(StatePoint) You’ve selected your insurance plan for the year. Now, it’s time to start using your benefits, beginning with an annual wellness exam.
An annual wellness exam with a health care provider is important for everyone, but especially for older adults. As we age, we are more likely to develop chronic health conditions, according to Dr. J.B. Sobel, chief medical officer for Cigna Medicare, which serves hundreds of thousands of older adults through its products. An annual wellness exam can help detect potential health issues early so they can be addressed before they worsen, he added.
“By meeting with your primary care provider early in the year, you can highlight the things that are important to you, and work together to develop a plan for your care for the year ahead,” Sobel said. “This will ensure you live each day with vitality, happiness and improved health.”
Many providers will reach out to schedule an annual wellness exam. If your provider doesn’t contact you, make sure to call them.
A number of annual check-ups are available at no extra cost to those with Medicare. They include a “Welcome to Medicare” visit for customers who have just reached Medicare eligibility and an “Annual Wellness Exam” for existing customers. Many Medicare Advantage (MA) plans offer more extensive annual visits at no extra cost. Some even offer incentives for completing a visit. Talk with your provider and Medicare insurer about your benefits.
Each annual exam may be a little different. Regardless of the type, Sobel offers the following tips to ensure you get the most from your visit.
Prepare. Before you go, write down anything you’d like to discuss with your health care provider, including changes to your health over the past year. Bring your prescription and over-the-counter medications with you. Ask plenty of questions and take notes. You might even want to take along a family member, trusted friend or caregiver to ensure you understand everything your provider has shared.
Be open and honest. It’s tempting to make things look rosier than they are when talking to your health care provider, but minimizing what you are feeling can lead to an incorrect diagnosis or prescription. Speak openly about unhealthy habits, like smoking or lack of exercise. Your provider won’t judge you. Being honest is the only way your health care provider can help you reach your goals.
Mind mental health. Your emotional health impacts your physical health. Many people think depression is a natural part of aging, but it doesn’t have to be. Talk to your doctor if you are feeling sad, anxious or hopeless. Treatments, such as talk therapy, medication or both, may be covered by Medicare.
Monitor medications. Adults age 65 and older tend to take more medications than other age groups, increasing the risk for adverse reactions, such as cognitive impairment and falls. It’s a good idea to take your medications to your annual wellness exam and discuss any potential problems or side effects you’re experiencing. Don’t forget about over-the-counter drugs, vitamins or nutritional supplements you take.
Schedule screenings and get vaccines. There are a number of important health screenings and vaccines that you may need depending on your age and gender, such as colon cancer screening, bone density test, mammogram, flu shot or COVID-19 immunization. Ask your provider about the screenings and vaccines you’ve had already and schedule any you need as soon as possible. You may even be able to do that before you leave the office. Also, don’t forget to visit your eye doctor and dentist. These visits are covered by many MA plans as well.
“You wouldn’t drive your vehicle without proper preventive maintenance, so please don’t ignore preventive maintenance for your most prized possession – your health,” Sobel said. “An annual wellness exam is a great place to start!”
Midwest entrepreneurs launch new toolbox aimed at helping dementia caregivers foster meaningful connections
Being a caregiver to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s is often a full-time job and finding ways to connect can be challenging. Two Midwest entrepreneurs recently launched Connectivities, an innovative memory care toolbox geared at helping caregivers form more meaningful, mindful connections with their loved ones.
Each Connectivities box includes eight activities guiding participants through simple tasks using crafts, puzzles, and games. The activities are designed by a group of educators, a registered nurse, occupational and music therapists to incorporate therapeutic goals, build neuroplasticity, and boost the brain’s ability to change, adapt, and make new connections.
“The activities can help start a conversation and meet loved ones where they are today,” Mandy Shoemaker, co-founder of Connectivities explained. “Every box is really an invitation for fun, for laughter, and an authentic connection. They create a safe, supportive space that your loved one might need to get up from the TV and try something new.”
Connectivities was founded by Mandy Shoemaker and Michala Gibson, who have successfully owned and operated Prairie Elder Care in Overland Park.
“Like many elder care facilities during the pandemic, we were faced with staffing shortages and began searching for ways to keep residents happy and engaged,” shared Gibson. “We started creating activity kits and both our staff and residents really took to them. We found it’s simply about being able to connect. Someone living with dementia might not remember the activity, but they will remember the feeling they got while doing it.”
For more information on Connectivities, visit Connectivities.us and on Instagram @connectivitiesbox.
Founded in 2022, Connectivities offers caregivers space and time for meaningful, mindful connection with loved ones and residents through thoughtfully curated activity boxes. Image credit: Connectivities
It’s that time of year when the cold weather often keeps us inside, bundled up with cozy blankets in front of the fire. Cold weather also tends to go hand in hand with cravings for comfort foods, like casseroles, soups, macaroni and cheese, lasagna and more. However, a lot of those favorites may not align with your health goals. The good news is that you don’t have to take those foods and recipes at face value. You can adapt recipes to better fit with your health goals and taste preferences.
To adapt a recipe, start by identifying your health goals. Do you want to increase your intake of vegetables? Decrease your intake of sodium or saturated fats? Are you trying to increase your fiber intake? Or are you managing a food allergy or other dietary restriction?
If you want to increase vegetables, start by doubling all the vegetables in the recipe. If your recipe does not include vegetables, find a way to add them. For example, substitute a layer of lasagna noodles with a layer of roasted vegetables.
Decreasing sodium is a popular recipe modification. One way to achieve this is to use less salt in the recipe. Another way is to find alternates for higher-sodium ingredients. For example, substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce or no-salt-added broth for chicken stock.
Not sure where to start? Connect with a Hy-Vee dietitian by logging onto hy-vee.com/health/hy-vee-dietitians, using the Healthie app, or sending a message on our Facebook or Instagram accounts @hyveedietitians. We can help you modify those family favorites to make sure you can enjoy them and still achieve your health goals!
Try out this twist on traditional fried rice with a delicious recipe the whole family will love to warm up with this winter!
No-Fry Fried Rice
Serves 6 (1½ cups)
All you need:
Hy-Vee nonstick cooking spray
5 cups cold cooked Hy-Vee long grain or instant white rice
1 cup chopped Hy-Vee Short Cuts fajita vegetables
1 cup chopped green onions, divided
½ cup bottled hot kimchi, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated fresh gingerroot
6 tbsp organic coconut aminos, plus additional for serving
6 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
5 Hy-Vee large eggs, beaten
½ lb. Fish Market natural peeled & deveined raw shrimp (31 to 40 ct.)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
All you do:
Daily Values: vitamin D 6%, calcium 6%, iron 15%, potassium 8%.
Recipe source: January 2023 Hy-Vee Seasons magazine
This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.
Jackson County has filed a lawsuit related to the pricing of insulin. The county’s lawsuit alleges that insulin manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers engage in unlawful rebate schemes that unnecessarily drive up the price of insulin for consumers and healthcare payors.
Jackson County is suing the insulin manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers for violations of Missouri law. The suit seeks damages and injunctive relief to address and stop the harm caused by the rebate scheme.
In a release, the County explains "insulin has increased in price exponentially over the last 20 years, even though there have been no major advancements or changes in the drug or how it is manufactured. This is a problem unique to the United States. The average price per unit of insulin in America, across all types of insulin, is more than 10 times higher than the average in other countries."
“Diabetes is a major health concern in Jackson County, which is why in our expanded Our Healthy KC Eastside programming we will be prioritizing diabetes prevention and free supportive resources throughout the community,” Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. said.
“The cost of insulin, a life-saving drug that millions rely on, has skyrocketed because of the greed between insulin manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers. Our legal action is intended to tackle this problem and expose the scheme that has harmed thousands of Missourians.”
In Missouri, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death and Jackson County is in the highest quartile of Missouri counties with adults diagnosed with diabetes.
Centerpoint Medical Center among four HCA Midwest hospitals named among Healthgrades 250 Best Hospitals for 2023
HCA Midwest Health announced that four of its hospitals, including Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, have been named among the prestigious “America’s 250 Best Hospitals for 2023”, according to new research released by Healthgrades, the leading marketplace connecting doctors and patients.
This achievement places Research Medical Center, Overland Park Regional Medical Center, Centerpoint Medical Center, and Menorah Medical Center in the top 5% of all hospitals nationwide for overall excellence in clinical performance across the most common healthcare conditions and procedures.
This is the third consecutive year Centerpoint Medical Center is a recipient of Healthgrades® 'America's 250 Best Hospitals' Award™ (2021-2023).
“The prestigious achievement these four hospitals have made is a testament to the hard work, dedication and commitment that leadership, physicians, nursing teams and support staff have to high-quality specialty care and improvement of human life,” HCA Midwest Health President Keith Zimmerman said.
“HCA Midwest Health continuously invests in our facilities and workforce to expand the lifesaving capabilities and technologies we offer patients. We also continue to increase our access points – whether that’s through additional physician practices, new facilities or outreach partnerships – so residents throughout the region can receive the high-quality, compassionate care they need close to home.”
Healthgrades evaluated patient mortality and complication rates for 31 of the most common conditions and procedures at nearly 4,500 hospitals across the country to identify the top-performing hospitals. This year’s analysis revealed significant variation between America’s Best 250 Hospitals and hospitals that did not receive the distinction. In fact, if all hospitals performed similarly to America’s 250 Best, over 160,000 lives could have been saved. Patients treated at one of the 2023 America’s 250 Best Hospitals have, on average, a 28.7% lower risk of dying than if they were treated at a hospital that did not receive the America’s 250 Best Hospitals award*.
Jicama (pronounced with an ‘h’ not a ‘j’) might be another one of those vegetables that has not yet made it to your grocery cart. Jicama may also be referred to as Mexican potato, Mexican turnip, or yam bean. This bulbous root is a member of the bean/pea family Pachyrhizus erosus, that grows underground from a vine that can reach a height of 13 feet or more if given good support. The largest jicama on record reached 51 pounds, though when you shop, you will want to look for one in the two-to-three-pound range.
Jicama is believed to have originated in the Andes Mountain region, with evidence in archaeological sites dating back to 3000 BC. The Spanish introduced the vegetable to Asia in the 17th century. Cultivation and production continued to spread throughout South and Central America into Mexico where it is harvested from November to May. There is also jicama production in Texas, Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Jicama looks similar to a potato, with a rough brown exterior and crisp white interior. Though the interior texture may resemble a potato, jicama has a more broad palate of nutrients. Even with its slightly sweet taste, jicama has more complex carbohydrates and fiber, making it a good carb choice for someone monitoring their blood sugar. Jicama is also a good source of Vitamin C and numerous B vitamins, as well as the minerals magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and calcium. Inulin, a type of fiber found in jicama, works as a prebiotic to support gut health, and also works with minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium to support bone health.
When choosing jicama at the store, look for those that are firm and solid for their size. Avoid cracked or discolored vegetables and consider that any vegetable over 4 pounds may be more fibrous than desired. Once peeled, jicama make a nice addition to a salad with the crunchy texture and neutral flavor. They can also be cooked like a potato in mashed or fried methods or even in a stir-fry as a water chestnut substitute. A common snack south of the border is to cut jicama into sticks (like French fries) and eat raw with chili powder and lime juice. The salad recipe below adds those southwest flavors to a colorful array of vegetables, resulting in a dish that is pleasing to the eyes and the palate!
Jicama and Black Bean Salad
(makes 10 servings)
1 small jicama, peeled and diced – about 1 cup
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper (seeds removed)
1 can (15-ounces) black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup frozen corn
¼ cup mashed avocado
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper, if desired
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Nutrition information: Calories: 88, Total Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: .7g, Sodium: 65mg, Carbohydrates: 10.2g, Fiber: 2.9g, Protein: 2g
Recipe adapted from Iowa State University Spend Smart Eat Smart, analyzed by verywellfit.com
The New Year is a time of new beginnings, and for many people it also means a time to set goals for the year. If any of your goals are health-related, the team of registered dietitians at Hy-Vee is here to help. Hy-Vee dietitians are nutrition experts, offering services such as meal planning and preparation, shopping assistance, health screenings and more.
Not sure where to start? Read on to learn more about our most popular services and some of our favorite products to help you reach your goals this New Year!
This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.
Winter squash, tubers and root vegetables are in great abundance this time of year. Another not-so-common winter root vegetable is parsnips. A member of the Apiaceae family, parsnips are a ‘cousin’ to carrots and share their long taproot characteristic, though they tend to grow larger and thicker.
The creamy white vegetable also has a central ‘core’ that can become tough as it grows to full maturity and may need to be trimmed down prior to preparation. Parsnips have a sweet, earthy flavor that is not fully developed until the roots have been exposed to near-freezing temperatures for 2 to 4 weeks in the fall and early winter. This cold-weather growth results in the starches changing into sugar.
Parsnips are believed to be native to the eastern Mediterranean region. In Roman times the parsnip was regarded to have medicinal as well as food value. While there is no evidence that the Greeks and Romans cultivated parsnips, they commonly used wild ones for food. The British colonists introduced parsnips to North American in the 1600’s. Parsnips are grown primarily in northern states, with Michigan, New York, Washington, and Oregon leading in production in the US.
Parsnips, bring a variety of nutrients to the table, including Vitamins C, E, and K, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and both soluble and insoluble fiber. These nutrients support cardiovascular, immune, and digestive health, aid in wound healing, and reduces the risk of neural tube defects in developing babies in utero. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
Before the cultivation of sugar beets and cane sugar, parsnips were commonly used as sweetener. Roasting parsnips brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetable and is a common preparation method. Cutting parsnips into strips (resembling french fries) and combining with similarly cut carrots makes for a tasty side dish when tossed with olive oil and roasted in a 400-degree oven.
Boiling parsnips with potatoes and mashing them together will give your mashed potatoes a tasty surprise for your holiday table. For a sweet and savory combination, try this roasted ‘root and fruit’ combination.
Maple Roasted Parsnips
1 ½ cups parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 ½ cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup apple, chopped (Fuji or Gala are good)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Nutrition information: Calories: 120, Total Fat: 2.5g, Saturated Fat: .2g, Sodium: 7mg, Carbohydrates: 25g, Fiber: 3.5g, Protein: 1g
Recipe adapted from Seasonal and Simple, analyzed by verywellfit.com
Enjoying the holiday season and staying on track with your health goals can feel complicated – especially when attending holiday gatherings chocked full of delicious treats. You may have seen the increasingly popular butter board trend this holiday season. So how can you take this trend and amplify the nutrition? Hy-Vee registered dietitians are here to breakdown how to build a more nutrient-dense board perfect to share at your holiday gathering and help keep you on track with your health goals!
Holiday Greek Yogurt Board
All you need:
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
½ cup pistachios (or substitute chopped pecans or walnuts)
½ cup pomegranate arils
2 tbsp Hy-Vee honey
Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
To dip: Apple slices, pear slices, graham crackers
All you do:
Recipe source: Hy-Vee dietitians
This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.
by Clara Bates, Missouri Independent
The rate of uninsured children in Missouri stabilized during the COVID-19 pandemic, reversing a years-long trend that saw an increasing number of children losing coverage, according to a report released Wednesday by Georgetown University.
But the researchers warn the end of the federal public health emergency, which will likely occur next year and require states to redetermine eligibility for all Medicaid recipients, will put children at risk of inappropriately losing healthcare coverage.
Missouri was previously identified as one of six states where children are at the highest risk of losing coverage once the public health emergency ends.
Wednesday’s report, conducted by Georgetown’s Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families, found a majority of states from 2019 to 2021 saw a decline or stability in their child uninsured population, in large part due to federal restrictions on states barring them from removing Medicaid recipients from their Medicaid rolls during the public health emergency.
Missouri’s rate of uninsured children was 6.5% in 2019 and declined to 5.9% in 2021, according to U.S. Census data. The Georgetown University report analyzed 2019 and 2021 federal data, as 2020 data was not made available.
Missouri had a higher prevalence of uninsured children than the national average in both years. Approximately 86,000 Missouri children were uninsured in 2021.
In the three years leading up to the pandemic, rates of uninsured children had gone up nationally for the “first time in recent memory,” a Georgetown press release noted. This was also the case in Missouri: According to federal data, Missouri’s rate of children lacking insurance coverage rose from 4.8% in 2016 to 6.5% in 2019.
Missouri’s social service department came under criticism in 2019 for significant Medicaid enrollment declines, after they adopted a new renewal process and information system.
Missouri Budget Project that year found that families were often kicked off Medicaid despite being eligible for coverage because of challenges with the renewal process, including that they did not receive the proper paperwork or submitted the paperwork only for it to be lost or not processed.
There were also hours-long waits for the Medicaid call centers at the time.
Advocates worry that once the public health emergency ends, Missouri could return to a situation in which the renewal process strips eligible Medicaid recipients of coverage due to administrative barriers.
In a study earlier this year, Georgetown researchers estimated 6.7 million children across the country are at risk of losing coverage when the public health emergency ends.
The federal government predicted nearly three-quarters of children who are removed from the Medicaid rolls after the public health emergency ends will remain eligible but be dropped due to procedural issues.
“We often hear that procedural disenrollments occur when enrollees ‘fail’ to renew,” noted a Center for Children and Families post in August, “But it’s often a ‘system failure.’”
When children become uninsured, they’re more likely to experience worsening chronic conditions, miss well-child check-ups, and their families can receive high medical bills and even go into medical debt, Joan Alker, director of Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families and the lead author of Wednesday’s study, said on a press call Wednesday.
Missouri children are particularly at risk, Georgetown’s earlier report noted, because the state does not have a policy to provide 12-month continuous Medicaid coverage to children and also administers Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in a way that could lead to coverage gaps, including by charging families premiums for CHIP.
Alker said by email that Missouri has a “history of red tape losses for children,” referring to bureaucratic hurdles which create coverage gaps for eligible children. She credited the continuous coverage provision during the public health emergency with helping tamp that down.
The report’s finding that rates of uninsured children nationally declined slightly over the pandemic is “welcome news for America’s children,” Alker said in Wednesday’s press call but it “may be short-lived.”
Nationally, “millions of eligible children will likely fall through the cracks and become uninsured in states that are inattentive or ill-intentioned when the federal continuous coverage protection expires,” Alker continued.
The federal government has not yet announced when the PHE will end, but will give 60 days notice, and once it does end, states have up to 14 months to determine eligibility of all Medicaid enrollees.
Missouri’s social service department has told the MO HealthNet oversight committee it plans to take one year to complete all renewals.
Missouri’s social service department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In July, the state adopted several federal flexibilities designed to reduce their Medicaid application backlog in advance of needing to renew the entire caseload of Medicaid participants once the public health emergency ends.
Those flexibilities will be in place until the end of the public health emergency unwinding period, and could ease verification hurdles. One measure, which focuses on applications received through the federal marketplace, allows the state to accept the federal information rather than needing to re-verify it.
Missouri social services officials have also said the agency is working to ensure it has updated address information for participants so it can reach them when the public health emergency ends and renewals begin again.
At an August MO HealthNet meeting, director of Family Support Division, Kim Evans, said the state is working with managed care providers to update patients’ information in their eligibility system if they have moved. They are also doing social media blasts to remind participants to update their contact information and working to shift to an electronic notification system, Evans said.
Most adults in Medicaid-enrolled families nationally are not aware their services will be renewed again soon, an Urban Institute study last month found, posing challenges to states to reliably communicate the coming shift.
Unlike 35 other states, Missouri has not yet publicly provided its plan for the public health emergency unwind or a plan summary, according to Georgetown’s unwinding tracker.
Missouri is working to replace outdated technology, Robert Knodell, director of the department of social services, explained at a press briefing in August.
There have been longstanding tech problems within Missouri’s social services department, which have left many processes manual — relying on paper forms — and burdened participants.
A 2020 report from the Missouri Department of Social Services and the nonprofit Civilla on enrollment challenges for benefits programs concluded that for participants, “the system feels like a secret and no one has the answer.” For staff, the report concluded, they feel “like an assembly line rather than connected to the people they serve,” and the work feels “siloed.”
Children in states who “have not kept pace with modernizing their eligibility system” are at greater risk of inappropriately losing coverage, Alker said Wednesday.
Deborah Greenhouse, a pediatrician in South Carolina and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Federal Government Affairs, said at the press briefing Wednesday that ongoing surges in pediatric respiratory illnesses and the child mental health crisis make continued coverage for children especially necessary.
“Any disruptions in coverage,” Greenhouse said, “would add another layer of crisis to an already dire situation.”