from a Medicare Advantage Plan because those plans are another way to get your Part A and Part B benefits, while a Medigap policy covers expenses that Original Medicare does not cover. Insurance companies usually cannot sell you a Medigap policy if you have coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicaid.

 Plans Galore 

There are several standardized Medigap plans available.

All insurance companies that sell Medigap policies must offer Plan A. If they want to offer policies in addition to Plan A, they must also offer either Plan C or Plan F to individuals who are not new to Medicare and either Plan D or Plan G to individuals who are new to Medicare. Availability of Medigap policies will vary by state.

Beginning January 1, 2020, Medigap plans sold to people new to Medicare cannot cover the Part B deductible. Consequently, people that are new to Medicare can no longer obtain Plans C and F on or after January 1, 2020.

The chart below, from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, presents current Medigap plans.

Maggie absorbs the material, and then starts to consider what Medigap policies do not cover. She finds out:

They do not cover long-term care (such as non-skilled care received in a nursing home), vision or dental services, hearing aids, eyeglasses, and private-duty nursing.

“Goodness me,” Maggie remarks to herself. “There is so much to understand about Medigap and what it fully entails.”

Mere seconds later, she comes across a list of imperative facts on the subject:

 Facts Before you Go (and purchase Medigap) 

  • You must have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) as well as Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance).
  • If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan but are planning to return to Original Medicare, you may apply for a Medigap policy prior to your coverage ending. The insurance company can sell the policy only if you are ending the Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • If you enroll in Medigap, you pay the private insurance company a premium for your Medigap policy in addition to the monthly Part B premium you pay to Medicare.
  • It is essential to note that a Medicare policy only covers one person. If you and your spouse both want Medigap coverage, each of you will have to purchase separate Medigap policies.
  • Throughout your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you can buy a Medigap policy from any insurance company licensed in your state.
  • Insurance companies can charge different premiums for identical Medigap plan types. While browsing policies from various companies, be sure to compare policies under the same plan type.
  • Some states have laws that might provide additional protections.

 Timing matters with Medigap 

The ideal time to purchase a Medigap policy is during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period which lasts for 6 months and starts on the first day of the month you are both 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. Though some states have additional Open Enrollment Periods.

If you are under 65 and have Medicare because of a disability or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), you might not be able to purchase the Medigap policy you prefer, or any Medigap policy, until the age of 65.

Throughout your Open Enrollment Period, an insurance company cannot use medical underwriting to determine if your application is accepted. This means the company cannot:

  • Refuse to sell you any Medigap policy it offers
  • Charge you more for a Medigap policy than they charge someone with no health problems
  • Require you to wait for coverage to start. (There are exceptions to this.)

Please find a link to complete details in the work cited at the bottom of the page.

Within your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you have the right to buy any Medigap policy offered in your state, and you will often get superior prices along with additional policies to choose from.

To her delight, Maggie locates a detailed chart that displays the Medicare Supplement or Medigap plans offered by ManhattanLife. She examines the benefits and percentages covered under Plans A, C, F, G, and N.

* Starting January 1, 2020, Medigap plans that cover the Part B deductible (Plans C and F) won’t be available to people new to Medicare. If you have one of these plans (or the high deductible version of Plan F), you can keep it. If you were eligible for Medicare before January 1, 2020, but not yet enrolled, you may buy one of these plans with the Part B deductible coverage.

** Plan N pays 100% of the Part B coinsurance, except for a copayment of up to $20 for some office visits and up to a $50 copayment for emergency room visits that don't result in inpatient admission.

If you apply for Medigap coverage after your Open Enrollment Period has finished, there is no guarantee that an insurance company will sell you a Medigap policy if you do not meet the medical underwriting requirements. The exception to this might be that you are eligible for guaranteed issue rights, also referred to as Medigap protections.

Furthermore, your Medigap rights may depend on when you choose to enroll in Medicare Part B. If you are 65 or older, your Medigap Open Enrollment Period begins when you enroll in Part B, and it cannot be changed or repeated.

Our prudent protagonist, Maggie, notices another stipulation that concerns employer coverage:

If you already have group health coverage from an employer or union, it may be best to wait before enrolling in Part B. Benefits based on current employment often provide coverage like Part B, so you would not want to pay for Part B before you need it. Of course, a Medigap Open Enrollment Period may also expire before a Medigap policy is helpful.

Maggie glances further down the page and spots something called Medicare SELECT. She proceeds to raise an eyebrow with curiosity…


For more info, please visit ManhattanLife Medicare Supplements

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 2022. 2022 Choosing a Medigap Policy

Kaiser Family Foundation. 2019. Medicare Overview


maggie and manhattanlife's medicare supplement part 1

Unpacking Medicare Supplement: Part 1

Maggie is on the cusp of celebrating her 65th birthday. Having recently retired from her thirty-year career at an energy company, she is feeling as buoyant as ever. With both her children in graduate school, she is preparing to spend some quality time with her husband and adopt new hobbies. But before blowing out her candles, she has some major decisions to make.

Of course, Maggie wants to enjoy her experiences and not worry about health challenges that could arise. She knows the significance of having comprehensive medical insurance. She knows too that she’ll qualify for Medicare but realizes the limitations it may have.

Maggie is far from alone in her uncertainties about handling such coverage at this point in life.

Let’s join Maggie as she explores various options to find the proper coverage for her.

First, Maggie must learn about Medicare and what it entails.

 Some Quick History: 

In the summer of 1965, President Johnson signed into law the bill that led to Medicare. It was created to provide coverage for an aging population challenged with unaffordable care often when their incomes were declining. Under Medicare, a person is covered regardless of income, medical history, or health status. Over time, this United States government health insurance program has evolved to include more individuals and benefits.

 What is Medicare? 

Today, Medicare is health insurance for people 65 or older, certain people under 65 with disabilities, and people of any age with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), a condition in which permanent kidney failure requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.

 3 - Medicare has 3 distinct parts. They are: 

Part A (Hospital Insurance) – This consists of inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and home health care.

Part B (Medical Insurance) – It includes services from doctors and other health care providers. Additionally, it covers outpatient care, home health care, and durable medical equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds, and other equipment.

Part D (Drug coverage) – Preventive services like screenings, shots, or vaccines, and yearly “Wellness” visits are covered.

 2Choose between Original Medicare/Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage 

 Original Medicare 

Original Medicare comprises Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Though you can add a separate Medicare drug plan to get Medicare drug coverage or Part D. Another feature is that you can use any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare anywhere in the U.S.

In several ways, this might be beneficial for our protagonist, Maggie. While thumbing through a magazine, she comes across images of ancient architecture, stunningly blue beaches, and trains headed someplace fantastic. This entices her to do some travelling as well. Though to be extra cautious, she’ll want to consider foreign travel emergency coverage.

To obtain that, she’ll need to purchase supplemental coverage called Medicare Supplement Insurance which is also known as Medigap. This coverage also assists in paying out-of-pocket expenses, copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.

 Medicare Advantage  (also known as Part C)                                                        

This alternative to Original Medicare for your health and drug coverage is a Medicare-approved plan from a private company. These plans are “bundled” and consist of Part A, Part B, and usually Part D.

Typically, you’d have to use doctors that are in the plan’s network.

Plans could have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage could also offer other services not covered under Original Medicare like vision, hearing, and dental services.

Medicare Advantage has Part A and B, and usually Part D with some extra benefits. Some plans might include lower out-of-pocket-costs as well.

 1 – The Enrollment Period 

When you enroll is key to obtaining the right insurance for you, regardless of how you’re insured.

Generally, unless the individual is still working and prefers to keep the insurance their employer provides or due to other extenuating circumstances, most people can enroll in Medicare beginning 3 months prior to turning 65, plus the month they turn 65, and 3 months after their birthday month. This adds up to a seven-month enrollment period.

Maggie is only two months shy of reaching this age, which means she’s already within her personal enrollment period. It’s recommended that she act right away and enroll.


For info, please visit ManhattanLife Medicare Supplements

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.2021. Medicare History

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 2022. 2022 Choosing a Medigap Policy

Kaiser Family Foundation. 2019. Medicare Overview

 


Biometrics

Essential Health Biometrics and You

Health biometrics matter greatly. Yet the very mention of the term conjures images of various, potentially overwhelming data that must be examined and understood before benefiting the person it describes. This article pertains specifically to blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and body mass index (BMI), and provides an informative, but not exhaustive look at all four items.


Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure that is exerted by the blood upon the walls of the blood vessels and arteries. It varies with the muscular efficiency of the heart, the blood volume and viscosity, the age and health of the person, and the condition of the vascular wall. It typically rises and falls throughout the day.
Blood pressure readings are given in two numbers. The top number is the maximum pressure the heart exerts while beating (systolic pressure). The bottom number is the amount of pressure in the arteries between beats (diastolic pressure). An example would be 112/72.
Below are the blood pressure ranges:

  • Normal = Systolic <120 and diastolic <80
  • Elevated = Systolic 120-129 and diastolic <80
  • Stage 1 = Systolic 130-139 or diastolic 80-89
  • Stage 2 = Systolic less than or equal to 140 or diastolic less than or equal to 90

Prolonged high blood pressure can create problems.
There are multiple ways to reduce blood pressure. Here are four:

  • Reduce your stress with exercise, meditation, or yoga.
  • Rethink your diet. Processed and packaged foods along with foods that are high in sodium don't help. Foods high in potassium do help.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Avoid using tobacco, as it raises blood pressure.

Cholesterol
Then there is cholesterol. The term gets tossed around more than a leaf in a hurricane, but here's a simple definition of it.
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance made in the liver and found in certain foods. When too much is present, it can accumulate and cause hardening or narrowing of the arteries which may lead to heart disease and other problems.
Your total cholesterol level should be less than 200 mg/dl. Triglycerides are a type of fat formed from glycerol and three fatty acids. Triglycerides and cholesterol are both types of lipids. HDL indicates "good" cholesterol because it helps your body naturally regulate cholesterol levels, while LDL means "bad" cholesterol. Below are the best lipid levels to aim for:

  • HDL (high-density lipids) > 40 mg/dl
  • LDL (low-density lipids) < 100 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides < 150 mg/dl

Here are a few ways to improve your numbers:

  • Good nutrition and regular exercise can lead to weight loss. Make substitutions. Switch from bad fats to good fats. Adding more fiber makes a difference as well.
  • Drink water consistently.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables instead of chips.
  • Increasing activity can help lower triglycerides.

Glucose
Glucose is another number to pay attention to. It's a sugar energy source our body creates from food. A glucose test measures the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream. This is a crucial number to know because it indicates whether a person is diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Glucose levels should usually be within the following ranges:
Before eating: 70 - 100 mg/dl
After eating: <200 mg/dl
These numbers may vary depending on the test taken.
These are some actions to improve glucose levels:

  • Meet with a dietician.
  • Increase activity levels with moderate exercise. The activity doesn't have to be strenuous to be effective.
  • Explore community options. Seek education and support.

Body Mass Index
Finally, we have Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a good number to know. But it is not a diagnostic tool and has limitations.
Body Mass Index is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. It's an indicator of body fat and a low cost, easy way of screening for weight levels that may lead to health problems.
The BMI categories are:

  • Underweight - Under 18.5
  • Normal - 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight - 25 to 29.9
  • Obese - 30 and above

Here are some simple tips to get your best BMI:

  • Set some goals.
  • Create a healthful regimen and stick to it.
  • Get active. This is a method that bears repeating as it makes a huge difference.
  • Eat right to boost the metabolism.

As always, consult a physician or a nutritionist for more information about what your biometric numbers mean. You can monitor these figures and others with regular checkups. Obtaining these numbers not only provides you with more knowledge, but also affords better control of your health and life.

*Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. CDC.GOV; MedlinePlus. 2022.MEDLINEPLUS.GOV


Prioritize Employee Needs.

Ctrl+Shift. Prioritize Employee Needs. Don’t Fall Victim to The Great Resignation.

The COVID-era has introduced new challenges that employers, employees, and benefits consultants are having to sort through. The workplace landscape has changed, and in a quest for work-life balance and security, control has shifted, and employees have the leverage…at least for now.

First, let’s level set.

By now, you’ve heard of what has been coined “The Great Resignation”. Spawned by the pandemic, U.S. workers began quitting their jobs starting in the Spring of 2021 at near-record levels in search of better available opportunities elsewhere. By the end of 2021, 48 million people had quit, or 30% of the American workforce (1). I wish I could say it’s getting better – 4.53 million employees quit in March of 2022 (1). Throughout this period, workers have left work because of an increased safety net from pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, student-loan interest rate freezes, and an abundant supply of good paying jobs. 

As of the latest information released in May 2022, there are almost 12 million job vacancies, with a hire rate of almost 6.6 million (1). The quit rates and job vacancies vs. hire ratio remain high. Employees are in the driver’s seat and everybody knows it. 

For a more detailed look at the “Why” behind the Great Resignation, here’s an excellent article: Pew Research Center Article on COVID-19 and the U.S. Economy

Let’s continue to frame the difficult situation employers and employees are facing.

To further break it down, according to Gartner, Inc., a technological research and consulting firm, U.S. employee annual voluntary turnover is likely to continue to jump by another 20% in 2022, with 37.4 million people expected to quit their jobs this year (5.5 million more than pre-pandemic levels) (2). New employee expectations will continue to fuel the rise in attrition. An organization with a turnover rate of 20% before the pandemic could face a turnover rate as high as 24% in 2022 and the years to come. Meaning, a workforce of 25,000 employees that would normally be prepared for 4,000 resignations would need to prepare for an additional 1,000 voluntary departures.

Inflation, now at a 41-year high, has put every dollar earned and every dollar spent under scrutiny. The 12-month inflation rate is up to 8.5% (1), with virtually everything being more expensive, and we are all feeling it. Gas is up 43.6% year-over-year, energy is up 11%, housing is up 6.5%, and rent is up 4.8%.

Medical care is only up 3.2% year-over-year; however, deductibles, copays, and out-of-pockets are steadily rising. In 2014, ACA lowered maximum out-of-pockets to $6,350 for an Individual/$12,700 for a family, but the 2023 levels have recently been set at $9,100/$18,200. Unsustainable increases everywhere you look for the average American.

While COVID seems to be less lethal and more under control now through treatment and awareness, there appears to be no end in sight for the instability of our financial markets. In fact, the DOW index had just finished down 8 straight weeks for the first time since the Great Depression, and there are fears of a recession which JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon calls “an economic hurricane right out there down the road and heading our way.”

Americans are coming off a few tough years and are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They want solutions that can help them.

Employees need security.

There are important factors that stand out which drive somebody to accept work and stay at work at any given employer – the total rewards package, the company culture, workplace flexibility, and upward mobility. When it comes to the total rewards package, which has traditionally been more of an employee attraction tool than a retention tool, employee departure has become an impetus for employers to start making reasonable changes to employee programs. These changes can include items like permanent remote or hybrid work, expanded time off, student loan relief, mental health services, and voluntary benefits like critical illness, accident, hospital Indemnity/GAP, life, and disability insurance.

According to the Willis Towers Watson, due to the pandemic, 94% of large employers say that voluntary benefits will be more important to their total rewards strategy going forward, compared with 36 percent of employers who deemed them to be important in 2018 (3). Additionally, 70.8% of employers offered at least 3 different types of voluntary benefits in 2020 (4). In 2021, that number increased to 82.4%, and this trend is expected to continue. Consider this:

•    7 in 10 people in the U.S. are living paycheck-to-paycheck (5).
•    71% of Americans are concerned they don’t have enough money saved for emergencies (6).
•    The average Hospital stay is 4.5 days at an average cost of $10,400 per day (7).
•    Average out-of-pocket cost of a pregnancy was $4,500 – even with insurance. This includes pregnancy, labor and delivery, and three months of postpartum care (8).
•    Men have a 1-in-2 lifetime risk of developing cancer; For women, a little more than 1-in-3. Just in the U.S. alone, it is projected in 2022 that there will be an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 609,360 cancer deaths (9).
•    The estimated annual incidence of heart attacks in the U.S. is 720,000 new attacks and 335,000 recurrent attacks (10).

As a result of the day-to-day challenges employees face, 71% of employees reported that they intended to spend more time reviewing their voluntary benefits, with 53% planned to make changes to their benefits (11). Employees are finding ways to maximize their resources to achieve security for themselves and their families.

It is time for employers to act.

At this point, employers are acutely aware of their task at hand as employee attraction and retention has become a hot, and expensive, topic. Currently, 87% of employers are aware of the importance of employee retention and consider it a primary concern (12), while 64% of employees are actively looking for a different job (13). In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management estimates that the cost of replacing an employee is 6 to 9 months of that employee’s annual salary, or 2.9 million dollars per day for American employers (14). 
For employers to respond and restore a balance of control, they need to think even more strategically than ever about their greatest assets – their employees. They can start by asking themselves these questions:

•    How can employers create a modern-day working environment where people are highly engaged?
•    How can employers deploy new tools and strategies to help its teams feel more connected to their leaders, co-workers, and the work at hand?
•    How can an employers introduce new benefit options that fit the culture, and will they be utilized, valued, and useful in attracting and retaining a healthy, productive, and diverse workforce?

To build the foundation for a stronger business, employers need to implement real strategies to deal with turnover to make employees feel valued, wanted, and respected. Voluntary benefits are an important component to an employer’s total rewards package and their availability in the marketplace should be taken advantage of.

Many companies are increasing salaries, as money continues to be cheap, but not every employer has the financial resources as a Fortune 500 company. Also, U.S. employers are budgeting for an average overall salary increase of 3.4% in 2022 (15), which is far less than everyday costs have been rising, as I previously described. On the contrary, voluntary benefits are cost neutral to the employer, affordable to the employee, and customizable. Voluntary benefits can help to keep employees productive and at work instead of dealing with uncontrollable financial stress. A well thought out implementation of a new voluntary benefits offering, including individual benefits counseling and effective communication on how plan offerings can provide an additional layer of help and peace of mind, is an easy way to give employees more of what they need to manage real life situations. 

By fully understanding workplace trends and needs of employees, and given some time, employers can start to shift the control once again and participate in the Great Retention, leaving the Great Resignation for the history books.

Sources:

1.    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022
2.    Gartner, Inc., 2022
3.    Willis Towers Watson’s Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey, 2021
4.    Corestream Pulse Survey, 2022
5.    Forbes, 2022
6.    MagnifyMoney, 2022
7.    HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2022
8.    University of Michigan, 2015
9.    American Cancer Society, 2022
10.    American Heart Association, 2022
11.    Kiplinger’s Consumer News Services
12.    KRONOS, 2021
13.    PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2021
14.    Society for Human Resource Management, 2022
15.    Willis Towers Watson’s Salary Budget Planning Report, 2022

About the Author:

Drew has built a career in the group insurance business over the past 15 years. His expertise in voluntary benefits led him to join ManhattanLife in May 2020 as Regional Vice President of Sales for the Southeast. He collaborates closely with broker partners to educate on and tailor competitive voluntary benefits programs for employers with the goal of attracting and retaining the very best workforce. AndrewEvelyn@ManhattanLife.com


pedro's predicament and internet security

Internet Safety Tips and Pedro's Predicament

Recently, there lived a somewhat portly man called Pedro. He was average in height and above average in intellect, always donning orange frame eyeglasses with lenses so thick they were once seen entering a room before he did. Pedro also believed himself a fortunate family man, and people around town, save his perpetually irritated in-laws, agreed with him.

On an especially humid morning, during vacation from work and wishing to be miles from his wife, Josie, and their twin children, Pedro found respite at a coffee shop. There he took a comfortable seat among the sea of future screenwriters.

He used his laptop to easily join the shop's public wi-fi network, before repeatedly signing into his email account and making a couple of minor purchases. At one point, he stepped away to perform a few age-defying stretches and purchased at least one cup of coffee so he wouldn’t be that guy. Minutes after, Pedro returned to his spot and noticed no changes to his computer. Feeling satisfied and productive, he left an hour later.

You’re smart. You know where this is headed. But let's proceed as if you don't.

Pedro was diligently sweeping the front porch of his house when he received a phone call from his bank that afternoon. He was gently notified that a few large and unusual transactions had taken place using his credit card information. The representative said more sentences as Pedro, with great horror, realized his errors. Without humidity’s help, new beads of sweat began to form on his face. Once Pedro convinced the representative that he had not, in fact, arranged to travel from Nebraska to Dubai for a dirt biking convention, he hung up.

Pedro dropped the broom, went inside, and darted for the study, ignoring the chorus of questions and funny looks from his family. He hastily closed the door behind him and moved to adjust the curtains across the room, knowing the action was in vain. No matter what effort was put into handling them, those curtains never seemed to meet his demand. He only ever wanted just enough extra light let in, but was only ever given weak dimness, as if the curtains were in constant battle with the calm, quiet room they were meant to support.

Done with the task, Pedro collapsed into the leather chair behind his desk to contemplate.

Pedro’s misfortune has inspired a list of 5 simple internet-related safety tips, and perhaps your main reason for clicking on this article. The first two are:

  1. Avoid making financial transactions using public wi-fi networks. Encryption has certainly advanced but so have the hackers or similar creatures that seek to dismantle such security measures.
  2. Avoid leaving your mobile devices unattended while in public, even if it’s only for a few seconds. A few seconds is all that’s needed. The elderly woman sitting across from you might be as innocent as a burping newborn, but her grown grandson just three feet away could have chosen a more nefarious path. At the very least, lock your devices. Someone doesn’t have to physically take something in order to get whatever they want from it.

Our protagonist’s saga wasn’t quite over though.

Seated there, two things sprung to Pedro’s mind. First, he recalled how six months before, his mischievous son, Ivan, got on to the next-door neighbors’ home wi-fi network called TheStarkLair, using the password 1234, and proceeded to download dozens of video games. The neighbors found out, became furious, and promised the next person that used their wi-fi without permission would regret it. Pedro had guessed such punishment included being dragged to their themed holiday parties for all eternity, but he could not confirm this.

Yet Pedro’s wife, Josie, ever the diplomat, defused the situation and promised that no one from their family would ever again use the network. She later insisted her parents not be told about the incident. So, no one, including Pedro, ever did.

Secondly, Pedro felt he was turning into the dullard his wife’s parents believed he was. He remembered one specific night when he’d just come in from taking out the trash. From the kitchen, he overheard his mother-in-law loudly whispering to his wife and father-in-law what she thought of Pedro: “He’s goofy. He also interrupts the flow of things.” Pedro found the statement amusing because she’d stopped right in the middle of draining water from a colander filled with freshly cooked pasta to say it. Even so, Pedro’s father-in-law chimed in to happily concur.

Nope, Pedro decided. No person in the family would be told about his coffee shop woe. The money was insured and soon, all would be right once more.

We do have 3 remaining tips. They are:

  1. It’s important to change your home router default password to a brand new and strong password. Default router passwords are readily accessible and can be used by others. To make a great password, check out our blog: How to make a password no one will crack.
  2. Keep your software and browsers current. These days many browsers update automatically. But certain software may not. Flaws are found and fixed, making a device more secure. Consult your device’s manual or a comparable source for assistance. 
  3. Whether it’s your mobile phone or a laptop, backing up your data regularly is a good habit. Consult your device’s manual or a comparable resource for assistance with this, also.

How did Pedro fare in the aftermath though? What became of him?

How exactly his information was acquired was never figured out. But Pedro did manage to get a tiny speck of justice which arrived in an unexpected form.

It was the night before he, his wife, and children were to leave for Argentina for a month, with the in-laws set to house-sit. Pedro was sitting in his study, poring over significant documents. Suddenly, his father-in-law barged in, either completely forgetting his manners or remembering again how much he disliked the man his only daughter chose to wed.

He explained to Pedro that he was having difficulty connecting to the family’s wi-fi network on his phone. All he could locate was this one network named TheStarkLair.

“Ivan told me the password is 1234,” his father-in-law said. “Seems a little silly. That is your home network and the one I should use, right?”

The spectacled Pedro sighed deeply. Not wanting to interfere with the flow of things, he looked up from his papers and with a rarely exhibited, glowing confidence replied: “It sure is. Go right ahead. Use it as much as you like.”

Pedro’s father-in-law muttered something adjacent to a “thanks” and stormed off.

Pedro leaned forward from the back of his chair and steepled his fingers. He knew his bliss would likely be short-lived. Nevertheless, a small grin appeared on his face. It was then he noticed the room was a little less dim, and he hadn't even touched the curtains that day.

***Despite the mood of this blog post, internet safety is a serious and sensitive matter. For more detailed information, visit cisa.gov. For specific device questions, consider checking your manual, a similar source, or asking an electronics seller, a provider, or a technologically gifted friend.


calculator and paper money on a table.jpg

Financial Literacy and 5 Questions to Get You Started!

Financial literacy may not hold the allure that other, more coveted skills do, but it is one that can and should be learned. To be financially literate means to possess fiscal knowledge and apply it effectively. Yet research indicates that just 57% of adults in the United States are financially literate.[1] For some of us, the topic alone is as broad as it is intimidating, full of treacherous territory we’d rather not negotiate, for fear of the ghoulish things we might happen upon. Every person has their own set of specifics that dictates how their monetary life will play out. This could be why financial literacy is often left for the individual to find their way to, using the trial and error of others to guide them.

To first rein in your finances and better understand its parts, here are 5 basic questions to ask yourself:

1. What are your tangible goals for the present and the future?

Write these down, with the utmost detail and data. This information can help measure how much your personal story intersects with the money helping facilitate it.

2. What is your current financial state?

Get to know your wages well. Figure out what you earn in a day, a week, a month, and a year.

3. What do you spend the most and the least on?

There is rent or mortgage, food, utilities, medical and life insurance, taxes, and maybe pets. The number of necessary items can seem endless. Then there are those pesky incidentals that spring up like weeds, only they arrive at much greater speed and demand swift action.

4. What can you omit from your spending list?

Of course, the answer to this will vary drastically with each person. But unnecessary spending today can require even more necessary spending later. As this author’s former self can attest, the obscenely priced sports jersey from that auction site was not worth the dramatic fallout it spawned.

5. What does your budget statement look like?

If you don’t have one already, they’re easy to create using spreadsheet software, or if you prefer the analog method, they can be drawn and written out on paper. The budget statement provides a thorough, visual look at the array of purchases made along with those that are expected. Here you obtain exact calculations which will either be revelatory or reassuring or both.

All these questions can serve as a prelude to achieving financial literacy.

The adage holds: “Money is only as useful as the way it’s treated.” Let’s further explore this concept with something akin to a word problem.

Ann makes $18 an hour. Mia earns $28 an hour. The ladies each work 40 hours a week and have the same deductions, with near-identical domestic circumstances. At first glance, one might suspect Mia probably lives comfortably, while Ann struggles.

However, Ann manages her money prudently, while Mia spends frivolously and finds herself entranced by the smoke billowing from her debit card every time she swipes it. In this scenario, budgeting prowess matters more than numbers on a paycheck. Financial literacy must be taken as seriously as every other aspect of life, a fact that swipe-happy Mia will have to ultimately acknowledge.

Whether you identify with Ann or Mia, the path to a healthier financial state is navigable for everyone. Like with anything new or less understood, it’s best to start small, perhaps with a reputable book or a similar resource, and develop your acumen from there. Initially, managing one’s money can look menacing and rife with complexities this article doesn’t even start to cover. But if approached optimistically and undertaken carefully, financial literacy can enrich you in ways far beyond a bank account.

 

[1] S&P Global FinLit Survey. 2015. https://gflec.org/initiatives/sp-global-finlit-survey/


what is Advantage series from manhattanlife

What is the Advantage Series?

The Advantage Series from ManhattanLife

The Advantage Series is Group Coverage Designed for Small to Mid-Sized Businesses. Choose between stock, turnkey coverage or take a more customized approach.

Build the coverage portfolio that meets your and your employee needs.

  • Accident
  • Critical Illness
  • Short-Term Disability
  • Hospital Indemnity

To issue a contract, Accident, Critical Illness, and Hospital Indemnity only require a minimum of 5 employees enrolled, and Short-Term Disability only requires a minimum of 10 employees enrolled!

Accident Indemnity

As healthcare costs continue to rise, the need for supplemental insurance coverage becomes imperative. An Accident Indemnity Plan from ManhattanLife’s Advantage Series can help address employee concerns, offering supplemental coverage for the associated costs of Accidents and Injuries.

Benefits include coverage for specified:

  • Initial Emergency Care
  • Inpatient Hospital Care
  • Surgical Care
  • Follow-up Care
  • Recovery Care
  • Preventative Care

Accident Indemnity offers Guaranteed Issue coverage, with no health questions or medical exams! Employee and Family coverage are available.

Add optional riders for more coverage! Total Disability Premium Waiver Rider and a Well-Being Benefit Rider are available.

Employees can take their coverage with them beyond employment! Their coverage stays inforce as long as premiums are paid and the group master contract remains inforce.

Critical Illness

We understand that treatment is not the only financial burden that comes with a covered Critical Illness diagnosis. A Critical Illness plan from ManhattanLife’s Advantage Series is an affordable solution that gives the advantage of choice. We pay a lump-sum benefit directly to employees - they choose whether to use the funds for deductibles, co-payments, living expenses, childcare, or anything else.

Choose from Cancer-only, Classic, and Preferred plan options. 

Benefits for Classic and Preferred plan options include coverage for specified:

  • Cardiac events
  • Cerebral Vascular Diseases
  • Cancer
  • Progressive Diseases
  • Other specified illnesses

Guaranteed issue is available for:

  • A maximum of $20,000 for employees;
  • 50% of the employee benefit for the spouse; and
  • 25% up to $5,000 for each eligible child.

The Classic and Preferred plan options have a built-in Recurrence Benefit that provides an additional benefit for a recurrent diagnosis! A Waiver of Premium Benefit will waive the insured’s premiums if they are Totally Disabled for a minimum of 180 days due to a covered Critical Illness.

Optional riders are available for more coverage! Add an Infectious Diseases Benefit Rider, Childhood Conditions Benefit Rider, and/or a Well-Being Benefit Rider.

Employees can take their coverage with them beyond employment! Their coverage stays inforce as long as premiums are paid and the group master contract remains inforce.

Short-Term Disability

As health care costs continue to rise, the value of supplemental insurance coverage becomes more apparent. Short-Term Disability from ManhattanLife’s Advantage Series can help protect employees and their families’ assets when an accident or illness leaves an employee disabled. When they are unable to work, Short-Term Disability provides benefits that can help pay bills for housing costs, food, car payments, or additional expenses.

Benefits include coverage for specified:

  • Total Disability
  • Partial Disability 

Choose between “24-hour” and “Off-the-Job” coverage options. Benefit periods include 3, 6, or 12 months, with benefit amounts between $300 and $6,000 (not to exceed 60% of the insured’s income).

ManhattanLife also offers a variety of optional enhancements to increase coverage value. Choose from a Catastrophic Disability Benefit, Accidental Death Benefit, Presumptive Disability, Survivor Benefit, and/or a Terminal Illness Benefit.

Employees can keep their coverage up to 12 months after their employment ends or until age 70, whichever happens first.

Hospital Indemnity

High deductibles and copays for hospital stays could put a financial strain on your employees when they should be focusing on their health. A ManhattanLife Hospital Indemnity plan provides the supplemental coverage to help bridge the gap between health insurance and out-of-pocket expenses in the event of an unforeseen hospital stay due to Injury or Sickness.

Benefits include coverage for specified:

  • Hospital Confinement
  • First Hospital Admission
  • Diagnostic Benefit
  • Intensive Care, Cardiac Care, and Burn Unit Care

Guaranteed Issue coverage is available!

Employees can take their coverage with them beyond employment! Their coverage stays inforce as long as premiums are paid and the group master contract remains inforce.

Not all products, benefits, and riders available in all states. Have a ManhattanLife agent contact you today or reach out to us at Advantage@manhattanlife.com.