Health Care and Poison Control

As Summer starts, one key element of health care during these months is poison control. In 2013, America�s 55 poison centers received over 3.1 million calls, and about 2.2 million of those were for poison exposures including carbon monoxide, food poisoning, snake bites, and many more. The remainder of those calls consisted of people asking general information about poison, according to the AAPCC.  

The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation�s 55 poison centers in their efforts  to prevent and treat poison exposures. These locations offer free and confidential medical advice 24/7 through the toll free poison help line at 800-222-1222. This service provides a primary source for information about poisoning and helps reduce costly emergency room visits through in-home treatment in non-emergency situations.

According to the Texas Poison Center Network, in years past, if your child swallowed some type of poison, you wouldn't think twice about using Ipecac to induce vomiting. Today, Poison Centers would never recommend Ipecac. However, many online sources still vouch for its effectiveness. In a panic, people often click on the first seemingly reputable option online.

Every second counts when it comes to poisoning. The longer it takes to look through pages of search results online, the greater the danger of negative health effects. A mistreated poison exposure can escalate an easy in-home treatment into a trip to the hospital. 

Because factors like weight, height, medical history, and in some cases even geography can drastically change the outcome of a poison exposure, it's vital that poisonings are handled on a case-by- case basis. Poison Center experts are the only reliable source for accurate medical recommendations regarding poisons.  

Calling a Poison Center is like calling a really smart, caring family member, minus the judgment and gossip-spreading. The voice on the other end of the line is a medical professional who has undergone years of training and rigorous testing just to qualify to answer your questions. In fact, 20 percent of calls are from doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who are seeking specialized treatment advice. More info can be found at this site: .

However, there are a great number of poisonings that happen that never result in an initial call to a poison control center. In 2010 there were 42,917 deaths attributed to poison, yet poison centers were consulted in 1,730 poisoning fatalities (only 4%).  The CDC estimated that there were 1,098,880 poisoning injuries in 2010 that resulted in a visit to an emergency department. 

Yet, poison centers were involved in only 601,197 cases that involved treatment at a health care facility, indicating that poison centers are not consulted for many poisoning-related ED visits.  Poisonings also go unreported when people do not realize they have been exposed, choose not to seek medical treatment or advice, do not have access to medical care, or do not know about poison center services.

In 2013, the National Capital Poison Center provided consultations for 54,534 callers from the DC metro area.  Sixty-nine percent (38,197) were about people exposed to a poison. Other consultations involved pet poisonings (1,566) and information requests (14,771).  Some interesting facts include: 
         Most poison exposures (77%) were unintentional.  The Center also received calls about other types of poisonings: medication side effects, substance abuse, malicious poisonings, and suicide attempts. 
         14,771 people (27%) called for poison-related information. Their questions were about possible problems with medication interactions, pesticide use, workplace chemicals, the safety of specific medications while breast-feeding, and many more topics.
         44% of poison exposures involved children younger than six, but the most serious cases occurred in adolescents and adults.
         55% of poison exposures involved medications; other exposures were to household or automotive products, plants, mushrooms, pesticides, animal bites and stings.
         75% of poison exposures involved people who swallowed a drug or poison. People were also poisoned by inhalation and through exposures to the skin or eyes.
         65% of poison exposures were safely managed over the phone and did not need medical treatment in a health care facility. However, 82% of those who called a poison center first, before going to a health care facility were safety treated at home. This number increases to 90% for pediatric poisonings when the Poison Center is consulted first, before other medical intervention is sought.

Although these specific stats are for the Metro DC area, they are indicative of the general types of poisonings that happen nationwide. More info about this topic and other associated details can be found at this site: .

What should you do in an event regarding a poisoning?  REMAIN CALM. For UNCONSCIOUS patients, CONVULSIONS, or any DIFFICULTY BREATHING, call 9-1-1. Otherwise call the Poison Control Center TOLL FREE NUMBER.

Information the Poison Center Specialist Will Need:
         AGE and WEIGHT of the person.
         WHAT was ingested. Have the bottle or container with you.
         HOW MUCH was taken. This will help the Poison Center Specialist determine the severity of the incident.
         HOW the victim is feeling or acting right now.
         Your NAME and PHONE number.

Here are some safety tips:

         EYE - Flood the eye with lukewarm water Repeat for 15 minutes. Encourage patient to blink while flushing the eye. Do not force the eyelid open.
         SWALLOWED MEDICINE - Do not give anything by mouth until calling for advice
         CHEMICAL OR HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS - Unless patient is unconscious, having convulsions, or cannot swallow - give a small amount of water. Then call for professional advice to find out if patient should be made to vomit. Do NOT induce vomiting unless recommended by your physician or the Poison Center.
         INHALED - Immediately get patient to fresh air. Avoid breathing fumes. Open doors and windows. If victim is not breathing, call for help and start assisted (mouth-to-mouth) breathing.
         SKIN - Remove contaminated clothing and flood skin with water for 15 minutes. Then wash gently with soap and water and rinse. 

Here are some preventive safety tips, according to
How Can You Prevent Poisonings?
         Use only child resistant covers.
         Keep in locked cabinets.
         Return to safe storage immediately after use.
         Always measure dose - don't guess.
         Never tell children that medicine is candy.
         Never take medicine in front of children. They often imitate adults.
         Keep all purses out of your child's reach. They may contain medicines or other items that could harm a child.

Disposal of Medicines
         Old, unused and expired prescription and over the counter medication should not be kept
         Always be careful to remove and/or destroy all personal information on the medication container
         Wrap medication containers in a thick paper bag or plastic bag that can be closed and place in the trash
         Place medicines in the trash just before pick-up so that children and animals don�t get to it
         Tablets and capsules can be crushed or melted in water and mixed with kitty litter, coffee grounds, sand or other kitchen garbage, put in a plastic bag and thrown away
         Some cities and counties in California have drop-off sites that you can take your medication to, call your county's hazardous waste collection center to find out
         Flushing medication down the toilet is discouraged and it is better to try one of the other ways listed above, but keeping the home safe by removing old and unused medication is most important

Household Products:
         Select products with child resistant covers.
         Keep in locked cabinets.
         Return to safe storage immediately after use.
         Store products and food in separate areas.
         Keep products in original containers. Never put them into food or beverage containers.
         Don't turn your back on a child when a product is within reach. If the phone or doorbell rings, take the child with you.

         Know the names of all your plants and which ones are poisonous.
         Keep all plants out of the reach of small children.
         Teach children not to put any part of plants in their mouths.

Poisonings are going to happen. Some are life threatening, but all of them are dangerous. Take time to review your house and other areas you frequent. Practice safety wherever you are regarding poison control. Remember to teach everyone in your household and office good prevention for poison control. Keep your doctor�s phone number handy, and always call 911 if you have an emergency.

Until next time. 

Central Washington fire kicks off wildfire season � get insurance tips here

A wildfire, called the Sleepy Hollow Fire,  is burning in Wenatchee and it has a high potential to spread to neighboring areas. People near the fire are being evacuated and so far several thousand acres dozens of homes have burned. You can follow breaking news about the fire on Twitter using #SleepyHollowFire.

The Insurance Commissioner�s website has information for consumers about wildfires and homeowner�s insurance, including things you should talk to your insurance agent about and tips for protecting your home and belongings. We also have tips for filing a claim after a natural disaster and how to find disaster resources.

Here are some other resources for Washingtonians:
Wildfires are predicted to be extensive this summer. Here are some tips for preparing for wildfire risk:
  • Check your policy to make sure damage from wildfires is covered. Some policies include some coverage for emergency shelter, such as a hotel, if a home is uninhabitable. 
  • Review your policy to make sure you have enough coverage. Things like fine art, jewelry and computer equipment may have limited coverage under a standard policy. But you can buy special coverage that gives you more protection for those types of items, called a rider. Contact your insurance agent or broker to ask about supplemental policies. 
  • Catalog your home�s belongings in case you need to make an insurance claim. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a printable home inventory checklist or you can try free iPhone/iPad or Android apps. 
  • You can help protect a rural home and limit the danger by clearing a natural fire break between your home and surrounding trees, brush and uncut fields. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has information on how to protect yourself and your home before, during and even after a wildfire. 
  • Have an emergency kit and a family communication plan. Know the location of your valuable papers, including insurance policy and contact information, mementos and anything you can't live without, so you can evacuate with them, if needed. 
  • Here's a list of recommended emergency supplies to keep on hand in the case of an evacuation. 
  • Don�t forget about planning for your pets. has tips for pet owners
Consumers can seek help with their insurance or ask insurance-related questions by calling our consumer advocates at 1-800-562-6900 or contacting us online.

Consumers should beware of flood damage when shopping for used cars

The New York Times recently reported a warning to consumers about how to identify a flood-damaged car when shopping for used vehicles. Flooding this month in Texas has damaged upwards of 10,000 cars, leaving them at risk for damaged mechanical, electrical and computerized components that could render a car unsafe to drive.

Comprehensive coverage will generally pay for damage to an insured car that�s been in a flood. However, when flood-damaged vehicles are not repairable, many states issue a �salvage� title or a new title that specifies the car has been in a flood.

Before you purchase a used car, it�s important to run the vehicle identification number (VIN) through a database to see its vehicle history.
In addition to running a vehicle history report, here are tips from the Northwest Insurance Council about how to avoid purchasing a vehicle that�s been in a flood:
  • Check for mud or grit in the spare tire compartment, alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses, around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays. 
  • Check inside the seatbelt retractors by pulling the seatbelt all the way out and inspect for moisture, mildew or grime. 
  • Check door speakers as they will often be damaged due to flooding.
  • Inspect the vehicle for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpets, floor mats, headliner cloth and behind the dashboard.
If you suspect that a car dealer or individual is knowingly selling flooded cars without disclosing the damage, you should contact local law enforcement or the NICB at 800-TEL-NICB.

Anthem Submits New Non-Binding Proposal To Acquire Cigna

Today, Anthem (NYSE: ANTM) submitted a non-binding proposal to acquire Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) for $184 per share.  This follows much dialogue and multiple buyout offers from Anthem.  

Read Today's Press Release from Anthem

For sure gone:      Assurant Health (12/31/15 RIP)

Likely gone:          Cigna, Humana

On the ropes:       Aetna

1 1/2 years in and the attrition is scary.  

OIC is hiring an Investigator 1 in training for our Legal Affairs division

The OIC is hiring an Investigator 1 (in training) in our Legal Affairs division, located at our Tumwater headquarters. We will hire the position as an Insurance Technician 3 and upon successful completion of a 12-month in-training plan, will promote to an Investigator 1.

This position conducts routine preliminary investigations into complaints alleging violations of the insurance code and proactive Internet investigations aimed at uncovering unauthorized insurance sales in Washington state.

Duties include:
  • Conducting routine preliminary investigations of complaints alleging violations of the insurance code involving licensed and unlicensed individuals and entities operating throughout Washington. 
  • Responding to all investigative requests received by the Investigations Unit via the OIC website, telephone, in writing, email, and in person. 
  • Gathering facts and evidence from multiple sources, conduct interviews, review insurance practices, forms, contracts, service agreements, and other documents.
  • Analyzing and evaluating the evidence obtained to determine if there is sufficient reason to believe a violation of the insurance code may have occurred. 
  • Providing investigative support to other investigators, the Investigator Supervisor, or the Investigations Manager on more complex investigations or special projects.
View the full description or apply: Investigator 1 (In-Training)

OIC hiring applications, database developer in Tumwater

The OIC is hiring an IT Systems/App Specialist 6 in our Operations Division at our Tumwater headquarters. We are looking for an expert professional-level application and database developer to provide the highest level of technical expertise in the areas of application development and data management.

Duties include:
  • Plan, analyze, develop, test, and implement enhancements and new functionality to the codebase (including .NET, C#, ASPX, jquery, javascript, html, etc) and database (MS SQL Server) as required for strategic IT business initiatives.
  • Apply appropriate software change control procedures and IT �best practices� when applying software changes including to production, integration, UAT, and development environments.
  • Provide .Net, C#, and SQL expertise to other developers (staff and vendors).
For more information or to apply, view the full description: IT Systems/App Specialist 6

Mergers and Such: You Can't Tell The Players Without a Program

When I was a kid we used to go to the ballpark for baseball games and always, always, the barker would be shouting "Get your programs, get your programs here.  You can't tell the players without a program".  I think I'm having a deja vu.

If I have this right, it looks like the following.......

  • Assurant Health is for-sale-by-owner to any buyer 
  • Aetna wants to acquire Humana, who is exploring a sale, but...........
  • United Health wants to acquire Aetna (would that deal include Humana?)
  • Anthem wants to merge with Cigna, both of which have been looking at buying Humana
The Anthem talks for Cigna also show that the next deal in the industry won�t necessarily be a sale of Humana, as many industry watchers expected. Indeed, if Anthem and Cigna were to get together, that would remove two possible buyers of Humana, which could leave it with only one major merger partner, Aetna, which itself now is a takeover target.

Read the entire article here


Pools and trampolines increase summer fun, but also insurance risk

Before inviting friends and family over to enjoy your swimming pool or trampoline, know that either may increase your insurance risk. Because pools and trampolines can be dangerous, some companies may not insure your property if you own them, or your policy may have exclusions for liability for related injuries. 

An insurance company may also deny coverage or cancel your policy if you do not follow its safety guidelines or fail to inform the company when you build a pool or purchase a trampoline. Some insurers offer lower rates or discounts if you add safety features, such as installing a fence or locked gate.

Talk to your insurer about purchasing an umbrella policy in addition to your homeowner�s insurance to increase your liability coverage in the event of an injury. But be forewarned, if you do have an injury claim, your insurer may cancel your coverage later.

If you lease or rent a property with a pool, discuss your insurance options with your agent or insurance company.

Read more about homeowner�s insurance on our website. Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Assurant Health Announces the End of Operations

Elvis has left the building.  123 years is a long time. Reminds me of my days in financial services whenever a rep would leave the office they would send out the "your representative (insert name here) has chosen to pursue other career interests" letter.  

Assurant, Inc., has concluded the review of its health business and will exit the Individual Medical, Small Group Fully Insured and Short Term Medical markets.
  • The last day for sales of these products will be June 15, 2015.
  • The wind down of these product lines will begin immediately and we expect to substantially complete the exit by the end of 2016.
The company will meet all claims, benefits, provider payments and agent commission responsibilities during this transition.

Good luck, Assurant.   

We are hiring for our consumer hotline

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) is hiring an Insurance Technician 1 and building a register of qualified candidates who may be considered for other permanent or non-permanent Insurance Technician 1 positions in the Consumer Advocacy Program in the Consumer Protection Division that occur within the next six months.

This position provides clerical support to the Consumer Advocacy Program and answers and triages consumer hotline calls. Hotline responsibilities include assessing issues, providing routine departmental information, and routing calls to the appropriate unit, staff person or agency. This position assists insurance producers with the website and answers basic licensing questions.

Duties of this position include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Triaging calls and assisting consumer with Consumer Advocacy, Statewide Health Insurance Benefit Advisor (SHIBA) program, and Licensing inquiries on the hotline. 
  • Explaining basic insurance rules and procedures, answering questions and resolving problems involving insurance matters.
  • Providing information regarding actions insurance producers/brokers and applicants need to take to comply with licensing requirements.
  • Helping consumers and companies troubleshoot online application issues. 
Find more information or apply at

Are insurers allowed to cancel homeowner policies?

Unfortunately, yes, an insurer can cancel or choose not to renew your homeowner policy at any time. Insurers are required to send you a written notice 45 days in advance, clearly listing the reason(s) for their actions. They are only required to give 10 days� notice if the reason is nonpayment. Insurers are not prohibited from making a decision to cancel or not renew a homeowner policy due to claims history, the condition of your property, or failure to respond to their requests for underwriting data from you. Last summer, a few homeowners reported their insurers wanted to cancel their policies for homes located in the wildfire region in Eastern Washington. Insurers can also ask you to make changes to your property to remain insured, such as removing vegetation to create a fire break around your house, cleaning or repairing your roof, or making repairs to worn siding, etc.

Your insurance agent may be able to work with the insurer to retain coverage, possibly with a higher deductible or some other provision, such as a home inspection report that would provide the insurer with more information about the overall condition and care of the home and property. There�s no guarantee the insurer will continue the coverage, but it�s worth asking the question.

If you are unable to find coverage, you can get a quote from Washington Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan. It provides basic property insurance up to $1.5 million to people who can't get coverage. All Washington property insurers must participate and consumers must get a quote from a licensed insurance agent. Find a licensed insurance agent or broker.

Read more about what to do if your policy is canceled. Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Share your story as Medicare and Medicaid turn 50 this year

This July, Medicare and Medicaid will celebrate their 50th anniversary. You�re invited to share your story on how these programs have positively impacted your life or that of a loved one.

In the coming months, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plans to share stories in a number of ways. Some stories will be used to help bring life to speeches and content on its websites. Some beneficiaries will be invited to share their stories at events or be interviewed for videos. In addition, as part of CMS� efforts to celebrate the 50th anniversary, it plans to display stories in a gallery exhibit at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. Before CMS uses your story, staff will contact you to get your permission and to make sure you�re comfortable with how they�ll use it.

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...