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5 Important Tips for Choosing a Medicare Health Plan


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - As baby boomers retire in record numbers -- 10,000 Americans a day -- more seniors than ever will be asking themselves, "How do I choose a Medicare health plan that's right for me?" "Seniors should look for a high-quality health plan that has a team of doctors and specialists, who work together to coordinate your care and keep you healthy," said Patrick Courneya, M.D., medical director, Kaiser Permanente Medicare Health Plans. Dr. Courneya offers these five important tips to help older adults make an informed decision for a healthy future: 1. Know when to enroll. Anyone who first becomes eligible for Medicare as they turn 65 can enroll during the three-month period before or after their 65th birthday. Those who choose to enroll after this window of time may pay a late-enrollment penalty. Medicare-eligible members may join or change plans during open enrollment from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year, or they can join a Medicare five-star quality-rated plan nearly all year long. See tip four for star ratings details. 2. Know the difference between Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Medicare is the national health insurance program that began in 1965 and covers millions of Americans who are 65 and older, and those with certain disabilities. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private organizations and approved by Medicare. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits such as vision. Enrollment trends show that nearly one in three people who have Medicare are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. 3. Confirm health plan doctors accept new Medicare members. Choose a Medicare health plan that offers a network of doctors and specialists who accept new Medicare members. Some physicians are opting out of caring for Medicare members. Also, keep in mind, as Medicare members age, they may need access to more specialists who accept Medicare members. 4. Use the Medicare 5-star Quality Ratings Tool. The Medicare Star Quality Ratings system was created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help beneficiaries choose high-quality Medicare health plans. Plans receive an overall rating from one to five stars, with five being the highest for quality and service. Medicare members have the benefit of joining a five-star plan nearly all year -- from Dec. 8 through Nov. 30 of the next year. They must be eligible and live where a five-star plan is offered. 5. Review your health care needs annually. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that many beneficiaries -- once enrolled in a Medicare health plan -- don't often feel confident they made the right choice, and don't review their plan if their health care needs change. Medicare enrollees can use the Medicare star ratings to help them feel confident about choosing a high-quality plan. The Kaiser Permanente Medicare health plans in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C. received 5 stars -- the highest possible Medicare rating for 2015. Kaiser Permanente's Georgia plan received 4.5 stars for 2015. Star ratings information can be found on kp.org/medicarestars or by calling 1-877-425-7892. Plans are rated each year and may change from one year to the next.
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Welcome Your Holiday Guests With Inviting Lighting


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Everyone is starting to spruce up their homes for holiday entertaining. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), it's easy to make your home warm and inviting by updating your ambient lighting. Start with the exterior. The holidays typically involve gatherings, which means your outside lighting is an important element for giving your home a welcoming feel. "Landscape lighting can solve a lot of different problems," says Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and associate professor at the University of Kentucky's School of Interior Design. Rey-Barreau says this can include path lighting to direct guests to your home, and suggests you consider LED lighting, which is energy efficient and has a long lifespan. Brent Protzman, manager of energy information and analytics at Lutron Electronics, also offers some exterior lighting tips. "To create a magnetic, inviting exterior, first provide general facade illumination to highlight the form of your home's exterior and avoid dark areas near the main entrance," Protzman says. "Adding landscape lighting to trees, shrubs and walkways is also welcoming." Welcome guests as they enter. Given the colder temperatures and snow, your guests will spend some time in your entryway to peel off winter coats and boots. With this in mind, you do not want them fumbling around in the dark. Rick Wiedemer, president of Hinkley Lighting, says your foyer should always have a central fixture. "For a two-story foyer, use a large hanging fixture," Wiedemer says. "A one-story foyer is going to have a nice flush or semi-flush decorative piece." Protzman and Rey-Barreau both suggest installing dimmers as well. "Having the entry lighting too intense can be uncomfortable after coming in from a dark exterior," Protzman says. "Consider using a dimmer in an entryway to cut the intensity at night and reduce potential glare and discomfort." Create a warm ambience. Your home heating system and a fireplace are not the only ways you can chase away the freezing temperatures outside. The color temperature of your lighting can lend to a warm atmosphere. "We believe 2700 Kelvin is the most used and most pleasant," Wiedemer explains. "It is most like normal outside lighting without looking into the sun." LED light bulbs can also enhance your ambient lighting. Some LEDs are tunable so you can adjust the color temperature with a built-in dial or a smartphone app. Additionally, you can find color-changing LED products if you want to alter the theme to match the holiday. Visit a local ALA showroom or americanlightingassoc.com to learn more.
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Empowering People to Regain Their Mobility


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - What is your everyday routine? Now, consider what it would be like if you had an accident or health condition that changed or prevented your daily activities. When you sustain an injury to a bone or joint in your body, the things that are inherently second nature can be temporarily disrupted and inhibit you from doing those things you truly enjoy. That is, until you restore your mobility with orthopaedic care and rehabilitation. Many people, of all ages, in the U.S. are faced with mobility limitations that require orthopaedic intervention. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), one in four Americans suffers from an impairment that impacts their ability to move. To inspire patients to fight for their mobility and promote the value of orthopaedic care to society, the AAOS started the "A Nation in Motion" campaign. This initiative focuses on stories of patients who have experienced a "Second First," the point in time when a patient, who had lost the ability to do something because of his or her orthopaedic condition, can do the act once again. Patients who are looking for advice to help restore their everyday lives can find a surgeon close to their location, research bone and joint health procedures and risks, read other patients' experiences and peruse pain management tips. To help patients develop realistic goals about their recovery, Dr. Elizabeth G. Matzkin, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and chief of Women's Sports Medicine, prefers to assess her patient's surgical recovery and rehabilitation expectations with in-depth interviews. "Sometimes I tell people: 'I'm so glad you're not in any pain or that you're not uncomfortable, but you need to take it easy so this heals.' A lot of procedures take at least three months to heal," said Dr. Matzkin. According to the AAOS, "all surgeries have a minimum recovery time during which the patient will not be able to participate in all of the activities he or she did before the surgery, injury or onset of their orthopaedic condition." "I have patients who say, 'I will work really hard; I'm a fast healer.' And I say, 'The recovery is still recovery,'" said Dr. Matzkin. Visit ANationInMotion.org to learn more about how you can fight for your mobility or reach your Second First.
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On-Site Workplace Health Clinics Emphasize Chiropractic Care


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Google has embraced it. So have Apple and Facebook. In fact, they're part of a growing trend among businesses -- at least those that recognize the link between healthy bottom lines and healthy employees -- to adopt on-site wellness programs that incorporate chiropractic care. "Employers are now seeing that employee health is important beyond health care costs," said Beth Bierbower, president of Humana's Employer Group Segment. "It has profound impacts on productivity, retention, workplace engagement and morale." One of the earliest adoptees was the Wisconsin-based nutritional supplement company Standard Process. So impressed was management back in 1988 with the enthusiasm for an employee-initiated walking program that it ultimately took things a giant step further -- starting a wellness program for its own and other companies' workers called "Cultivate." Its four core pillars: nutrition, fitness, health education and -- yes, you guessed it -- chiropractic care. To date, Standard Process reports approximately 90 percent employee participation, which has resulted in: * Reduced health care claims. * Higher rates of employees committing to health and wellness goals. * Enhanced employee productivity, health, satisfaction and retention. "As evidence emerges further documenting the positive outcomes associated with chiropractic care, I expect a larger number of employers will be impressed and take steps toward inclusion of chiropractic care," said Gerard Clum, DC, of the not-for-profit Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. To locate a doctor of chiropractic in your area, visit www.F4CP.org/findadoctor.
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A New Prescription for Finding the Right Doctor


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Finding the right doctor can mean living a healthier life, or it can be the difference between life and death. Yet until now, consumers traditionally haven't accessed information that would enable them to find the right doctor for their individual needs. Americans have typically found their physician by word of mouth -- either from friends, family members, their doctor or their insurance list. And the problem is that these references are not subjective and only give a snapshot of a particular doctor -- one who may or may not be the best fit for your needs. "The Internet has dramatically changed how people get important information and make connections. Just look at the popularity of sites like Zillow and TripAdvisor.com. But unlike shopping for a house or vacation, detailed information about physicians and hospitals hasn't been easy to use for decision-making," says Roger Holstein, CEO, Healthgrades. But that's about to change. For the first time, consumers can search for doctors based on information that physicians themselves agree are most important: the doctor's experience, the clinical outcomes of the hospital where they practice and the satisfaction of their patients. The new search experience is available free at Healthgrades.com. The in-depth search capability addresses an important gap -- 90 percent of consumers have said they could make a better choice when selecting a physician if they knew more about the physicians in their insurance plans, according to a Harris Interactive study conducted for Healthgrades. "Knowing if a doctor diagnoses a particular condition or performs a procedure is critical to understanding their experience in treating patients like you -- which can influence the quality of care you receive," says Archelle Georgiou, MD, a healthcare advisor. "If you are searching for a doctor, Healthgrades should be your first stop." To find the right doctor for you, visit www.healthgrades.com.
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Be on the Lookout for These Invasive Species


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Insects originating in foreign countries, commonly called invasive species, are a major concern in the U.S. because they often don't have natural predators, allowing their populations to grow quickly. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) reminds homeowners that several of these invasive species can be a threat or a nuisance to families or properties. According to the NPMA, here are the five most common invasive species that homeowners encounter: 1. Brown marmorated stink bugs arrived in Pennsylvania in 1996 from Asia. The stink bug earned its name from its tendency to release an odor when disturbed or when crushed. While quite harmful to the agricultural industry, stink bugs do not pose a threat to people's health, but their tendency to invade homes in high numbers can be a nuisance. 2. Red imported fire ants (also known as RIFAs) are an invasive species from Brazil that are found throughout the South and in parts of California and other western states. RIFAs will attack humans who disturb or threaten their nests, inflicting painful bites and stings. Those allergic to insect stings will react more severely. 3. Formosan termites were brought into the U.S. from China in military cargo shipments after World War II. This termite species is one of the most destructive, forming huge underground colonies, and is more aggressive in nature, consuming more wood, flooring and wallpaper at much faster rates than other species. Formosan termites are difficult to control once they infest an area and can cause severe structural damage to a home in as little as six months. 4. Rasberry crazy ants are spreading rapidly throughout the Southwest. First found in Texas in 2002, its common name comes from the workers' habit of running in an erratic, jerky manner when searching for food. The ants can bite humans and feed on plants, other insects and even small animals. 5. Conehead termites, an invasive species native to the Caribbean, were first introduced to the U.S. in 2001 and are currently found in Florida. Unlike most termites, the conehead termite does not rely on underground tunneling to travel. Instead, they forage on the ground like ants, allowing them to spread rapidly. As an extremely aggressive species, they are known to cause widespread property damage in a short amount of time. For more information, visit www.pestworld.org.
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It's Official: Women Are the Decision-Makers Even When It Comes to Roofs


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - What do shoes have to do with choosing the perfect shingles for your roof? If you have to ask, then you haven't been paying attention to the seismic shift going on when it comes to marketing to women. For a while now, we've been told that females make more than 80 percent of purchasing decisions. But it's only relatively recently that companies across the spectrum have begun embracing -- no, bear hugging -- women consumers in ways that show they actually "get" the societal changes behind that stat. Cadillac just released its first-ever commercial depicting a CEOish-looking woman behind the wheel of one of its luxury vehicles, for example, while American Express is out with a new no-fee rewards card targeted to "busy moms." Heck, even the NFL now has a line of sleek, fitted team jerseys that the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch couldn't even get over his neck. "Women in the fall are thinking about football as much as the guys are," one executive told Adweek magazine. Which brings us back to those shoes -- and what may actually go down as one of the most eye-opening nods to women's clout. Females, according to She-Conomy, now make "the majority of home renovation decisions." (Relax, guys. They're still even less likely than you to want to undertake do-it-yourself projects.) And so GAF, North America's largest roofing manufacturer -- yes, roofs -- now features a "Style Guide" on its website (www.gaf.com) that couldn't be more female-friendly if Eve had designed it herself while Adam was off dozing. "Women are extremely important decision-makers, and therefore we're focusing on providing them solutions that not only perform but also provide the sophistication and style to match their personal taste," says Emily Videtto, vice president of shingles and new product development at GAF, which has won the Women's Choice Award for America's Best Roofing Brand for the past three years based on input from general contractors and female customers. HGTV's design expert Carter Oosterhouse takes a mostly straightforward approach to walking users through the process of picking the right shingles for the desired effect. But GAF apparently realizes that women share a secret (or not so secret) vice that's foreign to most men: a love of shoes. And so users get to have some fun by matching their fave shoe style to the corresponding shingle type. High heels your thing? "Explore Monaco Shingles," they're told. More the sneakers type? "Explore Timberline Lifetime Shingles." Now that's getting it.
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Where the Jobs Are: Why Relocating May Be the Best Option


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Unemployment rates and joblessness has been a prevalent topic in the U.S. since the recession began in 2007. Just three years into the country's economic slump, an estimated 8 million jobs were lost nationwide. While many of those jobs have been regained, the recession is still showing aftereffects in many parts of the country, which are lagging behind in unemployment. East and west coast cities are among the slowest to bounce back. Data from 2013 revealed that of the 13 U.S. cities with the highest unemployment rates, eight are in California and two are in New Jersey. With all the bad news still out there, there is a light at the end of a long tunnel, and it may be found in the Lone Star State. The Dallas economy has been booming, coming out of the recession early. In the past four years, Texas has added more than 1.2 million jobs, and more are coming. This spring, automotive giant Toyota announced its plans to relocate its North American headquarters from Torrance, California (where it's been for 57 years) to Plano, Texas, just outside Dallas. In addition to energy, technology and manufacturing, Dallas also offers opportunities in health care, one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor released an Employment Projections report that named home health care services as the fastest-growing industry in the country, with an estimated 700,000 jobs being added over the next decade. Of the 38 Best Health Care jobs in 2014, physical therapist, registered nurse and nurse practitioner were in the top five. One Dallas-based company, Axxess (www.axxess.com), is an example of a health care software technology company growing at an accelerated rate. Just over a year ago, Axxess had just 30 employees. With widespread acceptance of its software and increased industry demand, the company now has more than 100 employees and is still hiring. Relocation packages are available to employees moving to Dallas from out of state. Recently, Axxess announced plans to relocate its corporate offices to a 25,000-square-foot space in Dallas and add more than 100 more employees in the next year. CEO John Olajide plans to expand the company to add more services to its software solutions and bring more mobile health care technology into the home.
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Value of Education Brings Success Among Unique Student Population


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Impeccably green mountains overlook a picturesque New England landscape as families gaze upon capped and gowned graduates sitting along mahogany benches. One cannot help but think of this scene as suited only for institutions of the academic elite. However, a different educational success occurs in this part of New Hampshire, where students wear jumpsuits and study in cells. Grafton County Department of Corrections in North Haverhill, 35 miles north of Dartmouth College, prides itself on the number of inmates it's able to graduate from the state's new high school equivalency test called HiSET. "We're the HiSET jail -; we get inmates an education," said correctional educator Kenn Stransky. A teacher for the last 15 years, eight at the facility, Stransky has led numerous initiatives borrowed from more conventional education environments. For Stransky, to have a real impact on these students, it's about creating an education-focused culture. "A student is a student," says Stransky on how he views this unique student population. One such initiative is an alumni tutoring program, in which inmates who've earned their high school equivalency certificate help current inmates who are preparing to take the tests. "I'm here only once a week, so that's a limited opportunity, but their inmate peers are here all the time and can provide continuous support," Stransky said. Support for education success goes beyond those directly involved with the education program. Down to each correctional officer, everyone shares the responsibility to motivate inmates to enroll voluntarily and earn their high school equivalency. "We want them to be a more prepared and better person when they leave the facility," program officer Sgt. Mark Deem said. "Confidence that they could achieve something really makes a difference on whether we'll see them again." Inmates tend to gain a sense of purpose by graduating from the program, which has been shown to reduce recidivism. Inmates who participated in education programs have a 43 percent lower chance of recidivating than those who did not, according to a 2013 RAND Corporation study funded by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. The facility's honor graduate during this recent graduation is 45-year-old Mary Howard. Howard said that coming from a broken home, hanging around with the wrong crowd and illegal substance use led her to drop out of school early. However, the support and encouragement she received from fellow inmates and the facility's staff kept her focused and driven. "I have a completely different outlook on my future because there are more opportunities for me when I get out," Howard said.
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Is Faith Really a Good Thing?


Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Turn on the TV, go online or stream music, and it may seem like there is no place for faith in our culture. People -- especially young people -- will share just about any detail of their personal lives, except when it comes to their faith. Many are reluctant or even embarrassed to share how their faith makes them who they are. Despite this trend, there are tens of millions of Americans who still value their faith tremendously, and they want to make faith more visible. Thanks to a fast-growing social media movement (www.FaithCounts.net) people, regardless of their religion, are openly celebrating their faith -- because they believe faith is a very good thing. How is faith good? Let us count the ways. 1. Faith inspires, empowers and comforts billions of people the world over. And that makes people of faith happier. 2. People and organizations are motivated by their faith to help millions of people every single day, in soup kitchens, hospitals, schools and homeless shelters. 3. People of faith live longer. 4. People of faith are more engaged in civic life. 5. People of faith are more likely to be law-abiding citizens. 6. People of faith are more generous and charitable. 7. Faith has the power to add deep spiritual meaning and help people survive the most challenging times. And last but not least, a basic teaching of every major world religion asks that we treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated. If more people followed this Golden Rule, that alone would be a positive influence on society. And that's reason enough to promote the value of faith. What does the future hold for faith in America? Nobody knows for sure, but those who value their faith can help push back against current trends by visiting www.FaithCounts.net and sharing with friends. FaithCounts.net showcases compelling stories about faith through videos, uplifting quotes, articles and images. Hopefully, more people will feel inspired, and ultimately feel good about expressing how their faith makes them who they are. These are small steps, but they are making a big difference, and FaithCounts.net can help restore the value of faith in America.
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