Take Youth Sports Concussions Seriously

September 30th, 2015

BrainIt is estimated that over 140,000 high school athletes across the United States suffer from a concussion each year. While your athlete may want to stay on the field, if they’re suffering from a concussion, they need a time out.

What is a Concussion?

A bump or blow to the head can cause a concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to rapidly move back and forth—literally causing the brain to bounce around or twist within the skull. This sudden movement of the brain causes stretching, damaging the cells and creating chemical changes in the brain. Once these changes occur, the brain is more vulnerable to further injury and sensitive to any increased stress until it fully recovers.

Concussions happen because the brain is soft. The body protects the brain by cushioning it in cerebrospinal fluid inside a hard skull. Because the brain floats in the fluid, it can move around and even bang against the skull.

Recognizing a Concussion

People are under the misconception that in order to have a concussion, you have to lose consciousness. That is not true, most concussions occur without loss of consciousness. Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.

Signs that your child may be suffering from a concussion:

  • Answers questions slowly
  • Appears dazed or stunned (such as glassy eyes)
  • Can’t recall events after hit or fall
  • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
  • Is unsure of score or opponent
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Moves clumsily or poor balance
  • Shows mood, behavior or personality changes

Signs of a concussion generally show up soon after the injury. But the full effect of the injury may not be noticeable at first. Symptoms your child may experience if suffering from a concussion are:

  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Does not feel “right” or is feeling “down”
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
  • Headache or pressure in the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light or noise

Most athletes with a concussion will recover quickly and fully. But for some athletes, signs and symptoms of a concussion can last for days, weeks or longer.

Your child should not return to sports or physical activity (like physical education or working out) while still having symptoms from a concussion. To do so puts them at risk for prolonging symptoms and further injury.

What IAA has to Say

While your child may be a star out on the field, safety comes first. Insurance Administrator of America believes your child’s safety comes before anything else, no matter what the coach may say. IAA encourages sharing this blog post with other parents so they can know the warning signs too.  IAA knows after school sports are great; just make sure everyone is ok to play. Go team!

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Health Savings Accounts are on the Rise

September 24th, 2015

Money and stethoscopeThe number of people with health savings accounts (HSAs) has ballooned over the past few years. HSAs can be a great supplement to certain health plans.

The Growth of HSAs

HSAs allow consumers to save and pay for medical care free of federal income taxes. Balances are carried from year to year, and consumers can often invest money for tax free growth. Contributions are deducted from pre-tax income, and any contributions employees make from personal funds are tax-deductible.

The number of HSAs has been growing by about one million a year, reaching more than 6.5 million in 2012 according to research published in the journal, “Health Affairs”.

Adoption of HSAs by workers at the biggest employers, while still relatively limited, nearly tripled in eight years, researchers found.

These accounts are not available to everyone; they must be used with a specific type of health insurance plan with a high deductible. Typically, the health plans linked to these accounts offer lower premiums because employees pay more out of their own pocket before meeting the deductible.

Higher income families are much more likely to fund the accounts the analysis found.

Planning for Medical Expenses

Other accounts that can help consumers plan for medical expenses are health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

A HRA is a medical spending account that allows employers to offer tax exempt funding for employee medical expenses. Using a HRA provides substantial tax advantages for both employers and employees. Because the employer funds the plan, any reimbursement distribution requested by participating employees is considered tax deductible for the company. Similarly, reimbursement dollars received by the employee are tax free so they don’t affect vital income levels.

By offsetting upfront healthcare costs and providing a non-taxable resource for employers and employees alike, HRAs benefit both the company at large, as well as each participating individual.

Insurance Administrator of America offers enhanced HRAs. With an enhanced HRA you can:

  • Direct claims payments to the plan provider
  • Integrate pre-tax payroll contributions with Section 125 reimbursement
  • Pay as you go or set up a pre-funded IAA account
  • Pre-empt state health benefit requirements
  • Share plan costs between employer and employee

FSAs provide employees with pre-tax reimbursements for healthcare expenses. When combined with a high deductible healthcare plan, FSAs are a great way to reduce the costs of traditional health insurance while providing benefits and coverage specifically tailored to the needs of each employee.

IAA has partnered with MySource to provide our clients with an easy to use FSA debit card. The MySource FSA debit card is an easy and convenient way for employees to take advantage of FSA benefits without the hassle of lengthy claims forms and receipt collection.

How IAA can Help

IAA can help improve the life of your business by helping to create a healthcare plan that works with a FSA, HRA or HSA. IAA can also help you add an account to an already existing plan. These types of supplemental accounts are great for employers and employees alike.  Contact IAA today to learn more about how these accounts can help your business grow.

Interested in reading more on how IAA can help your business? Click here!

Traffic Accidents are on the Rise

September 16th, 2015

Car crash sceneThe National Safety Council (NSC) reported that traffic deaths and serious injuries in the United States are on a pace to rise for the first time in nearly a decade. The NSC says traffic fatalities in the nation will exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007. Despite cars having more safety features than ever before, accidents continue to increase.

Auto Accidents

There were more than 18,600 auto related deaths from January through June, compared with 16,400 a year earlier, according to the NSC. Industry executives say the 14 percent surge in fatal accidents tracked by the NSC, was due to a combination of factors:

  • Adverse weather in some parts of the country
  • Economic recovery in the U.S. which means more drivers out on the road
  • Lowest gas prices in years

 Communication devices also have a hand in the rise of accidents. According to the estimates by the NSC, one in four car crashes can be blamed on cell phone use.

Focus on the Road

It is important to maintain your focus as both you and other motorists around you, depend on it. To stay focused on the road:

  • Avoid driving when tired: Be aware that some medications can cause drowsiness and make operating a vehicle very dangerous.
  • Don’t allow children to fight or climb around in your car (they should be buckled at all times). An accidental bump or too much noise can easily distract you from concentrating on driving safely. 
  • Don’t be afraid to turn off your cell phone: Whoever just texted you can wait. Try putting your phone out of reach, turning your screen around or just shutting it off.
  • Organize your stuff and avoid multitasking: Know where your important items are before driving off. Set up your GPS route before you hit the gas, get your EZ-Pass out or have toll money ready, and keep your morning coffee in the cup holder where it belongs. The better organized you are beforehand, the less you’ll have to search around and take your eyes off the road when you need something.
  • Save the serious discussions for later: It is important not to lose yourself in stressful thoughts or serious conversations when you’re on the road.
  • Use voice commands and Bluetooth sparingly: Hands free texting and talking are still pretty distracting. Your hands may be on the wheel, but it takes your mind and attention off the road.
  • Always use caution when changing lanes: Cutting in front of someone, changing lanes too fast or not using your signals may cause an accident or upset other drivers.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to be safe on the road. Car crashes and traffic accidents could mean a lot of medical bills, which no one likes to have to deal with. When you get in the car, think of IAA reminding you to buckle up and keep your eyes on the road. It could save your life. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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September is National Cholesterol Education Month

September 9th, 2015

Cholesterol BannerThe average American has cholesterol levels that are considered “borderline high”. While you may not display any outward symptoms of high cholesterol, it can be doing severe damage to your body. As September is National Cholesterol Education Month, now is a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits (plaques) narrow your arteries, which can cause complications such as:

  • Chest pain: If the arteries that supply your heart with blood are affected, you may have chest pain (angina) and other symptoms of coronary artery disease.
  • Heart attack: If plaques tear or rupture, a blood clot may form at the plaque rupture site—blocking the flow of blood. If blood flow to part of your heart stops, you’ll have a heart attack.
  • Stroke: Similar to a heart attack, if blood flow to part of your brain is blocked by a blood clot, a stroke occurs.

Most people should have:

  • HDL “good cholesterol” 60 mg/dL or higher
  • LDL “bad cholesterol” less than 200 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides (another type of risky fat in your bloodstream), less than 150 mg/dL

The risks from high cholesterol are not immediate. The damage accumulates over the years—even decades. High cholesterol in your 20s and 30s can take a toll in your 50s and 60s.

Risk Factors

When it comes to cholesterol there are two types of risk factors, controllable and uncontrollable.

You are more likely to have high cholesterol that can lead to heart disease if you have any of the following controllable risk factors:

  • Diabetes: High blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lowers the HDL cholesterol.
  • Lack of exercise: Exercise helps boost your body’s HDL while lowering your LDL. Not getting enough exercise puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
  • Obesity: Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
  • Poor diet: Foods that are high in cholesterol such as red meat and full-fat dairy products will increase your total cholesterol.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also lower your level of HDL. 

The uncontrollable risk factors someone might have are:

  • Age: Your risk may increase as you get older. Men aged 45 years or older and women aged 55 years or older are at an increased risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
  • Family history:  Your risk of high cholesterol may increase if a father or brother was affected by early heart disease (before age 55) or a mother or sister was affected by early heart disease (before age 65).
  • Gender: After menopause, a woman’s LDL cholesterol level goes up, as does her risk for heart disease.

Despite the risks, about one in three Americans have not had their cholesterol tested in the past five years. That is how often the American Heart Association recommends a screening.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants your cholesterol to be at a healthy level! Start looking at the nutrition facts labels to help cut down on cholesterol and saturated fats. Take the time this month to learn more about your own cholesterol levels and help others learn more about theirs. Pass this blog post along to family and colleagues, to help support cholesterol education. With IAA, one call does it all.

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Scheduling Your Child’s Back to School Checkup? Schedule Yours Too!

September 2nd, 2015

Checkup signSchool is back in session which means a trip to the pediatrician for a routine exam. It should also be a reminder for parents that they need to see their primary care physician as well. 

What Routine Exams Check

While the need for adults to receive an annual routine exam has been debated over the years, it can be a useful tool to keep your health in check.

Routine annual physicals usually check your:

  • General appearance: Your doctor gathers a large amount of information about you and your health just by watching and talking to you.
  • Head and neck: Opening up and saying “ahh” shows off your throat and tonsils. The quality of your teeth and gums also provides information about your overall health.
  • Heart: Listening to your heart with a stethoscope, a doctor might detect an irregular heartbeat, a heart murmur or other clues to heart disease.
  • History: This is your chance to mention any complaints or concerns about your health. Your doctor will also quiz you about lifestyle behaviors like smoking, excessive alcohol use, diet, and exercise. The doctor will also check on your vaccination status and update your personal and family medical history.
  • Lungs: Using a stethoscope, a doctor listens for crackles, wheezes or decreased breath sounds. These and other sounds are clues to the presence of heart or lung disease.
  • Vital signs: These are some vital signs checked by your doctor:
  1. Blood pressure: Less than 120 over 80 is a normal blood pressure. Doctors define high blood pressure as 140 over 90 or higher.
  2. Heart rate: Values between 60 and 100 are considered normal. Many healthy people have heart rates slower than 60, however.
  3. Respiration rate: 12 to 16 breaths per minute is normal for a healthy adult. Breathing more than 20 times per minute can suggest heart or lung problems.

Even if there is no direct medical benefit, many doctors say that having their patients visit once a year helps to maintain a meaningful relationship and alerts doctors to changes in patient’s lives that could affect their health.

Focus on Prevention

Going to the doctor every year for an annual physical can help prevent chronic conditions. Focusing on preventing disease and illness before they occur can help create healthier homes, workplaces, schools, and communities, so that people can live long and productive lives, and reduce their healthcare costs. Better health positively impacts our community and economy:

  • With better health, children are in school more days and are better able to learn.
  • With better health, adults are more productive and at work more days. Preventing disease increases productivity. Asthma, high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity, each reduce annual productivity between $200 and $440 per person.
  • With better health, seniors can keep their independence.

Getting checkups is one of the many things you can do to help stay healthy and prevent disease and disability.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you and your employee base to stay healthy. A great first step is by scheduling a routine annual exam. Another way to have healthy employees is through wellness programs. IAA can help you design a wellness program that fits the needs of your employees. IAA also offers a health portal where members can sign up for health and fitness programs, use fitness tracking tools, get healthy recipes, plus much more! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading more on preventative care? Click here and here!