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Making it count: 5 tips for choosing a health plan

This fall millions will head to the polls to cast their vote in the mid-term elections, but they have another important choice to make as well: their health care coverage for 2019.

More than one million people in Arizona will have the opportunity to select or switch their health insurance plans for 2019 during “open” or “annual” enrollment.  But unlike Election Day, the dates to keep in mind aren’t the same for everyone and vary depending on your situation:

• For the more than 175 million Americans with employer-provided coverage, many companies set aside a two-week period between September and December when employees can select health benefits for the following year.

• For the more than 60 million people enrolled in Medicare, Medicare Annual Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.

• Health insurance marketplace or individual state exchange open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

• For most people, changes made during this time will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Choosing health benefits can feel stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider the following five tips to help make the process easier.

Dave Allazetta is the CEO of UnitedHealthcare’s Employer and Individual businesses in Arizona and New Mexico and lives in Scottsdale.

Take Time to Review Your Options

Take the time to explore your options, and understand the benefits and costs of each plan so you can find the coverage that works best for you. Pay attention to more than just the monthly premium. You also should understand what out-of-pocket costs, including the deductible, copays and coinsurance, you may be responsible for. Also, consider any changes to your health over the last year or if you have any major health events planned for 2019 – such as having a baby or surgery – to determine if your current coverage still fits your needs.

Prevent Financial Surprises

Before you select a plan, check to see if your doctor is in your health plan’s care provider network. Visiting doctors that are in-network is one way to help keep your costs lower. If you select a plan that would make your visit to a particular doctor or hospital outside the network, make sure you understand what the costs may be.

Also, see if your medications are covered by the plan. Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to make sure your drugs will still be covered in 2019. People with Medicare should remember that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs, so if you are looking for help covering the costs of your medications, choose either a Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription coverage.

Look for Ways to Save

Ask about incentive-based wellness programs that reward you for living a healthier lifestyle. Some health plans offer incentives for their members to participate in activities that may help improve their health, such as completing a health assessment, visiting a gym, lowering their cholesterol, participating in a wellness-coaching or tobacco-cessation program, or even just walking.

Also, check to see if your plan includes 24/7 telehealth services. Telehealth services can be especially convenient for consultations on minor health issues that occur.  Often, telehealth is available to members of employer-sponsored, individual and Medicare Advantage plans.

Don’t forget about additional benefits and features

Open or annual enrollment is the ideal time to select benefit plans that can help protect you and your family from head to toe, so consider adding vision, dental and financial protection plans such as life, accident or critical illness coverage. For people on Medicare, many are surprised to find that Original Medicare doesn’t cover most dental, vision and hearing services. But many Medicare Advantage plans do and often include additional perks like gym memberships or discounts on hearing aids.

Learn the Lingo

Do you have a full understanding of healthcare terms, such as premium, deductible, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum? If not, there are resources online, including UnitedHealth Group’s Just Plain Clear Glossary (in English, Spanish, and Portuguese) to help you learn and understand healthcare terms.

For help navigating open enrollment, visit for more tips, articles and videos about health insurance and healthcare topics.


Dave Allazetta is the CEO of UnitedHealthcare’s Employer and Individual businesses in Arizona and New Mexico and lives in Scottsdale. 

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Eva Andersson Dubin describes herself as “the three P’s — patient, physician, philanthropist.”

She also names three things that are key to her own health: Sleep, nutrition, exercise.

Dubin needs energy to fuel her passion: Give breast-cancer patients better care and longer lives.

The former Ford model, former Miss Sweden, current part-time Palm Beacher and breast-cancer survivor is founder of the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Dubin and her husband, Glenn — a philanthropist, a co-founder of Highbridge Capital Management and principal at Dubin Co. investment firm and No. 28 on Forbes’ 2017 list of “The World’s Richest Hedge-Fund Billionaires” — have donated approximately $19 million and helped raise another $24 million to open the center in 2011 and keep it growing.

Dubin shares the story of her own breast cancer openly and matter-of-factly.

The mother of three got her first annual mammogram at 40, the year most medical professionals recommend.

She had no history of breast cancer in her family, but she was a doctor.

She knew cancer does not discriminate.

“I thought, ‘Why not me?’” she says.

Her second annual mammogram, in 2002, showed calcifications in her left breast. Her diagnosis: ductal carcinoma in situ, or, abnormal cells inside a milk duct in the breast.

All her life, she has been committed to total health — starting with her own.

Here are three of her health tips:

Get plenty of sleep: “I need my sleep — eight hours,” she says.

Every person is different, of course, but Dr. Dubin realized when she was in medical school that she had to be in charge of her energy — and that’s about sleep, diet and exercise.

Eat in moderation: She usually eats the same lunch every day, she told Tory Burch Daily: a huge salad with tons of nuts, dried fruit, lentils and grilled vegetables that she packs at home.

She watches her portions. When she’s in Palm Beach, she likes the small plates at HMF inside The Breakers — and she rarely indulges in more than a half-glass of wine.

Multi-task: The Dubin Breast Center is directly across from Central Park. So, Dubin returns calls while she walks in the park. She also powers her way to work — cruising up Fifth Avenue on a red kick scooter.

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Pregnancy health tips Meghan should abide by

Meghan markle pregnancy health tips

“The second trimester tends to be the best time to travel, as morning sickness will usually have passed and your growing bump won’t be too big that it stops you from travelling around,” Pradnya says. 

With this in mind, we’ve put together some key things for Meghan to consider and monitor closely when travelling in the early stages of pregnancy. 


Dehydration is a potential problem for all travellers, and anyone who’s been on long plane trips will be well aware of the need to drink more water than you’re used to.

However, pregnant women have to be even more on top of this. Pradnya explains: “Early pregnancy causes nausea and can lead to dehydration. This means Meghan will have to ensure she’s drinking plenty of water – both when travelling in the air and also in the hot climate of Australasia.

Meghan markle pregnancy health tips


As this is Meghan’s first pregnancy, she won’t know how she’ll react to different types of food – which has the potential to make for some awkward official dinners.

Pradnya’s advice is to “eat small quantities at a time and more frequently, rather than big meals”. Not only this, but she also recommends keeping sugary sweets on hand, as this could help with any motion sickness caused by travelling.


With such a busy schedule, Meghan will have to be extra careful to ensure she’s getting enough rest on the road. Even though it might be hard to disrupt the couple’s tightly-organised agenda, the Duchess will have to speak up if she needs to slow down, with Pradnya saying: “Taking more breaks to truly relax will help energy levels.”

Pradnya’s top tip? “Better to start the day late, as nausea is worse early in the morning,” she says.

Meghan markle pregnancy health tips


Whilst we’re used to seeing Meghan in skyscraper stilettos, Pradnya says: “Feet can get swollen when pregnant, so I hope Meghan has packed some comfortable shoes.”

All travellers are recommended to keep moving when flying, but this is even more important for pregnant women. “Leg cramps can also be common in pregnancy, so it’s best to do some stretching and wander around more,” Pradnya says. “Flight socks can also be useful when pregnant, to keep your circulation moving on a long journey.”

Pregnant women have a slightly high risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when flying, so Meghan should make sure she’s moving around regularly and doing various leg and feet exercises to reduce swelling. The NHS recommends that you should move around every 30 minutes or so when flying, so it would be wise for Meghan to nab an aisle seat.

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Top tips to fight back against the flu





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As flu season arrives, local health expert offers tips – WBBJ

JACKSON, Tenn. — Health officials say flu season starts in October, meaning this month is the best time to get your annual shot to prevent getting sick.

“Usually one time of year is pretty good protection as long as you get it the right time,” epidemiologist Shanna Shearon said. “Usually we say October is a good starting point for that.”

Shearon tracks trends and disease patterns for Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department. She says this time of year is also a chance to clear up myths about the flu shot.

“Just because you haven’t got it in the past doesn’t mean you won’t come in contact with either a different strain this year or one that’s stronger that you haven’t been exposed to before,” Shearon said.

The flu can be dangerous for certain age groups, particularly infants, young children and people 65 years of age or older.

“Usually younger, six months and up, children you know, they’re little germ factories,” Shearon said. “So, and they share everything, it’s best to get it in those, the younger population and also people who have immunocompromising conditions.”

Eleven children and one pregnant woman died in Tennessee from flu-related complications last flu season, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

“The last few years, unfortunately, we’ve had quite a few in Tennessee that have died from the flu,” Shearon said. “We don’t see any indicators that this year will be any different unfortunately, so that’s why we’re trying to protect everybody we can.”

While there are other preventative measures you can do to help avoid the spreading of the flu, make sure to avoid people who are infected. Whenever you cough or sneeze, make sure you do that within a tissue, and that way you can avoid spreading anymore of that flu or sickness around you. Of course, whenever you do, make sure you wash your hands with plenty of soap and water.

“If you get the flu, you don’t know who you’re exposing before you even know you’re sick,” Shearon said.

The Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department will have after-hours flu clinics starting Tuesday, Oct. 23. For more information on the flu shot or the after-hours clinic, visit the Seen on 7 section of our website.

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A medicine cabinet makeover and cool weather health tips on Coast Live

HAMPTON ROADS, Va - Dr. Yael Varnado, known as “Dr. V,” shows us why it’s needed and where to start a medicine cabinet makeover.  She also has recommendations for some lifestyle changes to avoid getting sick this fall.  For more information, visit

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Vaping does not stain teeth like normal cigarettes, reveals study

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Washington: E-Cigarettes and tobacco heating products cause significantly less staining to teeth than conventional cigarettes, a recent study has suggested. In a part of the study conducted at British American Tobacco, scientists assessed and compared a novel e-cigarette (EC), a tobacco heating product (THP) and a conventional cigarette for their impact on teeth enamel staining. While cigarette smoke caused significant enamel discoloration, vapour from the EC and aerosol from the THP caused only minimal staining. The results are published in the American Journal of Dentistry.

These next-generation products (NGPs) do not involve combustion; the vapour and aerosol they produce are less complex and contain significantly lower levels of certain toxicants compared to cigarette smoke. It is well known that smoking cigarettes cause stains on teeth that cannot easily be removed by regular brushing, but little is known about such effects from NGPs. So scientists conducted vitro teeth staining studies to compare the effect of an EC, BAT’s THP glo, and a reference cigarette (3R4F).

Tests were carried out on enamel blocks cut from bovine incisors. To mimic conditions in the mouth, the enamel blocks were first incubated with saliva to allow the formation of a pellicle layer, a protective protein film that normally forms on teeth. The enamel blocks were exposed to the particulate matter (isolated from the smoke/vapour) for 14 days and the whole smoke/vapour (equivalent to one pack of cigarettes per day) for 5 days.

The enamel samples were assessed before, during and after treatment; colour readings were determined by an independent laboratory using an established method involving a commercially available spectrophotometer and trained scientists.

Discoloration of enamel blocks exposed to cigarette smoke was apparent in as little as one day and continued to increase as the concentration of cigarette smoke increased. In contrast, exposure to vapour from the EC or THP resulted in little or no colour change that was comparable to the untreated controls.

“Many studies have postulated that it is the tar in cigarette smoke that stains teeth. We now have a method where we can rapidly assess in the laboratory the level of enamel discoloration by cigarette smoke and vapour from our ECs and THPs,” explained Annette Dalrymple, a senior scientist at BAT RD.

“The data generated from this study clearly shows that the EC and THP assessed caused minimal discoloration–very promising for consumers of our NGPs. However, further studies are required to understand the long-term effect on teeth staining and oral health when smokers switch to using NGPs,” he added. 

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Health problems linked to poor sleep and tips for good night’s shut-eye

A THIRD of West Australians are tossing, turning and snoring their way towards devastating health conditions including heart disease, cancer and obesity.

The revelation, contained in the Health Department’s annual report into the health and wellbeing of adults, comes three weeks after the Commonwealth Government announced a national inquiry into the causes, impacts and costs of poor sleep.

A survey of 6000 people in WA aged over 16 found they averaged 7.1 hours of sleep a night last year with 32.1 per cent falling short of the minimum recommended seven hours of shut eye for adults.

Director of the University of WA Centre for Sleep Science Peter Eastwood said the findings were “a huge worry” and that governments around the world were only just waking up to the consequences of poor sleep.

“For decades this has been a hidden problem in society but it is massive,” Professor Eastwood said. “Not sleeping properly has now proven to put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, dementia and mental illness.

“We also know that poor sleep results is a big contributor to workplace injuries and sleep apnoea is a factor in a huge number of motor vehicle accidents. Not getting enough sleep has all these effects but it is only recently that their magnitude has been appreciated.”

Peter Eastwood, the director of the UWA Centre for Sleep Science.Peter Eastwood, the director of the UWA Centre for Sleep Science.
Camera IconPeter Eastwood, the director of the UWA Centre for Sleep Science.Picture: The Sunday Times, Richard Hatherly

A Deloitte report, commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation, released last year, found lack of shut eye costs the economy $66 billion a year in health bills, productivity and wellbeing.

The same report found insufficient sleep kills 3017 people a year, including 394 who die in industrial accidents or after falling asleep at the wheel of a vehicle.

Besides sleep-specific conditions like sleep apnoea — which is often linked to being overweight — and insomnia, Professor Eastwood said society’s obsession with mobile phones was one of the biggest culprits.

“We are taking our devices into our bedrooms at night when we should be winding our brains down,” he said.

“A light coming out of a screen and shining straight into your eyeballs is the strongest signal possible for your body to tell it now is not the time to go to sleep.”

Worryingly, Professor Eastwood said many sufferers of sleep apnoea, which is the repeated stopping and starting of breathing during the night, did not even realise they had the condition.

“We have the most obese population on record and we know that 75 per cent of people that have sleep apnoea are yet to be diagnosed,” he said.

He said anyone who repeatedly woke up feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep should get evaluated for the condition.

For those struggling to drift away at night, Professor Eastwood warned against becoming reliant on sleeping pills which become less effective over time and in extreme cases can lead to depressed breathing and death.

“GPs nowadays are becoming more and more aware of the options for treating chronic sleeping conditions and will refer you to a sleep specialist if required,” he said.

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Three expert tips for good gut health

Improving gut health is a priority for every foodie right now, including me. You can’t go into a city bar without being offered a “healthy” kombucha cocktail. But what is the source of a healthy gut and how do we make better meal choices to support it? I promise that kimchi and kraut aren’t the only solutions…

For a healthy gut, consuming both prebiotic and probiotic foods is a great place to start. Prebiotics serve as the food for the bacteria in your gut, whereas probiotics are the live microorganisms (bacteria or yeast) that live in your microbiome. Naturally found in food, prebiotics are not broken down or absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract.

Go to the source

Wholegrains and high fibre grain foods contain prebiotics — fermentable fibres that stimulate the growth of “good” bacteria, along with fruits and vegetables, also packed with all-important fibre. Onions, leeks, broccoli, cabbage, chia seeds, bananas, blueberries, and asparagus are some of the major superstars in the prebiotic category.

Probiotics is where popular cultured and fermented foods get the spotlight. Some of my favourites are yoghurt with kefir, pickles, sourdough and miso.

What else to consider

Eating healthy is one thing but you can avoid undoing your hard work and maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria by understanding other factors that affect bacteria production and growth. These include: antibiotics, foods lacking in essential nutrients, exclusion of food groups such as grains, stress, lack of sleep and intense aerobic workouts.

Finally, understand that you can have too much of a good thing. Overdoing it on pre- and probiotics can lead to digestive upset, so remember to eat in moderation and listen to your body.

Day on a (gut-friendly) plate

Breakfast: Plain Greek yoghurt with half a cup high-fibre cereal and half a cup blueberries

Lunch: Wholegrain sourdough with poached eggs and avocado

Dinner: Miso soup with pan-seared salmon, steamed broccoli and lemon

Snacks: Why not try keeping a box of Kellogg’s All-Bran stashed in your drawer at work? Grab a handful to snack on – dry with some blueberries (trust me!), or steal some office milk

*Is your gut fibre fit? Discover how yours shapes up with Kellogg’s fun and fascinating Good Gut Score quiz, and find out why fibre is important for your diet

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Public Health Officials Share Safe Sleep Tips for Babies

This is a press release from the Humboldt County Department of Health Human Services:

Public Health officials are reminding parents and caregivers to provide a safe sleeping environment for babies to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

“Creating a safe sleep environment not only helps prevents SIDS from occurring, but can also give parents more peace of mind knowing they are using safer methods to reduce risks,” said Michele Stephens, Public Health Director for the Humboldt County Department of Health Human Services (DHHS).

Because October is SIDS Awareness Month, staff from DHHS’s Maternal, Child Adolescent Health Programs (MCAH) and the Safe Sleep Subcommittee and partnering agencies put together an educational display at the Bayshore Mall about safe sleep environments for babies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following safe sleep tips.

  • Place babies on their backs to sleep
  • Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib or bassinet, covered only by a fitted sheet
  • Share your room with your baby, but not your bed
  • Keep soft objects, such as pillows and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area
  • Do not allow smoking around your baby.

For more information about safe sleeping, visit or call MCAH at 707-445-6210.


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