Beware of Pollen: Spring Allergy Season is Here

April 15th, 2015

Girl sneezing in a field of flowersThe snow has melted and the spring sunshine is warming everyone up. The nice weather is also starting up people’s spring allergies. In large parts of the country, pollen starts filling the air as soon as the weather warms up, just enough for the trees to begin budding.

What Triggers Spring Allergies?

 Each year 58 million Americans fall prey to allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever

The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen —tiny grains released into the air by trees, grasses and weeds. When pollen grains get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive. The immune system, mistakenly seeing the pollen as foreign invaders, releases antibodies, substances that normally identify and attack bacteria, viruses and other illness-causing organisms. The antibodies attack the allergens, which leads to the release of chemicals called histamines in the blood. Histamines trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes and other allergy symptoms.

Trees kick off pollen season in early spring. To cause trouble, a pollen grain has to be very small and very light. That kind of pollen (released by trees, grasses and weeds) is designed to travel on the wind. Wind can carry pollen more than 100 miles away from its source.

Different people are sensitive to different grasses and tree pollen. Sensitivity also varies by the region of the country you live in and which trees are common there.

Spring Allergy Symptoms

Spring allergy symptoms can certainly be bothersome. Symptoms of spring allergies are:

  • Coughing
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes

There are some ways you can reduce your exposure to pollen and other triggers:

  • Car: When you’re in the car, keep the windows shut and set your air conditioner to recirculation.
  • Clothes: Dry your clothes in a dryer; don’t hang them out outside to dry. Remove clothes you’ve worn outside; you may also want to shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
  • Home: Clean floors often with a vacuum cleaner. Also, close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high.
  • Medicine: If high pollen counts are forecasted, start taking allergy medication before your symptoms start.
  • Pets: If you have pets that go outside, wipe their fur before they come back in. Pets can bring pollen indoors on their fur.
  • Pollen counts: Keep an eye on the pollen counts and try to plan more outdoor activities for days when pollen counts are expected to be low and it is not so windy.
  • Wear protective gear: If you’re going to be working outside, consider wearing a protective allergy face mask for tasks like mowing the grass, raking leaves or washing the car.

It is nearly impossible to completely avoid spring allergies if you live in an area where plants grow. By knowing what triggers your allergy symptoms and how to avoid those allergens, you can be on your way to a sneeze-free season.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that allergies can ruin the nice weather. There is no foolproof way to avoid spring allergies, but there are certainly different methods you could try. IAA wants you to have a fun time outdoors this spring. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading another blog post on the issue? Click here!

April is Autism Awareness Month

April 8th, 2015

Autism Awareness RibbonAutism refers to a wide range of developmental disorders that some people are born with or develop early in life. This group of disorders makes up what doctors call the autism spectrum.

What is Autism?

Autism affects the brain and makes communicating and interacting with other people difficult. It is characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Someone whose condition falls within the spectrum has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Not everybody with ASD has the same difficulties. Some may people may have a form of autism that is mild. Others may have a severe form of the disorder. About 40% of people with ASD have average or above average intelligence. The other 60% have intellectual disabilities that range from mild to severe.

Common Signs of ASD

ASD varies widely in severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized.  There are a number of indicators that a child may fall within the spectrum:

  1. Social communication and interaction:
  • Can’t start a conversation or keep one going, or may only start a conversation to make requests
  • Doesn’t express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others’ feelings
  • Doesn’t point or bring objects to share interest
  • Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech, or may lose previous ability to say words or sentences
  • Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at times
  • Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expressions
  • Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive 
  • May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but does not understand how to use them
  • Resists cuddling and holding, and seems to prefer playing alone (retreats into his or her own world)
  • Speaks with abnormal tone or rhythm (may use sing-song voice or robot-like speech)

2. Patterns of behavior:

  • Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
  • Does not engage in imitative or make believe play
  • Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns and has stiff, exaggerated body language
  • May become fixated on an object or activity with abnormal intensity and focus
  • May be fascinated by the details of an object, but doesn’t see the big picture
  • May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch
  • May have odd food preferences, such as eating only a few foods or only eating  foods with a certain texture
  • Moves constantly
  • Performs repetitive movements such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping, or may perform activities that could cause harm, such as head banging

Doctors and researchers don’t fully understand what causes autism. Scientists believe it has something to do with genetic and environmental factors.

Risk Factors

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about one in 68 children have been identified with ASD. Risk factors for ASD are:

  • Family history: Families who have one child with ASD have an increased risk of having another child with the disorder.
  • Gender: Boys are about four times more likely to develop ASD than girls are.
  • Other disorders: Children with certain medical conditions have a higher than normal risk of ASD or ASD-like symptoms.
  • Parent’s ages: There may be a connection between children born to older parents and ASD.

There is often nothing about how people with ASD look, that sets them apart from others.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to help spread awareness on ASD. There are so many people in our country who have the disorder; you are likely to know someone with it. Take the time to help make others aware by sharing this blog post with friends, family and colleagues. IAA knows that a little support can go a long way!

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Self-Defense and Your Health

April 1st, 2015

Hand with pink writingNow that spring is here, people may be beginning their outdoor exercise routine. They may even start to begin walking to places they normally drive to. While those are great options to help keep you fit, it is important to remember to stay safe while doing so. Bad things can happen in safe places, so instead of heading to the gym maybe check out a self- defense class!

Avoiding Danger

When you head out to exercise this spring, you should be able to feel safe. You are your best defense mechanism, so make sure to use your resources. Here are some tips on avoiding potentially dangerous situations:

  • Act confident and focused: Just as you can sense people’s feelings, they can sense yours as well. Predators look for people who are meek, mild, weak, unfocused, and distracted.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Bad things can happen in safe areas. In fact, would-be attackers lurk around places where they have the opportunity to catch people off guard, and remain anonymous. You should be aware of what’s normal in your neighborhood. When something is out of place, take note. People naturally have good instincts and it is extremely common for victims to say after the fact they had a bad feeling about the situation, that something didn’t seem right. But they ignored it. When you’ve got a bad feeling pay attention to it.    
  • Free your hands: The more stuff you occupy your hands with, the harder it will be to fight off a potential attacker.
  • Have company: Walking with a friend is one of the simplest tactics for radiating confidence and security. 
  • Pay attention to the people around you: You can often sense people’s intentions just by the way they look at you.  
  • Trust yourself: Many times your eyes, ears, nose, skin, and tongue will give clues indicating that something threatening is ahead.

Awareness and risk reduction account for 90% of personal self-defense, according to the National Self-Defense Institute.

Benefits of Self-Defense Class

Self-defense classes can come in handy in many ways. Self-defense classes can help with:

  • Exercise: Self-defense classes can offer exercise benefits such as muscle toning and strengthening, improved balance and coordination.
  • Increased self-confidence: Training in self-defense helps people develop more self-confidence in themselves and their surroundings.
  • Safety: Self-defense classes teach you how to defend yourself in a variety of situations. These classes can teach you the basics of how to quickly disable an attacker so that you can escape.  

Taking a self-defense class could help you feel more confident in your ability to handle a potential threat.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to stay safe. Sometimes that means empowering yourself by taking a self-defense class or simply training your mind to be more aware of your surroundings. IAA wants everyone to stay safe and healthy. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Like this blog post? Let IAA know by going to our Facebook page and clicking the Like button!

Information Reporting: 1094s and 1095s

March 25th, 2015

IRS signThe Affordable Care Act has imposed significant information reporting responsibilities on employers. The latest one, the 1094s and 1095s do not need to be filed until 2016, but businesses need to start tracking information now.

What are the 1094s and 1095s?

The new information reporting system will be similar to the W-2 in that an information return (1095-B or 1095-C) will be prepared for each applicable employee. These returns will be filed with the IRS using a single transmittal form (1094-B or 1094-C). Employers must file these returns annually by February 28 (March 31 if filed electronically). Therefore, employers will be filing these forms for the 2015 calendar year by February 28 or March 31 of 2016.

The filing requirements are based on an employer’s health plan and number of employees. Forms that will be filed are:

  • 1094-B (Transmittal of Health Coverage Information Returns) and 1095-B (Health Coverage): These forms will be filed by insurance companies to report individuals covered by employer-sponsored group health plans. Small employers (those who have less than 50 full time employees) with self-insured health plans will use these forms to report the name, address and social security number (or date of birth) of employees and their family members who have coverage under their self-insured plan.
  •  1094-C (Transmittal of Employer Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage) and 1095-C (Employer Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage) will be filed by applicable large employers. These forms will be required if the employer offers an insured or self-insured health plan, or does not offer any group health plan.

The 1094s and 1095s were created to track your employees’ health insurance coverage for the year. The forms are used in determining whether an employer owes a payment under the employer shared responsibility provision. They are also used in determining eligibility of employees for premium tax credit.  

The Forms Businesses Need to File

The question that most businesses have is, what forms apply to them?

  • Self-funded employer groups (those who have 50 or more full time employees):
  1. Employers must submit form 1094-C to the IRS
  2. Employers must distribute to all full time and enrolled part time employees form 1095-C
  3. Employers must distribute to each non-employee  form 1095-C (non-employees includes Cobra beneficiaries and retirees)

Self-funded employers must include dependent information on these forms.

  • Fully insured groups (employers with 50 or more full time employees):
  1. Employers must submit form 1094-C to the IRS
  2. Insurance companies must submit form 1094-B to the IRS
  3. Employers must distribute to all full time employees and enrolled part time employees  form 1095-C (excludes dependent data; employee information only)
  4. Insurance companies must distribute to all full time and enrolled part time employees  form 1095-B (this includes dependent data)

The penalty for non-compliance is $100 per form.

How IAA can Help

Insurance Administrator of America realizes that completing these forms can be complicated. That is why IAA is offering to complete the 1094-C and 1095-C for businesses that are in need of some assistance. For a fee, here is what IAA can do for you:

  • Data mapping: IAA will map your employer and employee data from one or multiple source systems to the appropriate 1095-C box(s) relieving you of the burden of determining the correct IRS mapping code.
  • Data reconciliation and validation: IAA will reconcile and validate your data to ensure the information on the form ties to the data you supplied. Two levels of testing are performed throughout the year.
  • Form printing and mailing: IAA will facilitate the printing and mailing of the 1095-C forms to your employees prior to the statutory due date.
  • Corrections: When necessary, IAA will handle individual form corrections and generate new forms which will be sent directly to the employees.
  • IRS filing: IAA will ensure that our experts submit your 1094-C electronically to the IRS in the correct format by the required due date.

If you are interested in IAA handling your 1094-C and 1095-C form filing please feel free to contact Rebecca Friedman at rebeccafriedman@iaatpa.com. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in learning more about what IAA can do for you? Click here and here.

A Rise in Urgent Care Centers

March 18th, 2015

Urgent Care Center SignWhen you are in medical bind the emergency room might seem like the only solution. The only problem is waiting for hours on a minor medical issue. That is where urgent care centers come in: a less costly and more time effective method of handling those minor medical problems that happen outside of your doctor’s normal office hours.

What are Urgent Care Centers?

Urgent care, also known as immediate care, is similar to the retail health clinics operated by CVS, Target and others. They are generally open in the evenings and on weekends to treat routine maladies. Urgent care centers differ in that they also offer a board-certified physician and additional services such as on-site x-rays.

Urgent care centers do not replace primary care physicians. An urgent care center is a convenient option when someone’s regular physician is on vacation, unable to make a timely appointment or when an illness strikes outside of regular office hours. Urgent care offers an alternative to waiting for hours in an ER.

According to the Urgent Care Association of America, more than 8,000 urgent and immediate care centers across the country have opened with growth estimated at eight to 10 percent annually

Urgent Care Centers vs. Emergency Rooms

Urgent care differs from emergency room services in that its primary focus is on acute medical problems at the lower end of the severity spectrum. Other ways that the two services differ are:

  • Cost: Visits to the ER generally cost much more than those to a doctor’s office or urgent care center. Plus, your plan may not cover the ER visit if they determine your condition was not a true emergency.
  • Wait time: ERs treat patients with the most serious conditions first, so patients with less urgent needs will often wait longer to see a doctor. Urgent care centers only see patients with routine conditions and it’s usually on a first come, first serve basis.

There are of course medical issues where the ER is the first stop:

  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Deep wound
  • Dizziness or weakness that does not go away
  • Heavy bleeding
  • High fever that does not get better with medicine
  • High fever with a headache and stiff neck
  • Inhaled smoke or poisonous fumes
  • Pain in the arm or jaw
  • Passing out or fainting
  • Poisoning or overdose of drugs or alcohol
  • Possible broken bones, especially if the bone is poking through the skin
  • Seizures
  • Serious burn
  • Severe allergic reaction with troubling breathing, swelling or hives
  • Severe chest pain or pressure
  • Severe pain anywhere on the body
  • Sudden confusion
  • Suddenly not able to speak, see, walk, or move
  • Suddenly weak or drooping on one side of the body
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unusual  or bad headache that started suddenly

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to keep money in your pocket. A way to save on your medical expenses is to head to an urgent care facility when your primary care physician’s office is not open or unable to give you a timely appointmentIAA encourages its clients and client members to look into in-network urgent care centers so you can keep money in your pocket the next time a surprise medical issue arises.

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