Live Your Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy tips that fit your lifestyle in Pennsylvania, powered by Geisinger Choice
~ Wednesday, April 16 ~
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Living with Cystic Fibrosis: One Family’s Journey, Part 3

I’m Jane Foust, vice president of government programs at Geisinger Health Plan. I’d like to share my family’s story of dealing with cystic fibrosis.

My co-workers at GHP knew how severe Lannah’s condition had become. They knew I was at the hospital before work, at lunch, and after work until Lannah fell asleep at night. They formed a team of angels that made sure I had a meal every day. They filled her room with “65 roses,” which is what some children with cystic fibrosis call their disease because it’s easier for them to pronounce. My GHP family sent gifts: pajamas, teddy bears, funny socks, blankets, and lots of prayers. They decorated hands to wrap around her room, giving her a big hug. They visited and played games with her, and some brought their teenage daughters. They mowed my grass and gathered my leaves. 

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Once the new feeding tube was placed, Lannah’s nutrition started to improve and she was gaining weight. The goal was to get her healthy enough for surgery.  Her doctor developed an innovative way to nebulize the antibiotics she needed to fight her lung infections. With new treatments in place, it was time to go home.  

It took two days to gather her belongings for the transfer  home. Lannah’s aunt and her husband helped me convert my home office to her “sick” room. We bought a recliner so she could sleep with her lungs elevated. The case manager arranged for deliveries of an oxygen concentrator, portable oxygen cylinders, and a turbo nebulizer for the new therapy. We added this to the existing equipment — a vest therapy machine, a feeding pump and a small nebulizer.

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On Thanksgiving Eve, I took time to reflect on how greatly Lannah’s health had improved over the last few weeks. Then it hit me. I realized the magnitude of her new treatments. It was so overwhelming that it brought me to tears. Lannah is excited, we are home, and Grammy can do anything.

We learned and followed the routine: Breathing treatments four times a day with five different medications and tube feedings every night. Eventually  a nursing staff came to stay  with Lannah so I could return to work. We saw slow but steady improvement in Lannah’s health.

By January she was  strong enough for the surgery to remove her gall bladder and do a fundoplication.  Her doctor prepared us for the worst-case scenario — intensive care, a two-week stay and a risk of developing pneumonia. But Lannah did well and we were home in four days. Take that, cystic fibrosis! The next few months were long and lonely, but Lannah just kept improving. She had a tune-up in July and was home to celebrate her 16th birthday with family and friends. The next month we planned another trip to the beach. This year, Lannah played in the ocean, built sand castles and even played beach volleyball. What a difference!

Today, we continue the same treatment plan, except now we only do tube feedings five  nights a week.  Lannah is at a healthy weight, her long blonde hair is back, and she acts just like a typical teenager.  She goes to school part time, although accompanied by a nurse, has sleepovers with her friends and even got braces. Lannah and I are forever grateful for the loving support we received from our friends and co-workers at Geisinger Health Plan.

Lannah wrote the poem below to express how cystic fibrosis has affected her over the last two years. Her chronic condition has made her wise beyond her years. She doesn’t understand teenage drama — I sometimes have to remind her that her friends can’t understand what she has experienced. In her 16 years, she has learned life lessons that most of us spend a lifetime chasing. 

A poem by Lannah: 

I can’t hold it in any longer.

You can’t stop me now.

I feel like I’ve gotten weaker

But I don’t know how.

I watch the days go by.

As the days turn to night,

I try not to cry.

The pain is getting worse so I just might.

As people come in and out,

It brings me joy, then sorrow.

When they leave I try not to shout,

"Will you be back tomorrow?"

By now my depression has kicked in.

I feel like giving up.

I don’t know if I will ever see you again,

To me there was nowhere else to go but up.

Was this really the end?

No one was prepared,

But for my family I had to pretend

That it was okay.

Breathing was the only sound.

My pain will go away.

But at that moment things have turned around

I thought to myself I can’t give in.

My friends and family can’t live without my love.

It’s this fight that I will win.

I’m staying down here it’s not my time to be above,

With all my loved ones.

This is a battle I have won.

Tags: WeAreGHP Geisinger EmployeeBlog WeAreGHP cystic fibrosis healthy living family
~ Thursday, April 10 ~
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Living with Cystic Fibrosis: One Family’s Journey

I’m Jane Foust, vice president of government programs at Geisinger Health Plan. I’d like to share my family’s story of dealing with cystic fibrosis.

After some deliberation, we convinced Lannah’s doctor to let us take a much-needed trip to the beach. We packed up the car and set out on our trek to Rodanthe, N.C., for some fun in the sun. By this time, I was a seasoned veteran and set up her IV meds on a coat hanger to drip while we drove. Even though we stayed on the beach, Lannah made it into the ocean only once because she was too weak to fight the waves. But we did get some shopping done to get Lannah ready for high school.

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The trip offered a little break from reality — but Lannah was eating very little and was vomiting daily. The doctors thought this was likely a combination of reflux and a diseased gall bladder. It was a vicious cycle — her diseased gall bladder made her vomit and the lack of nutrition made it difficult to regulate her blood sugar. A routine trip to the dentist turned into a traumatic trip to the emergency room because of her unstable blood sugar. 

We scheduled a visit with a gastroenterologist to evaluate her gall bladder for removal in September. But Lannah was excited; she was going to high school! We arranged for nurses to visit her school so she could continue her IV therapy. Lannah was determined to ride the school bus. Within a few hours, the school nurse would call for me to pick her up. By the third week of the school year, she was being home-schooled with a tutor.

Lannah’s sickness continued. She ran a fever periodically. Then she started having pain. A Friday night call to the pediatrician for pain management advice resulted in another trip to the emergency room. The doctor reviewed Lannah’s liver enzymes and admitted her into the hospital — surgery was scheduled a few days later. The surgery plan included an endoscopy, gall bladder removal, fundoplication of her esophagus, liver biopsy and placement of a feeding tube. Just when we thought things were going to get better, they went south quickly.

The surgery did not go well. The biopsy revealed cirrhosis of the liver. The surgeon was concerned about removing the gallbladder and completing the fundoplication before Lannah could be evaluated for a liver transplant. The surgeon inserted a feeding tube and ended the surgery. She spent a few days recovering, and we went home — this time with a wheelchair. She was too weak to even walk through the grocery store. The next 10 days were tough. I couldn’t leave her alone. She became nauseous again and vomited up her tube feedings.  At her follow up appointment, her oxygen saturation was down and she weighed only 88 pounds. She was admitted to the hospital and that’s where we spent the next six weeks. 

The hospital stay was eventful. She coughed up her feeding tube and needed an additional surgery to place a new type of feeding tube. Lannah’s liver enzymes were so high that all IV therapy was stopped. She hit a wall. She knew the IV therapy was keeping her alive and had to be treated with anxiety medication. Palliative medicine scheduled a family meeting—they told us to prepare for the worst and prepare a living will. Lannah needed to have additional surgeries but her nutrition and state of health was so poor there was a possibility she wouldn’t make it through.

This about the time my Geisinger family kicked in. 

Tags: We Are GHP family cystic fibrosis
~ Wednesday, April 2 ~
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Living with Cystic Fibrosis: One Family’s Journey

I’m Jane Foust, vice president of government programs at Geisinger Health Plan. I’d like to share my family’s story of dealing with cystic fibrosis.

My 16-year-old granddaughter, Lannah, suffers from cystic fibrosis. It’s an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and the digestive system – including the liver, pancreas and intestines. The defective gene causes the body to produce thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening lung infections. The sticky mucus also obstructs the pancreas and stops the natural process of breaking down and absorbing food.

Lannah’s medication regime includes pills to help her digest food, insulin to control blood sugar, antibiotics to fight lung infections, and nebulizer treatments to clear mucus from her lungs. She also uses “vest therapy” to loosen mucus in her lungs so she can cough it up and out.

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Lannah’s story

Due to unfortunate family circumstances, Lannah came to live with me in February 2012. Shortly afterward she was diagnosed with two lung infections. She also had poorly managed diabetes, was on 13 medications and weighed only 96 pounds. Lannah was prohibited from school because the lung infection, which is a cousin to tuberculosis, showed a false positive TB test. While she returned to school for the last few days of the year, being isolated from her friends and classmates was very difficult.  Lannah just wanted to be a typical teenager.

During that first year, Lannah was hospitalized six times for a total of 63 days.

During Lannah’s first hospital admission in May 2012, doctors inserted a PICC line (or catheter) so I could administer antibiotics through an IV at home to treat her lung infections. Her antibiotic therapy consisted of two different drugs administered every eight and 12 hours. (Did I mention I am terrified of needles?!)

Lannah is just thrilled to be home instead of in the hospital and believes that Grammy can do anything. Far be it for me to disappoint her, so after a few tears, I suck it up, swallow my fears and learn to manage the IV situation.

Since PICC must be changed periodically and Lannah’s infections required long-term treatment, the next step was to insert a mediport into her chest wall.  In July 2012, Lannah was admitted to have her mediport inserted surgically. By this time, she had developed an allergy to one of the antibiotics used to treat her lung infection and some treatment had to be stopped. 

Lannah was very scared to have a port inserted for many reasons. The most obvious being that she is a teenager and everyone would be able to see it! There was also a risk that she could develop an infection if the port got wet. That summer I learned to “pop” the port after her morning IV meds so she could swim freely. This meant going back to the clinic in the afternoon to have her port accessed for the next dose.

We’d made it through four months. With Lannah’s regimented schedule and commitments at work, I was burned out. The next step would be convincing Lannah’s doctors that we both deserved a vacation.

Check back next week to read more about Lannah’s journey. Did we get to go on that well-deserved vacation? 

Tags: We Are GHP family GHP Geisinger EmployeeBlog WeAreGHP cystic fibrosis
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~ Tuesday, April 1 ~
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Don’t be Fooled by Stress

We all know stress can lead to binge-eating unhealthy sweets and snacks. Instead, grab some berries!

April is Stress Awareness Month, and what better way to manage stress levels than through healthy food selections. Berries — including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries — are a rich source of vitamin C, which has been shown to lower cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Once cortisol enters the bloodstream, it is responsible for relaying the news of stress to all parts of the body and mind. Research has shown vitamin C helps prevent a rise in cortisol levels as well as prevent the physical and emotional signs associated with repeated stress. 

Try this easy, berry-filled crumble dessert from our wellness team: 

MIXED BERRY CRUMBLE    

INGREDIENTS: 8 servings

 2 cups fresh blueberries

2 cups fresh raspberries

¾ cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup light brown sugar, unpacked

6 tbsp. butter, melted

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Place berries in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, combine flour and sugar. Remove 3 tablespoons of flour mixture and gently toss with berries. Place berries in an 8-inch square pan.

3. To make topping, add melted butter to remaining flour mixture; combine well. Crumble little bits of topping all over top of berries. Bake until berries just start to bubble, about 35 to 40 minutes.

4. Cut into 8 pieces; serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition per serving: 167 calories; 0.4 g fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 44 g carbohydrates; 2.7 g proten; 4.8 g fiber; 11.3 mg sodium. 

Photo credit: Weightwatchers.com 

Tags: GHP GHP Wellness Healthy Meals healthy recipes tasty tuesday berries stress tips stress awareness month
~ Thursday, March 27 ~
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It’s Crunch Time for Health Care: March 31 Deadline is Here

The deadline to enroll in a qualified health plan is Monday.  If you are still uninsured, now is the time to sign up before you get stuck paying the penalty. If you are on the fence about whether you can afford health care coverage for 2014, there are options available to you in state, federal and private Marketplaces, as well as other government-funded programs. This is your last chance to get coverage until November! 

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Photo Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

It is estimated that 5 million people have signed up for health care coverage since the Marketplaces opened in October, with 800,000 signing up in the month of March. This number signifies that the administration is on track to meet its revised projection of 6 million sign ups. The surge in enrollment was predicted months ago and marks an important achievement for supporters of the new health care law.

For the law to be a complete success, ten states hold the key: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, New Jersey and lastly, Pennsylvania. These states house a combined 30 million uninsured Americans, making up two-thirds of the nation’s uninsured population. With five days left to enroll, 6 million seems to be an achievable feat. However, while there are 5 million enrollees so far, the number of people who actually paid for health insurance plans has yet to be calculated. Health care benefits only go into effect when you pay your premium. If you haven’t paid your premium, you aren’t considered covered.

As the uninsured rates continue to drop, those Americans who are concerned about the affordability of health care need not worry as financial help is available. Obtaining coverage is the number one way to avoid paying a penalty. But there are a number of exemptions that you may qualify for to avoid the fee. There are also hardship exemptions. If you experience extreme circumstances that affect your ability to purchase health insurance, you may qualify for hardship exemptions.

Some of these exemptions will require you to provide documentation as proof of your particular hardship such as cancellation notices, receipts, bankruptcy filings, police reports and insurance claims.

If you do not meet these exemptions and decide to forgo health insurance, you will face a tax penalty. Most people have heard the penalty figure of $95.  What most don’t realize is you must pay $95 or 1% of your income, whichever amount is higher.  And that 1% could be significantly higher than $95. The maximum penalty that can be taken amounts to the national average yearly premium for a bronze plan which can be pretty steep. For more information on penalty fees, click here.

Your window is closing on health insurance plans for 2014. Don’t wait any longer to get the coverage you need. While open enrollment is still set to end March 31, the administration has allowed extra time for those who have already started the enrollment process. Be sure to enroll now to avoid paying a tax penalty.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Visit Geisinger Marketplace today. Get a quick quote now to get the coverage you need.

Tags: health care healthcare health care reform GHP aca Pennsylvania individual mandate
~ Wednesday, March 26 ~
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Exercise Your Way

Hello! My name is Jamie Donahue. I am a product development specialist in GHP’s Strategic Business Development department. My lifestyle is focused around staying healthy, and having fun doing it! My hobbies include mountain biking, instructing cycling classes, yoga, and skiing. Fitness and nutrition have always been important to me, but finding a way to balance a healthy lifestyle and mixing in fun hobbies that contribute to my overall well-being is my passion.

Fitness is important. Because you haven’t heard that a million times! The internet is filled with scary stats and reasons why exercising regularly is necessary, but for me it boils down to this: I sleep better and feel better, mentally and physically.

The most challenging part of staying fit is sticking with it. It’s sometimes hard and not always enjoyable. Another challenge is just getting started with a routine. Some people find it too overwhelming. Who really enjoys being a newbie to class? As Jason Kuna pointed out in his employee blog a few months ago…

“If you want to make a change, you need to make a choice. What routine is right for you? There are so many out there, it can be confusing. Do this: Pick three days next week, lay out your gym clothes, set your alarm, and go. If anyone asks why you’re going to bed early, tell them—be proud! We all have so many demands on us, it’s important to take a stand and “pay yourself first” each day.”

If you can find something you enjoy it will make exercise tolerable, even…fun. So how do you find what you like? Try new things! Last Thursday I tried CrossFit for the first time with my friend Amy. Dead lifts, GHD sit-ups, ring rows, double unders. These were all new terms to me but it was something different and challenging. It forced me out of my comfort zone and let me tell you…I felt the burn!

I personally struggled to find my “thing” as I got older and grew out of organized sports. Through high school I played soccer, field hockey, and ran track. In college I found myself at the gym running on a treadmill next to other people who also didn’t want to be there. I didn’t enjoy working out; I didn’t feel the “rush” afterwards. I knew I had to find something if I wanted to stay motivated. Then I met Bob. Bob loves mountain biking, and as with any new boyfriend, you usually try out their hobbies for a few months and move on. This time I was hooked. I borrowed a hand-me-down bike (that was at least two sizes too big) and pedaled my heart out!

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Mountain biking at a park in Hunlock Creek, PA- December 2013

When we moved to Danville in July 2011 we decided to ride our bikes more frequently and met people who rode on weekdays as well as held weekend group rides. Exploring new trails, being outside, and meeting new friends made exercising awesome. A few months later I was asked to fill in as an instructor of an indoor cycling class. Let’s do this! It was the perfect motivation to keep me in shape during the winter, paid for my gym membership, and was only a four-hour-per-month commitment (or so I thought). Instructing is much more challenging than rolling out of bed for class but it has also been rewarding. I learned how to motivate my class using different music and routines. Below is a sample of this morning’s routine which was choreographed to music:

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Here are the 8 movements in a Figure 8 routine:

  • Flat road: This is an easy flat road. It acts as a recovery once we work through the playlist.
  • Fast flat road: Keep the same tension, but pick up the pace (not quite a sprint)
  • Standing flat or standing run: Add a few clicks or turns of tension and take it out of the saddle
  • Aggressive: Add resistance and keep the pace of your standing run
  • Flat road
  • Seated climb: Add tension and remain seated. Focus on pushing down and pulling up with each stroke.
  • Jumps on a hill: Keep tension heavy. Alternate seated and standing  on a 4 count.
  • Standing climb: Stand and increase your tension a few clicks or turns.
  • Go through 8 movements three times. For the first set, each movement is 2 minutes. The second set each movement is 1 minute, and the last set each movement is 30 seconds. (Adapted from Chrispins—my go-to resource for planning cycling classes)

Always make sure you warm-up and cool down for at least 5 minutes. To make an hour long class, I usually incorporate the Figure 8 routine into a playlist with a sprint tabata and a few climbs. A tabata is a 4 minute routine with 20 seconds of all-out intensity, followed by a 10 second rest—repeated 8 times.

Indoor cycling is something I am passionate about. It’s low impact cardio that burns a ton of calories (400-600 calories on average in a 45 minute class). If you’re looking for a new exercise routine, maybe it’s your thing.

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Instructing an indoor cycling class, March 2014

I challenge you to do something every day. Whether it’s going for a walk or committing to an hour-long workout. My second challenge: try a new fitness activity once a month. Find a class or event and bring a friend! I never knew Bloomsburg and Danville had so many different activities until I looked: hot yoga, CrossFit, hip hop, cycling, Zumba, etc.

When is the last time you tried a new fitness activity? Did you stick with it? 

Tags: exercise healthy lifestyle We Are GHP indoor cycling mountain biking
~ Tuesday, March 25 ~
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Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad

Dietary fiber moves waste through the digestive tract faster, helping to limit the time toxins contact intestinal cells and improving overall health. A diet rich in dietary fiber and vegetables provides significant protection against fatal colorectal cancer. March is National Colorectal Awareness Month. Celebrate with this antipasto salad from GHP’s wellness team. It incorporates fiber-packed beans, legumes and fresh vegetables. image

MEDITERRANEAN TUNA ANTIPASTO SALAD, serves 4

INGREDIENTS  

  • 1 (15 oz.) can beans, rinsed (chickpeas, black eyed, or kidney)
  • 2 (6 oz.) cans water packed, chunk light tuna, drained and flaked
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
  • ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped, divided
  • 4 tsp. capers, rinsed
  • 1½ tsp.  fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • ½ cup   lemon juice, divided
  • 4 Tbsp.  extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • To taste fresh ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 cups mixed salad greens

DIRECTIONS

1. Combine beans, tuna, bell pepper, onion, parsley, capers, rosemary, ¼ cup lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl. Season with pepper.

2. Combine the remaining ¼ cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil and salt in a large bowl. Add salad greens; toss to coat.

3. Divide the greens among 4 plates. Top each with the tuna salad.

NUTRITION per serving: 290 calories; 16 g fat (2 g sat., 11 g monounsaturated); 12 mg cholesterol; 28 g carbohydrates; 17 g protein; 9 g fiber; 505 mg sodium; 638 mg potassium.

Tags: Nutrition Healthy Meals wellness fiber colorectal cancer
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Multivitamins: To Take or Not to Take?

Multivitamins are a multi-billion dollar industry – and for good reason. Americans concerned about their health will try almost anything to lose weight or prevent disease. Supplemental vitamins and minerals are the most popular health and wellness item on the market, but just how beneficial are they to your overall health? Can taking a daily multivitamin cause more harm than good? Let’s find out.

Photo credit: monticello/Shutterstock

Most of us are aware that certain vitamins are essential to our well-being. The 13 vitamins that every person absolutely needs are: vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate). Most people assume they aren’t getting enough of these essential vitamins and minerals which is why they purchase supplements. While there are benefits to adding a multivitamin to your diet, be cautious of the labeling as vitamin supplements aren’t strictly regulated.

Under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), vitamin products, also known as “Dietary Supplements” are defined as products taken by mouth that contain a “dietary ingredient” intended to supplement the diet. However, this doesn’t account for claims marketed on the labels by supplement manufacturers. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), a firm is responsible for determining that its dietary supplements are safe and that any claims made about them are backed by adequate evidence to show that they are not false or misleading. This means dietary supplements do not need approval from the FDA before they are marketed. When choosing a multivitamin or supplement, do your research beforehand to ensure the quality and strength of the product as some vitamins may be less effective than others.

Many U.S. consumers take supplements based on their own personal choice, not by the recommendation of a physician. This can be risky especially if you take vitamins your body doesn’t need. In fact, the average American may be not need to add multivitamins to their current diet since many foods are now fortified (meaning nutrients have been added). However, older adults, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and those who practice vegetarianism or veganism need to add certain vitamins and minerals to their diet to prevent vitamin deficiencies.

So is it worth it for you to take a daily multivitamin?

There is conflicting evidence about the true benefits of taking multivitamins and whether they can actually extend your life and prevent chronic disease. If you already have a healthy diet that contains plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in combination with regular exercise, you may not need to take a multivitamin. And while vitamin and mineral supplements can be beneficial under certain circumstances, they cannot replace a well-balanced diet.  If you do decide to take a multivitamin as an extra precaution, consult with you doctor first. Keep in mind that when taking supplements, you run the risk of exceeding the amount of nutrients your body really needs.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Visit Geisinger Marketplace today. Get a quick quote now to get the coverage you need.

Tags: vitamins minerals supplements multivitamins healthy living healthy lifestyle
~ Thursday, March 20 ~
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How Health Care Navigators are Helping the Uninsured: Antionette

Last week’s health care reform post featured Ellie’s story about serving as a certified application counselor (CAC) at Geisinger Health System and helping people enroll in health plans under the Affordable Care Act. Today, we’re showcasing Antionette’s story.

Q: How would you describe your experience helping uninsured people sign up for health insurance?

A: Being able to help the uninsured population sign up for health insurance has been an eye opener. Having the ability to help people has given me insight into what most others take for granted. 

Q: What was the general sentiment from those you helped? For example, were they aware of the ACA’s provisions, were they concerned about affordability of a health plan, was the process easy enough to understand, were they aware of the enrollment deadlines?

I realized that this population has little to no idea of what being insured entails. They have an appreciation, like no other. It can be described as an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. The majority of people who came with questions and concerns had a complete unawareness of what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions were. The general concern of this population was whether or not plans would be affordable and be able to meet their needs. Coming into the process, most did not understand much and were confused about most aspects of the ACA.  However, after meeting with a CAC, their level of comprehension was appropriate. Overall, people were not aware of the enrollment deadlines.

Q: Describe how critical your role is in health care reform.

As a CAC, I am able to identify needs, answer questions, calm concerns and fears, and help the patients/consumers with the overall process in order to obtain health insurance. The role is vital as it develops awareness of the ACA and helps to eliminate the unknown of this complicated process.

Q: Which enrollee stood out the most during the enrollment process? Why?

The enrollees that stood out the most during this process were Mr. and Mrs. T. They were trying to purchase health care benefits for their family.  The time I spent with them in order to develop this process is still not complete, as there were many roadblocks along the way.  For example, it took three applications and many, many phone calls in order to enroll in health care.  However, they are still not on the appropriate plan due to Marketplace “glitches.”  So far, I have spent seven to ten hours assisting them, but I am committed to servicing their needs.

Q. Any advice for those who have yet to sign up for health insurance?

Contact a CAC as soon as possible to set up an appointment before the deadline and to avoid the tax penalty. .              

Don’t wait any longer to get the health insurance you need. CACs are standing by to help you enroll.  To speak with a  Geisinger Health System CAC, call 855-849-1510. Open enrollment for 2014 health care coverage ends March 31. Be sure to enroll in a health plan today to avoid paying a tax penalty.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Visit Geisinger Marketplace today. Get a quick quote now to get the coverage you need.

Tags: CAC navigator health reform health care reform healthcare reform affordable care act Pennsylvania
~ Wednesday, March 19 ~
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How Pinterest Changed My Life

You may have heard of Pinterest, a social media site launched in 2010 that acts as a virtual bulletin board for ideas. Wondering who uses it? It is not just a time-waster for 20-somethings. I am going to share how Pinterest changed my life. It has helped me eat healthier, organize my ideas, find creative gifts, and learn ways to make life easier.

Getting started is half the battle. But it is simple. Visit www.pinterest.com and create an account. This process takes little effort, especially if you link to your existing Facebook account.

The basics

So what are pins? Pins are like visual bookmarks that link to recipes or instructions on how to complete a task. You organize your pins by placing them on specific boards. Think of Pinterest as your personal bulletin board to keep magazine clippings, recipes, fashion tips, etc. electronically (and organized!). Boards also have defined categories like Food & Drink, Gardening, DIY & Crafts, Travel, etc. You can search Pinterest to find more pins on categories you’re most interested in.

Find something interesting online that you want to share with friends or reference later? You can create your own pins by copying and pasting the website URL on Pinterest. Once you enter the URL it will prompt you to select an image from that website to represent your pin. Or, you can do what I do most of the time: Re-pin other people’s pins. Below is an example of my personal recipe board.

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More about recipes

Pinterest is my go-to place for finding new, healthy recipes that actually taste good! There’s no reason to settle for bland grilled chicken when there are so many recipes ideas to keep you on the right track to eating healthy. My recipe board serves as an electronic cookbook customized to me—with 294 different recipes!

I mean…who doesn’t love linguini alfredo with chicken? It’s delicious but packed with calories and fat. Believe it or not, cauliflower can make a tasty substitute in minutes compared to traditional alfredo sauce . No fancy tools required. It takes about 10 minutes to produce a flavorful sauce to accompany grilled chicken and your choice of pasta (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa…the possibilities are endless)!

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Ingredients (with a few tweaks):

  • 8 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 5-6 cups cauliflower florets
  • 6-7 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ avocado (optional)
  • Sharp cheddar cheese- grated (optional) 
  • Olive oil

Instructions:

  • Garlic: Sauté minced garlic with olive oil. Cook for several minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant but not browned (browned or burnt garlic will taste bitter). Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Cauliflower: Bring the water or vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the cauliflower and cook, covered, for 7-10 minutes or until cauliflower is fork tender. Do not drain.
  • Puree: Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cauliflower pieces to the blender. Add 1 cup vegetable broth or cooking liquid, sautéed garlic, salt, pepper, milk, avocado, and cheddar cheese. Blend or puree for several minutes until the sauce is very smooth, adding more broth or milk depending on how thick you want the sauce. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender. Serve hot!

Serves: Makes about 5 cups (serving size ½ cup)

Link to original recipe: http://pinchofyum.com/creamy-cauliflower-sauce)

If you’re ready for spring, another one of my personal favorite recipes I discovered on Pinterest is spicy paprika lime chicken served with cilantro lime brown rice. Whip your spices together, marinate overnight and grill or pan fry. Your taste buds will thank you. 

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Recipe (with a few tweaks):

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into strips
  • 5 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp chill powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 limes (zest + juice from one lime for the marinade and juice from the second when serving)

Instructions:

  • Mix all marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer to Ziploc bag and add sliced chicken. Coat chicken with marinade. Marinate overnight, or for at least one hour before grilling.
  • Pan fry chicken for ~3 minutes per side.
  • Remove cooked chicken to a serving plate and drizzle with more lime juice before serving.

Preparation time: 10 minutes, and at least 1 hour marinating time

Cooking time: 15 minutes depending on the size of frying pan

Number of servings: 5-6

Link to original recipe: http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/spicy-paprika-lime-chicken-recipe/

I highly recommend serving with cilantro lime brown rice (and maybe a margarita!?).

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced

Instructions:

Pour everything into a medium size pot. Bring to a boil and then cover and cook on low for 20-30 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir to combine and serve immediately.

Link to original recipe: http://www.ohsweetbasil.com/2013/06/cilantro-lime-rice-cafe-rio-copycat.html

When using Pinterest for healthy recipes, the trick is not to become tempted by pictures of decadent desserts. How do I stay focused? I have a separate board (Parte Por Favor) for treats and snacks that look too good not to pin. Elevate your social status by bringing the most coveted covered dish to the next party or gathering!  

Beyond just recipes

Pinterest offers inspiration beyond just the kitchen. Find amazing decorating tips, step-by-step DIY projects, and little tidbits to make life easier. The pins I have found most helpful include:

  • Ladies, if you have a new pair of ballet flats but you’re dreading the painful process of breaking them in—there’s a pin for that.
  • Tired of digging for spices buried in your kitchen cabinets, mount a mop holder inside your cupboard door…who would have thought!  

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  • Love avocados but have no clue how to buy one that’s perfectly ripe. You guessed it…there’s a pin for that.
  • Ditch the ice cream scooper! It sounds crazy but when you’re stuck scooping ice cream at your next family party, use a knife to slice the ice cream into servings.  

I place pins like these on my FYI board, it’s kind of like the junk drawer of my Pinterest profile.

Hopefully this introduction to Pinterest inspires you to seek out healthy recipes, and makes life a little easier. What’s your favorite use for Pinterest?

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