The Everything Kids’ Money Book

November 15, 2022

You want your children to become financially stable adults. But how can you interest them in this important topic, and make it easy to learn about and fun, when they are in their formative years? Your answer is The Everything Kids’ Money Book by Brette Sember that visually depicts boys and girls undertaking some enterprise having to do with money such as having a lemonade stand, saving for a new bike, or collecting coins. Written with kids ages 7 to 11 in mind, the author promises to teach them about money—“Earn it, save it, and watch it grow.”

Hands-On Activities Covered

Would your child like to . . .

  • Learn how to make money at jobs appropriate for their age?
  • Track where a dollar bill has been before they got it? There’s a simple way to find out. 
  • Learn how to make all their pennies shiny? It’s easy.
  • Design their own dollar with someone’s face they like—Batman? Spiderman? The Incredibles?
  • Do a magic trick with a dollar bill to impress their friends?
  • Find out what fun things they can do for free? Grandpa and Grandma might know.
  • Make a pizza garden?

Fun Money Facts Revealed

Would they like to know . . .

  • Why they are called Piggy Banks, not Doggy banks, or something else?
  • What is the name of the buffalo on the nickel and where did it live?
  • What are dead dollars?
  • What are some things money has been made from in the past?

Difficult Concepts Explained

As a New York Law Guardian, Brette Sember has many years of experience working with children. She has written more than 40 books on a variety of topics, such as law, health, food, travel, education, business, finance, parenting, adoption, and seniors. In The Everything Kids’ Money Book, she tackles subjects such as:

  • Investments
  • Budgets
  • Saving money
  • The cost of living
  • Credit cards and debit cards
  • Income tax
  • Why borrowing money can lead to trouble
  • Why lottery tickets are not a good investment
  • Investments
  • Budgets
  • Saving money
  • The cost of living
  • Credit cards and debit cards
  • Income tax
  • Why borrowing money can lead to trouble
  • Why lottery tickets are not a good investment

All these topics are covered in easy-to-understand language and unfamiliar terms are defined in the glossary. Answers to some of the questions posed and a page of resources are included at the back of the book. This section features books and websites with ideas kids will enjoy, more magic tricks to perform with money, how to start a small business, a website with money games, and how to collect coins.

Kids’ Money Book Promoted

MyBankTracker.com which “tracks thousands of banks to help you find the perfect match for your banking needs,” says this book is “more than simply a manual; The Everything Kids’ Money Book is a well-organized workbook that covers everything from money printing to compound interest.”

Investopedia.com which calls itself “The world’s leading source of financial content on the web,” echoes this opinion by saying the book, “Not only teaches kids how to save and earn their own money but also how to invest and earn interest.”

InsureYouKnow.org

If you decide to spend some bonding time discussing money concepts with your daughter or son, you may learn or relearn some basic financial truths. Keep a list of your kids’ moneymaking, spending, and savings plans at insureyouknow.org. You can measure their financial success on this portal and watch with them the ebb and flow of their profits and expenses.

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Look Forward to Increases in Your 401(k) Limits

October 31, 2022

The amount you can contribute to your 401(k) plan in 2023 has increased to $22,500, up from $20,500 for 2022. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced this change and issued technical guidance regarding all of the cost‑of‑living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for the tax year 2023 in Notice 2022-55 posted on IRS.gov.

Highlights of changes for 2023

This contribution limit applies to employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.

The limit on annual contributions to an IRA increased to $6,500, up from $6,000. The IRA catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost‑of‑living adjustment and remains $1,000.

The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan has increased to $7,500, up from $6,500. Participants in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan who are 50 and older can contribute up to $30,000, starting in 2023.

The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees) plans has increased to $3,500, up from $3,000. (This plan allows employees and employers to contribute to traditional IRAs set up for employees. It is ideally suited as a start-up retirement savings plan for small employers not currently sponsoring a retirement plan.)

The income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), to contribute to Roth IRAs, and to claim the Saver’s Credit all increased for 2023.

Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. (If neither the taxpayer nor the spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, the phase-outs of the deduction do not apply.)

Phase-out ranges

In a traditional IRA deduction phase-out, taxpayers can deduct contributions if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either they or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be phased out until it is eliminated, depending on filing status, and adjusted gross income (AGI):

  • For single people covered by a workplace retirement plan, the IRA phase-out range is $73,000 to $83,000, up from $68,000 to $78,000.
  • For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $116,000 to $136,000, up from $109,000 to $129,000.
  • For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $218,000 and $228,000, up from $204,000 and $214,000.
  • For married individuals filing a separate return who are covered by a workplace retirement plan, if they lived with their spouse at any time during the year, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

For a Roth IRA income phase-out, AGI ranges for taxpayers include the following provisions:

  • The income phase-out range for singles and heads of household is $138,000 to $153,000, up from $129,000 to $144,000.
  • The income phase-out range for married couples filing jointly is $218,000 to $228,000, up from $204,000 to $214,000.
  • For married individuals filing a separate return, if they lived with their spouse at any time during the year, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

The 2023 income limit for the Saver’s Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) for low- and moderate-income workers has increased to:

  • $73,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $68,000.
  • $54,750 for heads of household, up from $51,000.
  • $36,500 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $34,000.
  • For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains between $0 and $10,000.

The amount individuals can contribute to their SIMPLE retirement accounts has increased to $15,500, up from $14,000.

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After you review the IRS retirement plan changes for 2023, keep a record at insureyouknow.org of your retirement accounts so you’ll be able to take advantage of the new limits for your contributions and deductions.

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Preparing for a Flood Before Disaster Strikes

October 15, 2022

Flooding is the most common and most damaging natural disaster in the country. In Florida, where Hurricane Ian’s floodwaters turned towns into rivers, flood risk is higher due to the state’s frequency of storms and proximity to water. Despite this, most insurance policies do not automatically cover flooding. No matter where you live, you should check your auto and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies as an initial step in preparing for a flood to keep you and your loved ones safe when a flood interrupts your lives.

Determining Your Risk Level

To find out the risk level of your property location, visit FloodSmart.gov/Flood-Map-Zone.

Because research has found that FEMA’s flood maps underestimate the danger in some areas as climate change advances, homeowners and renters unaware of their level of risk should act on the following points:

  • Are you in a flash-flood-prone area? Contact the local county geologist or county planning department to find out if your home is in a flash-flood-prone area or a landslide-prone area.
  • Make a communication plan and a disaster plan for your family.
  • Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be the “family contact” in case your family is separated during a flood. Make sure everyone in your family knows the name, address, and phone number of your contact person.
  • Stay informed. Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
  • Inform local authorities about any special needs, such as elderly or bedridden people, or anyone with a disability.

Preparing Your Home for a Flood

  • Make sure you secure or protect any hazards in your home before the flood strikes.
  • Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate. Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate. Secure structurally unstable building materials.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher if you don’t already have one. Make sure your family knows where it is and how to use it.
  • Buy and install sump pumps with backup power.
  • Have a licensed electrician raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12″ above your home’s projected flood elevation.
  • For drains, toilets, and other sewer connections, install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering.
  • Anchor fuel tanks can contaminate your basement if torn free. An unanchored tank outside can be swept downstream and damage other houses.

Creating an Emergency Supply Kit

Stock your home with supplies you may need during the flood by creating an emergency supply kit. Visit the CDC’s Personal Health Preparedness page for a list of supplies you’ll want to include in your kit.

Preparing Food and Water Supplies

Make sure you and your family have enough safe food and water (for drinking, cooking, and bathing) available in the event of a flood. For more information, visit Food and Water Needs: Preparing for a Disaster or Emergency.

Reentering Your Flooded Home

When returning to a home that’s been flooded after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, be aware that your house may be contaminated with mold or sewage, which can cause health risks for your family. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for reentering your flooded home.

Reviewing Flood Insurance Options

Although you can purchase flood insurance at any time, waiting until a hurricane or major storm is threatening your home may be too late. Many policies take at least 30 days after purchase to take effect.

The National Flood Insurance Program is a pre-disaster flood mitigation and insurance protection program designed to reduce the escalating cost of disasters. This program makes federally backed flood insurance available to residents and business owners. Standard flood insurance by the National Flood Insurance Program generally covers physical damages directly caused by flooding within the limits of the coverage purchased. Private providers may have higher limits or broader coverage compared to National Flood Insurance Program policies.

Regardless of which policy you select for your business or family, any coverage is better than none. If your property experiences flooding impacts from a disaster, it is not guaranteed you will be able to receive federal assistance. If your area has not received a Presidential Disaster Declaration that makes federal assistance available under FEMA, you will not receive federal assistance.

When there is an official Presidential Disaster Declaration, National Flood Insurance Program policyholders are encouraged to apply for FEMA disaster assistance in addition to their flood insurance claim. For more information, visit National Flood Insurance Program or call1-800-621-FEMA.

Filing a Flood Insurance Claim

Flood insurance claims can be filed anytime you experience flooding on your property and can cover both a property and its contents.

If you need to file a flood insurance claim, be informed and prepared so that recovery can move quickly and smoothly. Before a disaster strikes, have updated photos of your home or business so that insurance providers can clearly examine your property and belongings. If your property has experienced flood impacts, take extensive photos of the damages before cleaning up. This will allow insurance providers to compare before and after photos to determine the extent of damages and arrange the best claim payment possible. As you’re cleaning, make a detailed list of lost or damaged items. If you have original receipts for items, hold onto those for documentation in your claim. After gathering all the necessary information, contact your insurance company to begin filing your claim.

InsureYouKnow.org

At InsureYouKnow.org, file your auto, and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies, photos before and showing flood damage, an inventory of your home and possessions, and your checklists of supplies needed for emergency events. If you are impacted by a flood, also keep track on this portal of your insurance claims and interactions with your insurance company and FEMA.

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Take a Vacation = Take Care of Yourself

September 27, 2022

You work hard but do you also take time to relax, seek adventure, and recharge your mind and body? There are some major benefits to taking a vacation although many employees come up with excuses not to use all their vacation time each year.

Memo to Employees: Taking a Vacation Has Benefits

After you come up with a bounty of excuses for not taking a vacation—you feel guilty about being away from your office, you may think a vacation would be too expensive, or you are saving excess time for an unexpected event—you may be able to overcome these obstacles when you realize a vacation can provide the following benefits.

  • Improves mental health. A recent study reports that after taking a vacation, travelers feel less anxious, happier, and well-rested.
  • Brings happiness before, during, and after a trip. Planning a vacation helps you visualize the happiness your vacation will bring that will be experienced during your trip and as fond memories after you return to work.
  • Increases productivity and creativity. When your brain is exposed to new experiences including languages, sights, sounds, and cultures, you feel revitalized, and your creativity is boosted. If you take regular time to relax, you’ll be less likely to experience burnout.
  • Strengthens relationships. Traveling and exploring with other travelers—friends, family, or even a tour group– can add some fun and closeness to your relationships.

Memo to Employers: Encouraging your workers to take a vacation has benefits

If you are an employer, encourage your workers to take time off. Both you and your team deserve a break and the freedom to schedule vacations. To encourage your employees to take vacations, pay attention to these tips from Business News Daily:

  • Acknowledge your employees’ need for vacation time.
  • Build a process through which team members can cover for colleagues taking time off.
  • Regularly remind employees of deadlines to submit holiday vacation requests.
  • Show interest in your employees’ vacation plans.
  • Clearly explain your time-off policies in your employee handbook.
  • Promote a healthy work-life balance as part of your company culture.
  • Lead by example and take vacations.

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Whether you rely on colorful printed brochures or flashy online resources, start planning a well-deserved vacation now! When you decide on an international, stateside, or local adventure, check on any medical precautions, prescriptions you may need to have at the ready for the duration of your trip, and health and travel insurance policies. Then, record all your travel arrangements for your getaway at insureyouknow.org.

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Play an Active Role to Prevent Childhood Obesity

August 30, 2022

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, observed in September, is dedicated to educating children and their families on how to prevent childhood obesity. Parents, teachers, and caregivers of young children are continuously challenged to find ways to prevent childhood obesity.

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts. Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States where one in five children and adolescents are affected. Some groups of children are more impacted than others, but all children are at risk of gaining weight that is higher than what is considered healthy.

Obesity is a complex disease with many contributing factors including genetics, eating patterns, physical activity levels, and sleep routines. Societal and community factors also matter— childcare and school environments, neighborhood design, access to health, affordable foods and beverages, and connections to safe and convenient places for physical activity affect the ability of children to make healthy choices.

Strategies to Prevent Obesity

As a parent or a caregiver, you can help prevent obesity at homehealthcare systems can help families prevent and manage childhood obesity, and communities can use strategies to support a healthy, active lifestyle for all.

Compared to children with healthy weight, children who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

There are many ways parents and caregivers can help children have a healthy weight and set up lifelong healthy habits at home.

Healthy Eating Patterns

Adopting healthy eating patterns as a family helps children reach and maintain a healthy weight as they age. Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean protein foods, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products and following nutrition guidelines sets your family up for optimal health.

Help your children get the nutrients they need by making half their plate fruits and vegetables. Help kids rethink their drinks by replacing sugary drinks, such as soda, fruit drinks, and flavored milk, with water, 100 percent juice, or plain low-fat milk.

Movement Solutions

Physically active youth have stronger muscles and bones, better cardiovascular fitness, and lower body fat than those who are inactive.

Help your children move more and meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by making it a family affair. Walking the family pet before and after school, riding bikes, and having races in the yard all count toward physical activity. Active chores, such as washing the car, vacuuming a room, or raking leaves, also engage children in worthwhile physical activities.

Consistent Sleep Routines

Good sleep helps prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, injuries, poor mental health, and problems with attention and behavior. Kids who don’t get enough sleep are at risk for unhealthy weight gain. Researchers are still trying to learn how sleep is linked to weight gain. Some reasons might include causing a child to eat more or to be less physically active because of a lack of energy.

CDC provides guidelines for the number of hours needed to sleep by age group. Preschoolers need 11–13 hours of sleep per day, including naps. Children 6–12 years old need 9–12 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, and youth 13–18 need 8–10 hours. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, including on weekends, can help children sleep better.

Screen Time vs. Family Time

In young people, too much screen time can lead to poor sleep, weight gain, lower grades in school, and poor mental health. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities and can remove tendencies to eat unhealthy food.

Turning screens off an hour before bed and removing electronic devices from children’s bedrooms can help reduce screen time and improve sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends creating a family media plan with examples of how to reduce screen time.

Healthcare Providers’ Recommendations

Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you’re concerned about potential health risks associated with excess weight. Children with obesity are more likely to have type 2 diabetes, risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, muscle and joint problems, and fatty liver disease. Schedule annual physical checkups to routinely check on these medical conditions and to measure a child’s weight and height and plot them on growth charts to calculate BMI and assess patterns.

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At insureyouknow.org, keep a record of your child’s health insurance coverage, results from their annual wellness check-up, and follow-up recommendations to keep your child as healthy and happy as possible.

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Before You Step on the Gas, Plan Your Travel Strategy

June 11, 2022

The pros and cons of planning a summer road trip this year have gotten more complicated as rising gas prices threaten to make a bigger dent in your travel budget.

The national average for gasoline could be close to $6 by later this summer according to Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the OPIS, which tracks gas prices for AAA.

To cut your gas costs, consider using the following tips to get more miles per gallon as you embark on the summer excursion you’ve been dreaming about all year.

Slow down.

Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.15 per gallon for gas. Aggressive driving—speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking—wastes gas. Eliminate these practices and you may save $.12-$.82 per gallon for gas.

Keep your car maintained and running smoothly.

Make sure you have your car maintained before you hit the road by getting a tune up and clean air filters, inflating your tires properly, and using the proper grade of oil. Don’t fill up with premium gas if your car doesn’t require it. Before you drive, make sure your tires aren’t under-inflated. If they are, you will likely burn more fuel per mile than when your tires are correctly inflated.

Use your engine wisely.

Avoid excessive idling and use cruise control and overdrive gears.

Be smart about driving.

Plan errands to do them together, rather than on separate trips; carpool, walk, or cycle; use public transportation; and telecommute. If you’re in the market for a new car, consider buying a more energy-efficient or a smaller car.

Keep your car light.

Don’t store unnecessary items that add weight to your car. When you place cargo on the car’s roof, avoid excess weight that will put a strain on your engine and affect your fuel mileage.

Use apps to find the cheapest gas prices near you.

Stay updated on gas prices by using apps and sites like Gasbuddy.com, Waze, , AAA, and GasGuru. They help check gas prices in your location, so you can find pumps where you can save the most money.

Pay cash or use a cash back credit card.

You may be able to save about $.10 per gallon if you pay with cash at the pump.  If you don’t want to deal with cash, consider opting for a cash back credit card for gas expenses.

Utilize fuel rewards programs.

Find convenience and grocery stores with gas fueling stations that offer rewards programs for a percentage off gas fill-ups based on total amounts you spend shopping in the stores.

Look forward to the future.

Although current fuel rates may take a big bite out of your travel budget this summer, trust—as in past years of 2008, 2012, and even the early 1980s—gas prices will eventually bounce back. Wisely use the gas-saving tips mentioned above to ease your way through the current high gas prices.

InsureYouKnow.org

When you travel this summer, keep records of your auto insurance, car maintenance, travel insurance, and rental car and hotel expenses at insureyouknow.org. You’ll be able to refer to these documents while you’re on the road and after you return home when you reflect on your wonderful summer vacation.

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College Graduates’ Guide to Insurance

May 31, 2022

Congratulations to college graduates everywhere as the graduation season kicks off in 2022! Homework continues, however, as grads meet the challenges presented by their next decisions—changing their residences, jobs, and insurance coverages. Even though this last item may not be as exciting as finding a new place to live or pursuing a lucrative career opportunity, the following options in insurance coverages are important issues that new college grads need to address.

Health Insurance

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), choosing new coverage—or holding on to existing coverage—has been much easier for college graduates who may decide to:

1.     Remain on a parent’s insurance plan

Before the ACA was enacted, it was common for health insurance plans to drop dependents as soon as they graduated from college. But the ACA requires almost all health plans that offer dependent coverage to allow young adults to remain on a parent’s plan until they turn 26. So, for young adults covered under a parent’s plan, graduating from college no longer requires them to quickly find new health insurance.

2.     Purchase a short-term plan

Short-term health insurance is a potential alternative for college grads who need temporary coverage to tide them over until another policy kicks in. Even for grads who have a job lined up right away, employers often have a waiting period before health insurance coverage is available to new hires. Short-term plans can be purchased at any time of the year, with immediate effective dates available.

3.     Buy an ACA-compliant individual plan

For new grads who want a more robust, ACA-compliant plan that covers the essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions, a plan purchased through the state health insurance exchange is likely to be an ideal solution. For more information about marketplace insurance, visit www.healthcare.gov

4.     Check Medicaid eligibility

In 38 statesMedicaid has been expanded to cover all adults with income up to 138 percent of the poverty level. In 2022, that’s $18,754 for a single individual, except in Alaska and Hawaii where the limit is higher. Medicaid enrollment is available year-round and coverage includes pre-existing conditions. In most cases, there are no premiums. For a new grad living in a state where Medicaid has been expanded, this could be a perfect solution during the weeks or months that it might take to find a job after graduation.

5.     Get coverage through a new employer

College grads may be able to enroll in group coverage at their new jobs. Employer-sponsored health insurance generally offers substantial benefits, and employers typically pay a large portion of the premiums. Employee contributions are paid through payroll deductions. Participants also may be eligible to enroll in a Health Savings Account that minimizes the financial impact of out-of-pocket medical expenses. 

Renters’ and Homeowners’ Insurance Policies

Before graduation, college students probably lived in a dorm room or shared housing with other students. Now, it may be time for them to relocate to their first apartment, condo, or house. 

Renters need to understand that their landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover their belongings. Suppose renters experience an unforeseen situation, including burglary, stormy weather that causes a leaky roof to destroy their furnishings, or a fire that creates smoke damage. In these scenarios, they could be protected by renters’ insurance.

Homeowners’ insurance policies, available to college grads buying their first condos or houses, combine several types of coverage, including dwelling, personal property, other structures, loss of use, personal liability, and medical payments into one policy,

It’s a good idea for renters and homebuyers to create a spreadsheet with an inventory of the contents of their residences, placing approximate values on their belongings.

Auto Insurance

Upon completing college, grads may be ready to buy a new car that requires upgrading their auto insurance, especially if they had been previously covered under their parents’ policy. Personal auto insurance is a package policy providing four coverages—liability, medical payments, uninsured and underinsured motorist, and physical damage.

Life Insurance

Unless a college grad is married or has individuals, such as a child or an aging parent dependent on their income, life insurance may not be needed right away. However, if young adults are single, healthy, and in a family with a good health history, they may be at an insurability peak and would benefit from the best rates on life insurance.

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College graduation prompts a transition from a school-based existence to one replete with adult responsibilities, including the need to put insurance policies in place. By preparing for the unforeseen future, college grads who do their homework on insurance options and keep copies of policies, inventories of their belongings, and records of any claims submitted at insureyouknow.org, can begin living their lives to the fullest.

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Shopping for SHOP Coverage

May 15, 2022

Signed into law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act changed many regulations affecting small businesses and insurance. The law established the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) for small employers —generally those with 1–50 employees—who want to provide health and dental coverage to their employees affordably, flexibly, and conveniently.

Qualifications to provide SHOP coverage

Find out on the HealthCare.gov website if your business or non-profit organization qualifies for SHOP by meeting the following four requirements:

1.  You have 1-50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs)

  • Use the FTE Calculator to see if you qualify. Note: To qualify for SHOP, you must have at least one FTE employee other than owners, spouses, and family members of owners and partners.

2.  You offer coverage to all full-time employees—generally, workers averaging 30 or more hours per week

  • You don’t have to offer coverage to part-time employees—those averaging fewer than 30 hours per week—or seasonal workers.

3. You enroll at least 70 percent of the employees to whom you offer insurance

  • Employees with other health coverage aren’t counted as rejecting your offer.
  • Use the SHOP Minimum Participation Rate Calculator to see how many of your employees must accept.
  • Some states have different minimum participation requirements. See if this affects you.
  • If you don’t meet your minimum participation requirement, you can enroll between November 15-December 15 any year. During this time, the participation requirement isn’t enforced.

4. You have an office or employee work site within the state whose SHOP you want to use

Reasons to offer SHOP coverage

  • SHOP insurance gives you choice and flexibility to: 
    • Offer your employees one plan or let them choose from multiple plans.
    • Offer only health coverage, only dental coverage, or both.
    • Choose how much you pay toward your employees’ premiums and whether to offer coverage to their dependents.
    • Decide how long new employees must wait before enrolling.
  • You can get the information you need in one location. You can make an informed decision about your SHOP insurance options with the tools at HealthCare.gov where you can compare plans and prices and find out if you qualify for SHOP.
  • You can use your current SHOP-registered agent or broker or find an agent or broker in your area to help you enroll in coverage.
  • You may be able to get the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. Enrolling in SHOP insurance is generally the only way for eligible small employers to take advantage of the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. You may qualify if you have fewer than 25 FTE employees making an average of about $56,000 or less. See how much your business could save. Updated IRC guidelines for small business health care tax credit and the SHOP marketplace can inform you if you are a small employer.

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Whether you are an employer or an employee in a small business, you may find it helpful to review SHOP coverage how-to guides, fact sheets, tools, and other resources. After making SHOP health insurance decisions, you can keep your records about the best plan for you and its costs, benefits, and features at insureyouknow.org.

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Drought Eased by Rain and Your Call to Action

May 1, 2022

Is it raining today or is rain in the forecast this week? Rain can bring relief to drought—a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to a shortage of water. Droughts can last a single season, a whole year, or for many years, and can affect a few hundred or millions of square miles.

Public health implications of drought include concerns about water, food and nutrition, air quality, sanitation and hygiene, recreational risks, and infectious and chronic diseases.

Water

Reduced stream and river flows can increase the concentration of pollutants in water and cause stagnation that kills fish and other aquatic life. Many parts of the United States depend on groundwater as a primary source of water. Groundwater sometimes contains naturally present germs and harmful chemicals from the environment, such as arsenic and radon. More often, human activities contaminate groundwater.

What Can You Do? Learn to correctly use fertilizers and pesticides; maintain septic systems; properly remove or store wastes; and prevent chemical spills at work sites.

 Food and Nutrition

Drought can limit the growing season and create conditions that encourage insect and disease infestation in certain crops. Low crop yields can result in rising food prices and shortages, potentially leading to malnutrition.

What Can You Do? Whether you grow your vegetables or buy them at a farmer’s market or grocery store, select drought-tolerant vegetables specifically bred for drought resistance. Popular choices include lima beans, pole beans, corn, mustard greens, okra, squash, Heatwave II tomatoes, Black Diamond watermelons, and most herbs. 

Air Quality

The dusty, dry conditions and wildfires that often accompany drought can harm your health. Fire, combined with dry soil and vegetation, increases the number of particulates suspended in the air, such as pollen, smoke, and fluorocarbons that can irritate the bronchial passages and lungs, making chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, and bacteria pneumonia worse.

What Can You Do? Learn about CDC’s EXHALE strategies to help people with asthma achieve better health: Education on asthma self-management; X-tinguishing smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke; Home visits for trigger reduction and asthma self-management education; Achievement of guidelines-based medical management; Linkages and coordination of care across settings; Environmental policies or best practices to reduce asthma triggers from indoor, outdoor, or occupational sources.

 Sanitation and Hygiene

Having water available for cleaning, sanitation, and hygiene reduces or controls many diseases. Drought conditions create the need to conserve water, but conservation efforts should not prevent proper sanitation and hygiene.

What Can You Do? Your attention to personal hygiene, cleaning, hand washing, and washing of fruits and vegetables can be done in a way that conserves water and reduces health risks. Install low-flow faucet aerators in your business and home to reduce water consumption while maintaining hand washing and other healthy hygienic behaviors.

Recreational Risks

If you engage in water-related recreational activities during drought, you may be at increased risk for waterborne disease caused by bacteria, protozoa, and other contaminants such as chemicals and heavy metals.

What Can You Do? The best way you can prevent swimming-related illnesses from spreading is to keep germs out of the water in the first place. This means that if you or your child has been sick with diarrhea in the past two weeks, you should stay out of the water. To protect yourself from the most common swimming-related illnesses, keep water out of your mouth when you swim and dry your ears after you swim.

Infectious Disease

Increases in infectious disease can be a direct consequence of drought. Viruses, protozoa, and bacteria can pollute groundwater and surface water when rainfall decreases. If you get your drinking water from a private well or if you have an underlying chronic condition, you may be at higher risk for drought-related infectious disease.

What Can You Do? To prevent the spread of acute respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses from person to person, be diligent in handwashing. If you get your drinking water from a well, check it at least every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems and test it once each year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, you should test for those as well. 

Chronic Disease

Conditions associated with drought may negatively impact people who have certain chronic health conditions such as asthma and some immune disorders. Drought-related changes in air quality, such as increased concentrations of air particulates and airborne toxins resulting from freshwater algal blooms, can irritate the eyes, lungs, and respiratory systems of persons with chronic respiratory conditions.

What Can You Do? By making healthy behavior part of your daily life, you may prevent the exacerbation or occurrence of chronic disease conditions. Heed warnings about adverse weather conditions and stay indoors, avoid strenuous outdoor activities, and take prescribed medications. Talk to your health care provider if symptoms worsen.

 Diseases Transmitted by Insects and Animals

In periods of limited rainfall, both human and animal behavior can change in ways that increase the likelihood of vector-borne diseases. During dry periods, wild animals are more likely to seek water in areas where humans live. These behaviors increase the likelihood of human contact with wildlife, the insects they host, and the diseases they carry.

Stagnant water provides additional breeding grounds for certain types of mosquitoes that can transmit the West Nile virus to humans.

What Can You Do? If you collect rainwater, don’t let the water get stagnant and become a manmade mosquito breeding area. Dump out any standing water, including in outdoor pet bowls and flowerpots. Pick up litter—bottles, cups, cans, car tires, and other containers that can hold water—on your property. Keep your lawn free of overgrown trees, brush, weeds, and tall grass. Plant mosquito-repelling herbs, flowers, and plants, including peppermint, lavender, marigolds, and feverfew.

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Your portal at insureyouknow.org is an ideal place to keep track of your home insurance and maintenance records, annual surveys of your property, and records of repairs and purchases needed for water resources, including septic systems or wells.

 

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Before You Take a Deep Breath Outside This Spring

April 15, 2022

You’ve got cabin fever and spring weather is beckoning you to enjoy the great outdoors.  Before you venture forth–even if it’s just to your backyard—curtail allergic reactions to pollen that may cause you to have hay fever and start to sniffle and sneeze.

Causes and symptoms

The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds that release tiny grains into the air to fertilize other plants. When these particles get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the body’s defenses into high gear.

The immune system mistakenly sees the pollen as a danger and releases antibodies that attack the allergens leading to the release of histamines into the blood. Histamines are chemicals that trigger a runny nose, itchy eyes, dark circles under your eyes, and other symptoms that are familiar if you have allergies.

Pollen counts tend to be particularly high on breezy days when the wind picks up sneeze-inducing grains and carries them through the air. Rainy days wash away allergens.

Being inside may protect you from windblown pollen, but other seasonal triggers, such as mold and dust mites, can be prevalent inside your house and cause allergic reactions. 

Diagnosis

Start with your primary physician who may refer you to an allergist for tests. An allergy specialist may give you a skin test, which involves either pricking the surface of the skin with a tiny amount of allergen or injecting a tiny sample of a diluted allergen under the skin of your arm or back. If you’re allergic to the substance, a small red bump (called a wheal or hive) will form. You may also undergo a blood test to detect and measure the allergen-specific antibodies in your blood.

Treatments

Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs can ease the symptoms of allergies. They include:

  • Antihistamines reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching by lowering the amount of histamine in your body.
  • Decongestants shrink blood vessels in the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling.
  • Antihistamine/decongestant combos combine the effects of both drugs.
  • Nasal spray decongestants relieve congestion and may clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants without some of the side effects.
  • Steroid nasal sprays ease inflammation and are the preferred initial treatment.
  • Eye drops relieve itchy, watery eyes.
  • Immunotherapy gives you gradually increasing doses of the allergen until your body can handle it. The treatment can relieve your symptoms for a longer time than other types of allergy medications. Although it doesn’t work for everyone, it can stave off some people’s symptoms for a few years.

If you feel like you need over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants for more than a few days, ask your doctor to recommend an effective regimen, which may include:

  • Prescription medications, including steroid nasal sprays,
  • Allergy shots, or
  • Under-the-tongue immunotherapy tablets.

Some natural and alternative remedies for allergies that may ease your symptoms include:

  • Nasal irrigation, a way to rinse your nasal passages with saline solution
  • Butterbur, an herb from a European shrub that shows potential for relieving seasonal allergy symptoms
  • Acupuncture,  a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body—most often by inserting thin needles through the skin

Talk to your doctor before you start any herbal product or alternative treatment. Some can cause side effects or react with medications you take.

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After you choose and try allergy remedies, keep track of your selections and effectiveness at insureyouknow.org. On this handy portal, you’ll also be able to retain health insurance coverage records, details about office visits and allergy tests, and dates of prescriptions so you’ll know when you need refills to prevent seasonal allergies from interrupting your spring activities.

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