Do you know what preventive services are free?

Health care reform - otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act - gives you the right to access certain preventive medical services with no cost-sharing, including co-pays or coinsurance even if you haven't met your deductible.

The list of free services includes immunizations, cancer screenings, depression screening and much, much more. See the full list at There's also specific services covered for women and even for children.

If you've been charged for a preventive service that you believe should've been free, give our health insurance experts a call at 1-800-562-6900 or email us at

We've heard from some consumers who have had their free colonoscopy, but were later charged for the removal and testing of a polyp. Recent guidelines from the federal government should protect you from these charges, but if you have concerns, please contact us. We'll help you understand your rights to these services and others.

Are you ready for a megaquake?

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) ran a series of stories earlier this month about how prepared Northwesterners are for a massive earthquake (or not, in many cases). Some experts say a magnitude 9.0 quake off our coast could hit at anytime. OPB profiled a series of families who tried living off their earthquake supplies for a weekend to as a trial run. The Red Cross recommends storing 14 gallons of water and 42 meals per person in the event of a megaquake. That�s a lot of supplies. 
Photo courtesy of FEMA. A sports car lies crushed by earthquake debris in a Seattle parking lot in Seattle on March 4, 2001.

In addition to being prepared for the disaster itself, homeowners should be prepared for the aftermath. Step one is talking to your insurance agent about what your policies will cover. Earthquakes are not automatically covered by a standard homeowner�s policy, most insurers require an endorsement or a separate policy. And you likely won�t be able to buy it after the fact, most insurers don�t sell it for a period of time after an earthquake hits. Additionally, it typically doesn�t cover tidal waves or tsunamis that are a direct result of an earthquake, but be sure to read your policy and talk to your insurance agent.

While you are preparing for an earthquake�or wildfire or any other natural disaster�make sure you include insurance in your planning.
Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Help the OIC improve health insurance webpages

We need your help refining the information we provide on the individuals and families section of our health insurance webpages. 

You can help by taking a short survey by May 28. It takes less than 15 minutes to complete and your responses are anonymous.

We will use your feedback to improve the way the information on the pages is organized, so it is more user-friendly and easy to navigate.

Thanks for your participation!

Health Care and Medicaid

One of the most difficult health care issues facing America today is Medicaid, the state run public healthcare assistance program for people who are poor. The technical description of Medicaid is that is a federal program that provides health coverage to nearly 60 million children, families, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities, and it is administered at the state level. Medicaid covers US citizens and eligible immigrants.

All States provide Medicaid to infants and children under age 6 with family incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level, or FPL. Medicaid is available in every state for children under age 19 with family incomes up to 100% of the FPL. For a family or household of 4 persons living in one of the 48 contiguous states or the District of Columbia, the poverty guideline for 2015 is $33,465 if your state is expanding Medicaid. Separate poverty guideline figures are developed for Alaska and Hawaii, and different guidelines may apply to the Territories.

Medicaid pays for a full set of services for children, including preventive care, immunizations, screening and treatment of health conditions, doctor and hospital visits, and vision and dental care. In most cases, these services are provided at no cost to families.

Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with low income in the United States. It is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments and managed by the states, with each state currently having broad leeway to determine who is eligible for its implementation of the program, according to CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

States are not required to participate in the program, although all currently do. Medicaid recipients must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and may include low-income adults, their children, and people with certain disabilities. Poverty alone does not necessarily qualify someone for Medicaid.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act significantly expanded both eligibility for and federal funding of Medicaid. Under the law as written, all U.S. citizens and legal residents with income up to 133% of the poverty line, including adults without dependent children, would qualify for coverage in any state that participated in the Medicaid program.

However, the United States Supreme Court ruled in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that states do not have to agree to this expansion in order to continue to receive previously established levels of Medicaid funding, and many states have chosen to continue with pre-ACA funding levels and eligibility standards.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), Medicaid is the nation�s main public health insurance program for people with low income and the single largest source of public health coverage in the U.S. covering nearly 70 million Americans. States design and administer their own Medicaid programs within federal requirements, and states and the federal government finance the program jointly. Medicaid plays many roles in our health care system.

Medicaid coverage facilitates access to care for beneficiaries, covering a wide range of benefits and tightly limiting out-of-pocket costs for care. As a major payer, Medicaid is a core source of financing for safety-net hospitals and health centers that serve low-income communities, including many of the uninsured. It is also the main source of coverage and financing for both nursing home and community-based long-term care. Altogether, Medicaid finances 16% of total personal health spending in the U.S.

There are, of course, a number of arguments against expanding Medicaid, according to the Atlantic Magazine. While the federal government would pick up much of the immediate cost of the new enrollees, it sticks states with 10 percent of the tab after 2020. A 2014 study found that people use emergency rooms more, not less, once they enroll in Medicaid, somewhat undermining the argument that the expansion would funnel more people toward cheaper primary-care doctors. (Though it�s worth noting that people tend to use all sorts of healthcare more � not just ERs �once they get insured.) And physicians are indeed reluctant to accept Medicaid: Its lower reimbursement rates mean that more than a third of doctors won�t see new Medicaid patients, a shortage that is especially acute among specialists.

Studies on Medicaid�s health benefits show mixed results. One Urban Institute paper found that Medicaid provides its beneficiaries with similar access to care as employer-sponsored insurance, except at a lower cost for the individual. For example, patients would spend more than four times as much on out-of-pocket medical expenses if they were uninsured, and three times as much if they had employer insurance, as they do with Medicaid.

Meanwhile, another New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) study that looked at Oregon residents who won a Medicaid lottery found that getting coverage generated no significant improvements in cholesterol or hypertension in the first two years. It did, however, encourage people to go to the doctor more, raised their rates of diabetes detection and management, lowered rates of depression, and reduced financial strain. A NEJM study also found that states that had previously expanded Medicaid saw a 6.1 percent reduction in the death rate among adults younger than 65. While critics of Medicaid point out the program�s spotty record of saving money or alleviating certain health conditions, its proponents say that many of its shortcomings apply to Medicare and private insurance as well.

According to KFF, as of March 2015, 22 states were not expanding their programs. Medicaid eligibility for adults in states not expanding their programs is quite limited: the median income limit for parents in 2015 is just 44% of poverty, or an annual income of $8,840 a year for a family of three, and in nearly all states not expanding, childless adults will remain ineligible.

Further, because the ACA envisioned low-income people receiving coverage through Medicaid, it does not provide financial assistance to people below poverty for other coverage options. As a result, in states that do not expand Medicaid, many adults will fall into a �coverage gap� of having incomes above Medicaid eligibility limits but below the lower limit for Marketplace premium tax credits.

Nationally, nearly four million poor uninsured adults fall into the �coverage gap� that results from state decisions not to expand Medicaid, meaning their income is above current Medicaid eligibility but below the lower limit for Marketplace premium tax credits. These individuals would have been newly-eligible for Medicaid had their state chosen to expand coverage. Nationally, 43% of uninsured adults in the coverage gap are White non-Hispanics, 24% are Hispanic, and 27% are Black.

The ACA Medicaid expansion was designed to address the high uninsured rates among adults living below poverty, providing a coverage option for people who had limited access to employer coverage and limited income to purchase coverage on their own. However, with many states opting not to implement the Medicaid expansion, millions of adults will remain outside the reach of the ACA and continue to have limited, if any, options for health coverage: they are ineligible for publicly-financed coverage in their state, most do not have access to employer-based coverage through a job, and all have limited income available to purchase coverage on their own. A significant amount of info on Medicaid can be found at this site:

Medicaid is a very expensive program to maintain and administer. And, at some future date, there is a tipping point where it won�t be sustainable or a viable option for states or the federal government. Not to mention, physician drop out in Medicaid is increasing at a greater rate since the Affordable Care Act negotiated reimbursements in the past few years.

What are the options? Charitable organizations are one option, and they are going to need to increase their work in communities affected by the lack of income based families who can afford insurance. Another option would be to engage individuals in financial counseling and income opportunities. States should develop programs to assist those adults capable of working to find better employment options, and educational programs should be developed in partnership with community organizations to provide job skills and training.

Although Medicaid is a way to help families and individuals receive a limited form of health care, it is not the end all answer. More work needs to be done by all stakeholders to improve the financial wellness of those with limited incomes to move beyond the FPL, and to encourage the health care community to lessen access the restrictions to all types of medical care. Certainly, Medicaid should be seen more as a stop gap measure versus the lifestyle it perpetuates.

Until next time. 

Healthcare and Prescription Adherence

Individuals who take medications, especially seniors or those with chronic health issues, are supposed to be taking their prescriptions on regularly scheduled intervals. One of the most critical issues that health plans and medical providers face is the lack of prescription adherence. 

Taking your medications as prescribed is very important to your overall health regimen. Doctors are constantly dealing with patients who either refuse or forget to stay on track. As a consequence, many people suffer from problems related to the lack of consistency with their medications.

Prescription adherence is especially severe with anyone who has a maintenance medication, and does not maintain their adherence due to various reasons�cost, memory, fear, and other excuses. Medication adherence usually refers to whether patients take their medications as prescribed (eg, twice daily), as well as whether they continue to take a prescribed medication.

Medication non-adherence is a growing concern to clinicians, healthcare systems, and other stakeholders (eg, payers) because of mounting evidence that it is prevalent and associated with adverse outcomes and higher costs of care, according to the American Heart Association. It�s very important in cardiovascular care. For more details, read material at this website: .

People do not realize the real damage or consequences of non-adherence, according to the American Heart Association. When patients with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease do not take medication as directed, the repercussions can be severe. For instance, not keeping blood pressure in check can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.

In sum, poor medication adherence takes the lives of 125,000 Americans annually, and costs the health care system nearly $300 billion a year in additional doctor visits, emergency department visits and hospitalizations. There are many reasons why people are not able to take their medication as directed.
         They may forget.
         They may not be convinced of the medication�s effectiveness or be unsure that it is working.
         They may fear the side effects or have difficulty taking the medication (especially with injections or inhalers).

And we all know that the rising cost of prescription medications is a barrier for many.
Some may face a combination of these reasons for not taking their medications. One person may face different barriers at different times as he or she manages his or her condition. Whatever the reason, you could miss out on potential benefits, quality of life improvements, and could lose protection against future illness or serious health complications. Much more detailed material on this subject can be located at this site:

According to the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM), poor adherence to prescribed medication is associated with reduced treatment benefits and can obscure the clinician�s assessment of therapeutic effectiveness. Non-adherence is thought to account for 30% to 50% of treatment failures. Non-adherence leads to worse medical treatment outcomes, higher and avoidable hospitalization rates, institutionalization for the frail elderly, and increased healthcare costs.

Physicians play an integral role in medication adherence. Patients who trust their physicians have better two-way communication with their physician. Trust and communication are two elements critical in optimizing adherence. Numerous studies show that physician trust is more important than treatment satisfaction in predicting adherence to prescribed therapy and overall satisfaction with care. Physician trust correlates positively with acceptance of new medications, intention to follow physician instructions, perceived effectiveness of care, and improvements in self-reported health status.

A recent meta-analysis of physician communication and patient adherence to treatment found that there is a 19% higher risk of non-adherence among patients whose physician communicates poorly than among patients whose physician communicates well, according to the ACPM. Statistically, the odds of patient adherence are 2.26 times higher if a physician communicates well. This translates into more than 183 million medical visits that need not take place if strong interpersonal physician/patient communication occurs.
Communication contributes to a patient�s understanding of illness and the risks and benefits of treatment. Hence, the major challenge is to improve:
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication (patient-centered care)
  • Interviewing skills (improved competency)
  • Discussions and provide greater transmission of information (task-oriented behavior)
  • Continuous expressions of empathy and concern (psychosocial behavior)
  • Partnerships and participatory decision-making (patient-centered care)
Among significantly more detailed information and additional statistics located at this website:, a challenge to improve adherence is clearly stated. Poor adherence to medical treatment is widespread and well recognized, as are its consequences of poor health outcomes and increased healthcare costs. Lack of prescription adherence is estimated to annually cause 125,000 deaths. Consider these other statistics:
  • Overall, about 20% to 50% of patients are non-adherent to medical therapy.
  • People with chronic conditions only take about half of their prescribed medicine. 
  • Adherence to treatment regimens for high blood pressures is estimated to be between 50 and 70 percent. 
  • 1 in 5 patients started on warfarin therapy for atrial fibrillation discontinue therapy within 1 year.
    • Underuse of anticoagulant therapy for prevention of thromboembolism is attributed to the risk factors of younger age, male gender, low overall stroke risk, poor cognitive function, homelessness, higher educational attainment, employment and reluctant receptivity of medical information.
  • Rates of adherence have not changed much in the last 3 decades, despite WHO and Institute of Medicine (IOM) improvement goals.
  • Overall satisfaction of care is not typically a determining factor in medication adherence
  • Adherence drops when there are long waiting times at clinics or long time lapses between appointments.
  • Patients with psychiatric disabilities are less likely to be compliant.
According to a new national poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies, 40 percent of American adults suffer from some form of chronic illness, ranging from diabetes and cancer to heart disease and high blood pressure. In recent years, however, lack of regular adherence to medications has resulted in higher health care costs and an increase in the prevalence of chronic conditions that directly impact patient health. In fact, nine out of ten patients who adhere to their prescription medications describe their health as �good� or �excellent,� while two thirds of patients with poor adherence report the same.

A growing body of evidence suggests that medication adherence programs have the potential to reduce health spending and, in the process, generate significant savings for taxpayers. Policies to promote medication adherence have the potential to improve health and significantly reduce health spending, according to this organization:

There are some tools that can help remind people to take prescriptions. This particular website includes ways to keep track of your medicines, how-to videos about taking your medicine, and tips to help you talk with your doctor or pharmacist about your health problem and your medicine. For more information, go to this site:

The average adherence rate (the degree to which patients correctly follow prescription instructions) for medicines taken only once daily is nearly 80%, compared to about 50% for treatments that must be taken 4 times a day. As many as 75% of patients and 50% of chronically ill patients fail to adhere to or comply with physician prescribed treatment regimens.

In a poll (Med Ad News 02/2010) of U.S. individuals 65 years old and older who use medications, researchers found that 51% take at least five different prescription drugs regularly, and one in four take between 10 and 19 pills each day. 57% of those polled admit that they forget to take their medications. Among those using five or more medications, 63% say they forget doses, compared to 51% among those who take fewer medicines.This website offers solutions for products to assist with prescription adherence:

Remembering to take your medicine is the key to compliance. Medicine will be effective only when taken as prescribed by your physician. If you are a caregiver for someone who needs prescriptions taken on a daily basis, your responsibility to help them follow their regimen is especially important. According to the Rosalynn Carter Institute of Georgia Southwestern College, there are 25 million non-professional caregivers in the U.S., and 80% of those are women. Between 80% and 90% of people taking medications receive them from a family member. That�s why it is critical to be adherent to medication therapies.

Prescription adherence is such a huge health care issue in America that Congress is considering ways to mandate options to make it happen better. Organizations that promote adherence are all about education and awareness for the public to know how important the issue is relative to the population at large and the overwhelming costs to the economy. All stakeholders in the medical community--doctors, clinics, hospitals, health plans, pharmacists, etc--are in full stress mode to monitor and maintain the highest degrees of medication adherence.

If you are on regular prescriptions for maintenance medications, keep your schedule intact as much as possible and follow the instructions of your doctor and pharmacist. Even if your medication need is temporary, such as an antibiotic or other short term prescription, follow the directions.  Not only does this help you, but it provides safety and comfort to those around you. Plus, it reduces the possibility of a recurring illness or relapse.

Until next time.

OIC hiring two entry-level insurance positions in Tumwater

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner is hiring two entry-level positions atour Tumwater headquarters to help consumers with insurance.
  • Insurance Technician 1: This is in our Consumer Protection Division and answers calls on our consumer hotline. This position triages calls to consumer advocacy, producer licensing and Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA), explains basic insurance rules and helps consumers and industry users troubleshoot problems with our online applications. 
  • Health Insurance Advisor 1: This is in our Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program and is a temporary job through December 2015. This position counsels consumers in person and on the phone about health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, including screening them for eligibility and enrolling them in subsidized programs. The person in this position delivers presentations to community groups, trains volunteers and attends monthly meetings around the state. 
Find more information about these jobs and other openings at

OIC wants your help to make our website more user-friendly!

Now that open enrollment is over, we want to fine-tune the individuals and families section of our health insurance webpages. 

You can help by taking a short survey. It takes less than 15 minutes to complete and your responses are anonymous. We will use your feedback to better organize the information that we provide to consumers. The survey is open until May 19.

Thanks for your help making our website easier to use!

Health Care and Psychosis

Do you know someone who has lost touch with reality? Not just because they don�t want to deal with a particular situation, but because they have seemingly lost their mind? Have you ever wondered why certain people cannot deal with everyday life and appear to retreat into their own world? This type of psychological problem is known as psychosis�a dangerous state of mind for anyone who has it, or anybody who is around anyone who exhibits it.

Psychosis refers to an abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality". People with psychosis are described as psychotic. People experiencing psychosis may exhibit some personality changes and thought disorder. Depending on its severity, this may be accompanied by unusual or bizarre behavior, as well as difficulty with social interaction and impairment in carrying out daily life activities.

The two main symptoms of psychosis are:
         Hallucinations  where a person hears, sees and, in some cases, feels, smells or tastes things that aren't there; a common hallucination is hearing voices
         Delusions  where a person believes things that, when examined rationally, are obviously untrue  for example, thinking your next door neighbor or someone perhaps not even near you is planning to kill you.

The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can often severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotion and behavior. Although real to the person experiencing psychosis, psychotic experiences are not experienced as real to others.

Psychosis is more common than many people think. Symptoms may come and go or be relatively constant. It is often associated with mental health disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.  However, psychosis can also occur for many other reasons, including substance abuse, brain injury, seizure disorders, or conditions of extreme sleep deprivation or isolation. 

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), a person with psychosis may have any of the following:
         Disorganized thought and speech
         False beliefs that are not based in reality (delusions), especially unfounded fear or suspicion
         Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there (Hallucinating)
         Thoughts that "jump" between unrelated topics (disordered thinking)

Psychiatric evaluation and testing are used to diagnose the cause of the psychosis. More information can be found at this site: . Also, laboratory testing and brain scans may not be needed, but sometimes can help pinpoint the diagnosis. Tests may include the following:
         Blood tests for abnormal electrolyte and hormone levels
         Blood tests for syphilis and other infections
         Drug screens
         MRI of the brain

Psychosis is usually reported to a healthcare professional by a family member, friend or caretaker of the person who is ill. Most patients are, themselves, unaware of their condition. Diagnosis is made by a psychiatrist, through talking tests that are performed to assess the severity of the condition. Treatment for psychosis usually involves a combination of medication called antipsychotics and talking therapy or counseling. While medication can relieve the symptoms of psychosis, talking therapy can address the underlying cause of the psychosis.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one example of talking therapy that is commonly used to help people with psychosis. Aside from psychological therapy and medication, people with psychosis also require support from people in their family and social circles. More information about this mental disorder can be found at this site: .

There is no cure for psychosis, but there are many treatment options. In some cases where medication is to blame, ceasing the medication can stop the psychosis. In other instances, receiving treatment for an underlying condition may treat psychosis. This is another reason why getting treatment help is important: discovering a potentially life-threatening medical problem.

Some people may only need short-term treatment. Others may need long-term treatment with antipsychotic medication. A doctor might recommend psychological therapy or addiction counseling. It depends upon the cause of the psychosis. More information can be found at this website:

Learning to manage stress is important for a person with psychosis. Not only does the psychosis itself create considerable stress but this stress can in turn provoke symptoms and result in a relapse. You, like everyone, has stress within your environments � some of which you can control and some things you cannot. When you have little control over the stress, you can change how you respond to it. Managing stress starts with learning to recognize stress.

Stress symptoms include many mental, social and physical changes. Common symptoms of stress include feelings of exhaustion and fatigue, irritability or anxiety, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, headaches and/or muscle tension in the back and neck. Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs may also be a sign of poor coping.

Each person's response to stress is unique. By anticipating stress, a person can prepare for it and work out how to control it when it happens. Much more detailed information about psychosis can be located at this website:

The New York Times Health Guide also has some very good info about how to deal with psychosis: Call your health care provider or mental health professional if you or a member of your family is losing contact with reality. If there is any concern about safety, immediately take the person to the nearest emergency room to be seen by a doctor.

Until next time.

Fraud prosecutor wins Award of Excellence

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner congratulates King County Deputy Prosecutor Andy Hamilton on his Award of Excellence from the national Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. Hamilton works with the Insurance Commissioner�s Special Investigations Unit to prosecute criminal insurance fraud cases in King County. Hamilton has prosecuted more than 55 cases involving more than $5.5 million in losses, including convicted felons Edward Callow and Kevin Kolenda.

Hamilton, who has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney and Deputy Prosecutor for more than 30 years, works in the King County Prosecutor�s economic crimes unit and was a police officer for four years before he earned his law degree.

Andy Hamilton accepts an Award of Excellence from the national 
Coalition Against Insurance Fraud 
from Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler on May 5. 

OIC seeks smart, savvy health care policy advisor

The OIC is hiring a highly skilled Senior Health Policy Advisor to acts as Commissioner Kreidler's primary advisor on all issues related to health care and health insurance issues, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This position is the Commissioner's trusted advisor and designee on ACA policy matters and other matters related to health insurance. This position is responsible for developing policy options for the resolution of health insurance issues. Once executive decisions are made concerning the purpose and scope of an initiative, this position will develop programs or initiatives reflected in work products such as reports, legislation or regulations.

Duties of this position include:
  • Acts as the first point-of-contact for consumer advocates and consumer/labor groups on matters pertaining to the ACA and other health insurance issues; 
  • Coordinates with the Governor's Office, Health Benefits Exchange (HBE), HCA and others on ACA implementation issues and other health coverage related issues and projects; 
  • Acts as the point-of-contact for legislative staff and member inquiries on ACA and other health insurance issues; 
  • Represents the Commissioner and agency at speaking engagements and meetings related to healthcare issues. Meetings may include, but are not limited to: Health Benefits Exchange Board, National Association of Insurance Commissioner (NAIC) , Governor's Health Leadership Team, legislative hearings, rule-making and legislation stakeholdering; 
  • Analyzes existing and proposed laws, rules and proposals concerning health insurance legislation, preparing recommendations as needed for executive decision-making; 
  • Develops strategies, initiatives and recommendations to solve priority health insurance issues; and, 
  • Communicates and works with representatives from the insurance industry, public agencies, legislature and the public in development of initiatives to solve health insurance issues. 
View a full list of duties and apply here: Senior Health Policy Advisor (Civil Service Exempt)

Health Care and Meth Addiction

Drug abuse is a huge problem, not only in the US but also around the world. One of the most abusive drugs is methamphetamine, or �meth.� Crystal meth is short for crystal methamphetamine. It is just one form of the drug methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.

In comparison to similar stimulants, much higher levels of methamphetamine enter the brain, making it a more potent stimulant drug. It also has longer lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. Methamphetamine has many street names, such as speed, meth, and chalk. Methamphetamine hydrochloride, the crystal form inhaled by smoking, is referred to as ice, crystal, glass, and tina.

According to the Foundation for a Drug Free World, methamphetamine is a white crystalline drug that people take by snorting it (inhaling through the nose), smoking it or injecting it with a needle. Some even take it orally, but all develop a strong desire to continue using it because the drug creates a false sense of happiness and well-being�a rush (strong feeling) of confidence, hyperactivity, and energy.

Users also experience decreased appetite. These drug effects generally last from six to eight hours, but can last up to twenty-four hours. The first experience might involve some pleasure, but from the start, methamphetamine begins to destroy the user�s life. More details about Meth abuse is at this website: .

There are many warning signs that a person may be addicted to methamphetamine. The physical appearance of a person using methamphetamines may provide several key clues:

         Skin picking: methamphetamine addicts are known to obsessively pick at their skin. The marks left by this picking may look similar to an extreme case of acne, often leaving open sores on the face.
         Skin crawling: meth addicts also often complain about having crawling skin, a disorder known as formication.
         Tooth decay: Another common sign is tooth loss or tooth decay, referred to as meth mouth.
         Hair loss: due to the lack of nutrients in an addict's body as well as the dangerous chemicals they ingest, hair breakage frequently occurs as well.

Crystal meth has become more popular because it is easily produced in home labs using store-bought materials. It is highly volatile in the production stage. Symptoms of meth abuse include:

         increased attention and decreased fatigue
         increased activity and wakefulness
         increased talkativeness
         decreased appetite
         euphoria and experiencing a rush
         increased respiration
         rapid/irregular heartbeat

Once ingested, it creates fierce cravings, so physical dependence can start immediately. When you are physically dependent on a drug, it�s extremely difficult to voluntarily stop using. Entering an accredited drug treatment center that specializes in this type of drug addiction is the best way to succeed at sobriety. Some symptoms of withdrawal may include:

         Tingling sensations on the skin

Methamphetamine affects the brain and can create feelings of pleasure, increase energy and elevate mood. Methamphetamines give someone the ability to stay awake and do continuous activity with less need for sleep. Methamphetamines, like regular amphetamines, also suppress a person's appetite and are sometimes used by people trying to lose weight quickly, according to this website:

Most of the pleasurable effects of methamphetamine are believed to result from the release of very high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is involved in motivation, the experience of pleasure, and motor function. Methamphetamine releases approximately twelve times the dopamine that food, sex or other pleasurable activities release. The elevated release of dopamine produced by meth is also thought to contribute to the drug's harmful effects on nerve terminals in the brain.

Meth addiction and dependency is a serious disease that is extremely difficult to address. Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center is a leading rehab and recovery facility for women suffering from methamphetamine addiction as well as other co-occurring disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

According to research gathered in 2009 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.2 million Americans ages 12 and over had abused methamphetamine in the previous year. Methamphetamine use is a national problem, and many families are looking for the right treatment for their loved ones who are suffering from an addiction to crystal meth. Finding the right program begins with knowing what questions to ask and what signs to look for. All addicts deserve proper care, and finding the right program takes careful consideration.

In addition to medical detoxification programs caring for individuals while they come off the drug, these programs can also provide ongoing care as needed during residential stays, according to this website: This care may include medical care for physical problems associated with crystal meth abuse such as infected skin sores, or care for diseases that may have been contracted through the use of the drug, such as hepatitis B.

You should call any facility you are considering and ask about its on-site detox and healthcare amenities. Some facilities may even allow you or your family member to tour the center before committing to a stay. One of the most important questions to ask a crystal meth addiction treatment center is what aftercare options they offer. While an inpatient stay is a step in the right direction, ongoing care after rehab keeps a user focused on remaining sober. Some facilities offer their own outpatient programs to those who have completed an inpatient stay, while others may redirect care to another center.

Aftercare is important because it helps you acclimate to the new world of temptations outside of the safety of inpatient care. In essence, it is a guiding light in a world that may look a bit dark as meth addicts continue towards recovery. Many of the effects of crystal meth abuse are psychological. These effects can sometimes be worse than physical effects, as the suffering often goes unnoticed because the scars and pain cannot be seen with the naked eye.

You or a family member or friend may suffer from anxiety or psychosis as a result of abusing the drug, and the results can be life-altering. The best facilities also treat these mental effects and can keep them from spiraling out of control with counseling or medications, depending on your diagnosis.

Another benefit of seeking out centers that have mental health services is that they can care for any existing disorders you may have. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a high proportion of addicts suffer from both addiction and mental illness at the same time, with 40 percent of drug users suffering from some type of mood disorder as well. Mental health facilities can also diagnose underlying conditions that someone addicted to methamphetamine may not even realize they have.

Addiction to methamphetamine in any form can be deadly. Your life is in jeopardy as soon as you start experimenting with this drug. No short term high is worth putting your life in danger. For treatment, see a professional health care provider who can assist with helping to prevent long term addiction, or worse.

Until next time. 

Assurant Health to Close Business by 2016

Health brokers received an e-mail from Assurant Health this week indicating that the carrier plans to close all individual health business.

According to Assurant, the company intends to close both IFP (individual & family plans) and Employee Benefits divisions and either 1) sell them off to another carrier or, 2) to simply close them by end of 2015 if no buyer can be found.  The decision likely hinges on excessive losses on individual health under the ACA.  

As it stands today, Assurant will continue existing policies until the end of 2015 (and next open enrollment).  They state that they will not sell any health insurance in 2016 as Assurant Health.

Assurant began in 1892 as the La Crosse Mutual Aid Society in Wisconsin.  The also operated for many years as Fortis and also Time.  

For California residents, the loss of Assurant (with it's very broad Aetna network) represents the third carrier to exit the market since ObamaCare went into effect.  United Healthcare (UHC) closed PacifiCare and Aetna also left prior to January 2014.  Cigna remains active however only operating in 10 counties in California in 2015.  


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New Medicare cards are coming starting in April

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will start mailing redesigned Medicare cards to beneficiaries in Washington state aft...