Fargo Marathon Friday Night 5K a great way to get active

As the snow melts and temperatures start to rise, more North Dakotans are beginning to emerge from hibernation. Joggers can be seen taking advantage of the opportunity to get outside and get active again this spring.

As The Official Sponsor of Recess, we believe that recess is for everyone and we encourage North Dakotans of all ages to get outside and get active. What better way to get some fresh air and go for a short jog or walk than to participate in the Fargo Marathon Friday Night 5K on Friday, May 9?


Here’s a look at some scenes from last year’s Fargo Marathon 5K.

Register online today for the Fargo Marathon Friday Night 5K and join us for a wonderful community event on the downtown streets of Fargo. Haven’t been training to run three miles? No problem. You can register to walk the 5K, too. Every year, thousands of families and friends walk the 5K. Some even push baby strollers along the course.

We’ll be there as an event co-sponsor with Discovery Benefits, promoting health and fitness and the importance of getting active. Will you join us?

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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What can I do if I missed the March 31 health insurance deadline?

March 31, 2014 was the deadline for North Dakotans to sign up for new Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota individual or family plans to receive 2014 coverage. Most Americans are required to have health insurance this year, or they will face a tax penalty from the federal government.

Even if you didn’t buy your plan by March 31, you still might be able to get a new health insurance plan in 2014:

  • If you have a significant life change such as getting married, divorced, moving to a new state, the birth or adoption of a child, or even some income changes after March 31, you may be eligible for a special enrollment period to sign up for 2014 coverage. Please call us at 1-800-280-BLUE (2583) to find out if you are eligible.
  • If you qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, you can enroll at any time. If you qualify for Medicaid, you can sign up anytime at healthcare.gov.
  •  If you lose health insurance through an employer after March 31, you can sign up for 2014 health insurance.
  • If you tried to purchase a plan on the North Dakota marketplace at healthcare.gov by March 31 and experienced difficulty completing your enrollment, you can also request an extension that may allow you more time to enroll in a marketplace plan for 2014.

The next enrollment period for health insurance begins on November 15, 2014, for coverage starting in 2015.

What if I have health insurance?
If you currently receive health insurance through your employer or through a government program like Medicare or Medicaid, the March 31 deadline does not apply to you. If you have insurance now, but you lose your coverage during 2014, you may qualify for a special enrollment period to select a new insurance plan.

If you are a current BCBSND member and have a non-grandfathered individual or family plan, and your plan is being discontinued in 2014 because of Affordable Care Act regulations, you will be automatically transferred to a new plan unless you tell us otherwise. Current members with plans being discontinued on May 1, 2014, need to enroll in a new BCBSND plan by April 30 to avoid a gap in coverage. If you aren’t sure about your personal situation, please call us at 1-800-280-BLUE (2583) and we’ll help you.

More information about health reform is available on our website, where you’ll find health reform basics and the latest health reform news.

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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Why you can’t wait until you get sick to get health insurance

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health insurance works by having members pay a monthly premium that goes into a pool. When a member gets sick, they dip into the pool’s shared resources to help pay for their medical care. This helps keep out-of-pocket costs down for members.

That’s why you can’t just wait until you get sick to purchase health insurance. After you receive expensive medical bills in the mail, it’s too late to sign up for health insurance. Health insurance can only help you if you have insurance at the time of your car accident, when you go to the hospital, or when your child goes to the emergency room with a dangerously high fever.

That’s why it’s important to have health insurance — and to make sure your children and family members do too. Even if you feel healthy or don’t think you need to see the doctor, you never know when you will need insurance. That’s why it’s called insurance (just in case).

You won’t be dropped from insurance
The Affordable Care Act mandates that insurance companies cannot drop members after they get sick (something Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota has never done and will never do) and it also does not allow insurers to deny coverage to members because of pre-existing medical conditions or to place lifetime or annual limits on insurance coverage.

Insurance requirement
The Affordable Care Act also requires that most Americans enroll in health insurance coverage by March 31, 2014 or face a tax penalty when filing your 2014 federal income tax return.

Enrollment period
Even though you cannot be turned away as a BCBSND member as long as you pay your premiums, you still need to sign up during enrollment periods. If you already have coverage through an employer, you have a current BCBSND plan, or through a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid, you’re good to go. But if you are uninsured, you will need to sign up for an individual or family plan directly from us or on the North Dakota health insurance marketplace by March 31, 2014, to have coverage in 2014. The next open enrollment period for on- and off-marketplace coverage begins on November 15, 2014 for coverage starting in 2015.

Find a plan
To check out your coverage options and avoid the penalty, you can get started at www.BCBSND.com/shop or by calling 1-800-280-BLUE (2583). If you meet income qualifications you may qualify for a federal tax credit to help you pay the cost of your insurance if you select a plan on the marketplace. You can use our tax credit calculator to find out if you might qualify.

Some North Dakotans who experience life changes after March 31 this year, such as having a baby or getting married, may qualify for a special enrollment period. If your existing BCBSND plan is being discontinued, you may also qualify for a special enrollment period when your policy expires. If you aren’t sure if this applies to you, please call us at 1-800-280-BLUE (2583) and we’ll help you.

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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Individual mandate means you may have to buy health insurance by March 31 to avoid a tax penalty

Have you heard of the individual mandate?

The individual mandate is a requirement in the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) that requires most Americans to have qualifying health coverage in 2014.

If you’re like an estimated 80 percent of Americans, you already receive health insurance coverage through your job, your spouse’s job, Medicare or Medicaid, and you don’t need to do anything. But if you’re uninsured, you will likely need to purchase health insurance by March 31, 2014 to avoid paying a tax penalty to the government.

Some are exempt from the mandate, such as those who do not make enough money to be required to file a tax return and some American Indians.

The tax penalty for not having qualifying coverage in 2014 is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or 1 percent of annual taxable income, whichever is greater. The amount of tax penalties for not having qualifying insurance will increase in future years. During the 2015 tax season, the Internal Revenue Service will begin asking taxpayers to provide proof of insurance coverage when filing their 2014 income tax returns. Those who are unable to provide proof of insurance will be assessed the tax penalty.

If you would like to purchase insurance from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota to avoid being hit by the individual mandate tax penalty, you can search, select and apply for plans at www.BCBSND.com/shop or by calling 1-800-280-BLUE (2583) by March 31. You can also use our handy tax credit calculator to see if you qualify for a federal tax credit to help pay for your insurance. If you qualify for the tax credit, you will need to purchase a plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov. Either way, you can start at www.BCBSND.com/shop.

After the current open enrollment period ends on March 31, BCBSND individual and family plans will not be available for purchase until the next open enrollment period begins on November 15, 2014, unless you experience a qualifying life event. Plans purchased during the next open enrollment period will receive coverage that takes effect in 2015.

More information about health reform is available at ItStartsWithBlueND.com. You can also find out more about health reform law basics and get the latest health reform news on our website.

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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Enroll by March 31 for health insurance on marketplace or bought directly from insurer

In case you haven’t heard, uninsured North Dakotans must sign up by March 31 to avoid a future tax penalty as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate that requires most Americans to have health insurance in 2014.

This deadline applies to all Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota health insurance plans sold directly by the company to individuals and families and to all plans sold on North Dakota’s health insurance marketplace.

March 31, 2014 is the last day of the open enrollment period for 2014 coverage. The next open enrollment period begins on November 15, 2014, for coverage starting in 2015. Unless you get health insurance from an employer or a government program like Medicare or Medicaid, you will need to sign up by March 31 to have insurance coverage in 2014.

Some North Dakotans who experience life changes after March 31 this year, such as having a baby or getting married, may qualify for a special enrollment period. If your existing BCBSND plan is being discontinued, you may also qualify for a special enrollment period when your policy expires. If you aren’t sure if this applies to you, please call us at 1-800-280-BLUE (2583) and we’ll help you.

To check out your coverage options, you can get started at www.BCBSND.com/shop or by calling 1-800-280-BLUE (2583). If you meet income qualifications, you may qualify for a federal tax credit to help you pay the cost of your insurance if you select a plan on the marketplace. You can use our tax credit calculator to find out if you might qualify. Either way, explore your options and learn more at www.BCBSND.com/shop or by calling 1-800-280-BLUE (2583).

We have more info about health reform at ItStartsWithBlueND.com. You can also find some health reform law basics and get the latest health reform news on our website. Let us know if you have any questions.

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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Two ways to get a break on your health insurance costs

Many North Dakotans may not be aware the Affordable Care Act provides two ways to get financial help with their health insurance.

The federal tax credit on health insurance premiums has received most of the attention as a way to either reduce your monthly premium or take a new tax credit on your 2014 federal return.

But many North Dakotans may also be eligible for a break with their cost sharing amounts, as well. These subsidies are called cost sharing reductions and they lower the out-of-pocket expenses you are required to pay as part of your health plan.

Who is eligible? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help is available for individuals and families who:

  • Meet the criteria above. Your household income must be between 133 percent and 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • If you qualify for either of the subsidies—tax credits or cost sharing reductions—you need to get your coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) plans are available through the Marketplace.

Choose a plan from the Silver plan category, such as BCBSND’s BlueCare 80 2500, BlueCare 70 3000, BlueDirect 80 2300 and BlueDirect 70 1400.

The Health Insurance Marketplace will determine if you are eligible for a subsidy. You can explore BCBSND plans and get to the Marketplace by starting at www.BCBSND.com/shop. 

And if you’re a member of a federally recognized tribe, you may qualify for additional cost-sharing benefits.

Thanks to cost sharing reductions, you could pay lower out-of-pocket expenses when you use your health plan. For example, if your plan’s copayment for an office visit to your doctor is $50, the subsidy might reduce the copayment to only $20. The subsidy may also lower your deductible and/or coinsurance.

Cost sharing reductions are similar to getting a free upgrade on your health plan because your plan is covering a larger portion of your expenses.

Denise Pinkney is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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Enjoy the taste of eating right

Wellness Consultant Lori Howard of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) encourages everyone to consume less salt and eat more fruits and vegetables. The two go hand-in-hand in fighting high blood pressure. Lori is a registered dietitian.

As part of National Nutrition Month, Americans are encouraged to enjoy the taste of eating right. While it’s easy to grab the salt shaker when cooking or eating, you can enhance flavors with herbs and spices.

Salt-free alternatives Lori says if you’re not sure which herbs to use, Mrs. Dash salt-free seasoning blends are a great way to get started. She also offers these suggestions:

  • Squeeze juice from a fresh lemon or lime on cauliflower, broccoli, peas, cabbage and sweet corn
  • Use a few tablespoons of homemade chicken stock over steamed vegetables
  • Sauté your favorite vegetables in olive oil with garlic (don’t use garlic salt) and onions
  • Simmer carrots in cinnamon and nutmeg

For more creative ideas on how to use herbs and spices when you cook, check out suggestions from the American Heart Association’s website.

Recommended intake Experimenting with herbs and spices can be good for your health. The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that most people aim for 2,300 mg of salt or sodium a day. That amounts to one teaspoon!  But if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or are older than 50 or African American, you should limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day. It’s very easy to go over the limit when you add up the sodium contained in processed foods and soft drinks.

Lori offers these simple solutions to help you consume less sodium:

  • Cook more at home
  • Eat more whole foods
  • Eat less processed foods
  • Check food labels for sodium content 

And finally, when you’re preparing your meals, Lori says to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits. Just be sure to season them with herbs and spices and not salt.

Denise Pinkney is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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March 31 is the deadline to buy 2014 health insurance

March 31 is the deadline for you to sign up for new individual or family plans from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota for 2014 coverage. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • The next open enrollment period begins on November 15, 2014, for coverage starting in 2015.
  • If you don’t enroll in health insurance by March 31, you could face a tax penalty as a result of the individual mandate that requires most Americans to have health insurance in 2014.
  • To check out your coverage options and avoid the penalty, you can get started at www.BCBSND.com/shop or by calling 1-800-280-BLUE (2583).

Does the March 31 deadline apply to you?
Get insurance through employer
If you already receive health insurance coverage through an employer, the March 31 deadline does not apply to you. If your employer offers insurance coverage but you are not currently enrolled, you may have to wait until your employer’s next open enrollment period begins.

Get insurance through Medicare/Medicaid
If you already receive coverage through a government program like Medicare or Medicaid, the March 31 deadline does not impact you (those who qualify for Medicaid can sign up anytime at healthcare.gov).

Deadline applies to marketplace and non-marketplace plans
The March 31 deadline applies to individual and family plans purchased on the marketplace and directly from us.

If your situation changes after March 31
If you get married, divorced, have a baby, experience a significant change in your income or other changes after March 31, you may qualify for a special enrollment period. Current BCBSND members whose plans are being discontinued because of Affordable Care Act regulations are being automatically transferred to new plans unless members tell us otherwise. Current members with plans being discontinued on May 1, 2014, can enroll in different BCBSND plans between April 1 and April 30, in addition to the open enrollment period, to avoid a gap in coverage. If you aren’t sure if this applies to you, please call us at 1-800-280-BLUE (2583) and we’ll help you.

How does the marketplace work?
State health insurance marketplaces were created by the Affordable Care Act to provide another way to buy insurance. The North Dakota marketplace is available to you by selecting North Dakota at healthcare.gov.

If you meet income qualifications, you may qualify for a federal tax credit to help you pay the cost of your insurance if you select a plan on the marketplace. You can use our handy tax credit calculator to find out if you qualify. Either way, explore your options and learn more at www.BCBSND.com/shop or by calling 1-800-280-BLUE (2583).

We have more info about health reform at ItStartsWithBlueND.com. You can also find some health reform law basics and get the latest health reform news on our website. Let us know if you have any questions. We know health reform can be confusing. We’re here to help.

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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New Wahpeton office shows our dedication to customer service, job development

We continue to search for ways to better serve our members throughout the state. As North Dakotans’ health insurer of choice, we remain committed to providing timely, responsive and high quality customer service to our members.

We are also proud of the positive economic impact our presence has on the state and the opportunity to provide quality jobs in communities throughout the state.

Opening new customer service office
That is why we have entered into a unique partnership to open a customer service office for employees on the North Dakota State College of Science campus in Wahpeton, N.D.

“We offer good full-time employment opportunities with competitive benefits. This new facility will provide another career opportunity for NDSCS graduates and job seekers in the Wahpeton-Breckenridge area,” said Mark Tschider, our vice president of Customer Support and Claims Administration. “We’re excited to be working with NDSCS and we’re happy to be able to work in the Wahpeton area.”

We’re hiring in Wahpeton area
BCBSND is looking to hire as many as 10 new customer service representatives in the Wahpeton area who will make up the first training class to use the new space on the NDSCS campus. After the completion of their customer service training, the space will be transformed into an office for the new employees. Our customer service employees also have the option to work from home our telecommuting policy.

“We are excited to bring job growth to the Wahpeton community and feel there is a strong workforce to match our needs that will further enhance the service we provide to our customers,” said Russ Boyle, director of our Customer Contact Center.

Job fair on April 7, 2014
We will host a job fair for the new positions on April 7 on the NDSCS campus. For more information about job opportunities, visit www.BCBSND.com/jobs. Successful applicants will begin training and start working for us in late May.

Career fair
Monday
April 7, 2014
Tech Center, Room 87, NDSCS Campus
Wahpeton, N.D.
3 p.m.-7 p.m.
Campus map

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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Food choices can reduce colon cancer risk

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer survival rates are now at 90 percent. Along with regular medical screenings, there are plenty of foods and vitamins to keep your digestive system healthy for life.

Studies show that eating five to nine servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables, including beans, can reduce your risk of colon and rectal diseases. That’s because fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber and other nutrients that fight against pre-cancer and cancer cells. Adding even one fruit or vegetable to your current intake can help.

Considering eating these foods for prevention:

  • Dark, green leafy vegetables
  • Vegetables—choose orange, yellow, red, green, purple and white
  • Whole, fresh fruits—berries, citrus and apples with skin on
  • Beans, legumes, lentils
  • Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains—natural oatmeal, 100 percent whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, high-fiber/low-sugar cereal
  • Vitamin-D-fortified skim milk and yogurt

Exercise Exercise is great for every part of the body, including your digestive system. Incorporate 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise most days of the week, accompanied by at least two days of strength or weight-bearing exercise.

Risk factors Some people are at greater risk for developing colorectal cancer than others. Risk factors include:

  • Age
  • High-fat diet
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • High consumption of red meats and processed meats
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Very overweight or obese

Screenings In addition to eating right and exercising, it is important to be screened to identify any colon problems before they develop into cancer. You should be screened if you are age 50 or older. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine through a thin, flexible tube. The test helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors and areas of inflammation and bleeding.

Your doctor may suggest you begin screening at a younger age if you have a strong family history of colorectal disease. Talk with your doctor about screening options as well as when and how often you should be tested.

Denise Pinkney is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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