In this economy, many people have lost their jobs or are in fear of losing them. Retirement savings are down and no one seems to know when the economy will turn around. In times like these we must pay close attention to how every dollar is spent. If you’ve lost your California health insurance or otherwise need to get health insurance, it’s more important than ever to get the coverage you need to protect your family’s finances without paying for coverage you don’t need.PPO, HMO, HSA…with so many California health insurance plans to choose from, how do you know which health plan is right for you? With hundreds of health plans available in California, it can be difficult to decide which health plan is best for you and your family.It’s important to compare premium quotes from different health plans, but what benefits do you get for your monthly premium? Look beyond just the quoted premium of a health plan and consider what benefits in a health insurance plan are most important to you.Focusing on the benefits you need most is the first step in finding a health insurance plan that not only offers the protection you need, but is affordable as well. The health plan with the lowest premium may not give you the financial protection you need if you get sick, have an accident or otherwise need to seek medical attention. A comprehensive health plan that covers a wide range of services and benefits may cost more in premium, but could actually save you money over a basic or “catastrophic” plan on the other end of the spectrum where you would pay a much larger share of the costs when you receive medical care.Here are some tips to help you narrow down the list of California health insurance plans when deciding which plan will be the best fit. Start by deciding which type of benefits are most important to you. What benefits have you used most in the past? How much of the medical expenses could you reasonably pay yourself if you have a major medical event? Use the following list to focus on the most important benefits. Then you can compare the plans with the benefits that best fit your needs.o PPO or HMO plano maternity benefitso deductible amounto copayment (copay)o coinsurance amounto out of pocket maximumo prescription drug coverage (generic + brand name benefits or generic-only)o preventive care serviceso health savings account (HSA) compatible health planPPO – Is it important to you that your plan offer a large network of participating doctors and hospitals? Do you want to be able to see a specialist without having to obtain a referral from your primary doctor? Preferred Provider Plans (PPO) offer the largest networks of participating doctors and hospitals. With a PPO you also have the option of getting medical care outside of your PPO network, although you will usually pay more if you receive care from a provider that is not in your network.HMO – Another option is a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). Although not as popular as PPO health plans, many people prefer them due to their simplicity. You can obtain most services for a low copayment and usually no coinsurance requirement. The tradeoff with an HMO is you must stay in network to receive covered medical services. HMO networks are normally smaller than PPO networks and generally a referral is required from your primary care doctor to see a specialist.Maternity Benefits – While the cost of California health insurance plans vary widely, and it’s important to choose a health plan that has the benefits you need, you may be able to save money by choosing a plan without certain benefits. If maternity benefits are not important to you, look for a health plan without maternity benefits. This alone could save you hundreds of dollars annually on your health insurance plan.Deductible Amount – Except for services where you are only responsible for a copayment, the deductible is the amount you pay before the insurance plan pays anything. If you’re willing to pay more of the upfront costs when you need medical care, choosing a higher deductible can help keep your insurance premiums lower.Copayment (Copay) – The copay is a flat fee you pay at the time of service. After paying the copayment, the plan usually pays 100 percent of the balance of covered services. Some health insurance plans allow you to visit the doctor’s office for a low copay without having to meet your annual insurance deductible.Coinsurance – In addition to the deductible, when comparing health insurance plans, pay attention to what coinsurance amount you will be responsible for after your deductible is met. Coinsurance is the percentage of the charges you are responsible to pay for covered medical services apart from any copays or your deductible.Out of Pocket Maximum – The out of pocket maximum is the maximum amount per year you’ll have to pay for covered medical services. After reaching your out of pocket maximum, your health insurance plan pays for any additional covered medical expenses up to the plan’s lifetime benefit amount.Prescription Drug Coverage – When it comes to prescription drug coverage, some health insurance plans keep the premiums lower by covering only generic prescription drugs. Keep in mind that while there are many generic prescription drugs available, not every prescription drug is available in generic form.Preventive Care Services – In order to encourage healthy lifestyle habits and thereby reduce future medical expenses, many health insurance plans offer low or no copayments or other financial incentives for preventive care services such as physical exams, immunizations, annual gynecological exams,mammograms, prostate exams and cancer screenings.Health Savings Account (HSA) – Are you interested in a health plan that will help you save money on your tax bill? Consider a Health Savings Account (HSA) compatible health plan. A Health Savings Account (HSA) combines high deductible health insurance with a tax-advantaged medical savings account. Withdrawals that are used to pay for qualified medical expenses, including your insurance deductible, coinsurance and co-payments are federally tax-free.By focusing on these nine plan benefits when shopping for health insurance, you can find a plan that fits your healthcare needs and your pocketbook.
How to Interpret Nutrition FactsWhen you go shopping, do you look for the nutrition facts on the black and white label, or do you rely on statements on the front of the package, such as “low cholesterol,” or “no sugar added?” The statements in bold coloring on the front are primarily for marketing purposes, and are designed to encourage you to purchase the product. The actual nutrition facts tell you how many grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates are in each serving size. You can use these facts to measure out serving sizes for yourself and figure out how many calories you consume, as well as what those calories consist of. Here are seven vital tips to help you use the nutrition labels to become a savvier shopper:1) Use the nutrition labels as criteria for purchasing a product, rather waiting until you get home to see what you have.2) Look at the serving size before even looking at the other information (it’s usually at the top). This can help you decide if a product is right for you: for example, note in a typical bottle of Caesar salad dressing, a serving size is 1 oz., with 180 Calories per serving. This tells you that there are 180 calories in 2 tablespoons of dressing. Use serving size as well as the requirements of your own particular diet to determine portion size. If you double the portion size, you will double all the calories, carbohydrate content, fat content of a particular food.3) Compare different brands of similar items, as some brands may have better nutritional value than others.4) See how many serving sizes there are in the item you are purchasing. For example, some snack foods like potato chips or pretzels often show that there are more than one serving contained in the package, meaning that less than the whole package should be consumed at a time. If the nutrition facts on a bag of potato chips says, “Number of servings: 2,” this means that half of the bag is one serving size, and you are given the nutrition information for half of the bag. If you eat the whole package, you have to double all the numbers-the calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein.5) Percent Daily Value is another important thing that Nutrition Facts tell you. They can be found on the right side of the Nutrition Facts panel and are printed in bold. Percent Daily Value is the amount of a nutrient that your body needs through food for the entire day. For example, if a nutrition label shows that one serving of dressing has 30% of daily total fat, it means that two tablespoons of this particular dressing give you almost a third of the all the fat that your body needs for the whole day. If you would like to lose weight or maintain weight loss, choose foods with lower percentages of daily requirements in the fat and carbohydrate categories. You can use this as a guide to make sure you get enough essential nutrients without going overboard on carbohydrates and saturated fats.6) If you need to count carbohydrates, subtract the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates to get the amount you will consume at one time. This new number constitutes the grams of active carbohydrates. When you plan a meal, you will need to add up all of the carbohydrates from each food to keep it at the recommended amount.7) To save time and money, choose the brands of the foods you consume wisely, and then keep using the same ones. For example, a slice of bread may have 5 to 30 grams of carbohydrates depending on the brand. Once you find one that you enjoy that fits into your budget and meal plan, stick with that brand.Thank you, and please feel free to connect with me on my website, if you have any questions or if I can serve you.