10 risk factors of colon cancer


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Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. The good news is that it’s also one of the most preventable.

Most people do not look forward to having a colonoscopy. But it’s important to overcome any fear or embarrassment to be able to detect colon cancer in its earliest stages. Polyps are tiny, pimple-like growths found in the colon. If they are not detected, they can become cancerous and grow benign and malignant tumors. These tumors can then spread throughout the body if nothing is done to screen, prevent or treat them. The only way to detect colon polyps is by colonoscopy.

These 10 factors may increase your risk for colon cancer:

  1. Age. People older than age 50 tend to get colon cancer more frequently than those younger than 50.
  2. African American. African Americans are statistically more likely to get colon cancer.
  3. History of colon polyps. If you’ve been screened before and polyps were removed, you may be more prone to developing colon cancer.
  4. Inflammatory diseases. Crohn’s disease and other bowel diseases increase your chances of getting colon cancer.
  5. Inherited diseases. While rare, some families have inherited conditions that increase their risk for colon disease.
  6. Family history of colon cancer or polyps. If you have a parent, sibling or child who has or had colon cancer, you may have a greater risk.
  7. Obesity. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop colon cancer, among other diseases.
  8. Lack of exercise. People who don’t get their heart pumping tend to develop colon cancer and other diseases.
  9. Smoking. Tobacco use has been shown to increase the likelihood of getting colon cancer.
  10. Alcoholism. Heavy use of alcohol also increases the chances of developing many diseases, including those of the colon.

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

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5 tips to help you pick the right doctor

Picking the right doctor for you and your family is an important decision.

A primary care doctor can play a key role in helping to diagnose, treat and manage your family’s health. You will visit or contact your primary care doctor for most doctors’ appointments, including checkups, health screenings and non-emergency situations, such as when you or your child has a sore throat or a fever. Your primary care doctor can also help refer you to a specialist if necessary.

Here are five tips to help you select the right doctor:

  1. Search for a doctor in your area.

You can search for a doctor in your area who is a participating provider with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) on our website at www.bcbsnd.com/find-a-doctor. We offer members more choice of North Dakota doctors than any other insurance company operating in the state. In North Dakota, 99.6 percent of doctors and 99 percent of hospitals (including the state’s largest hospitals) accept BCBSND insurance coverage.

You can search for doctors in North Dakota and the rest of the U.S. on BCBSND’s Find a Doctor page.

You can also search for a doctor, clinic or hospital outside of North Dakota if you live in another state, or are visiting another state. BCBSND members have access to the most comprehensive national network of participating doctors and medical facilities through the company’s partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in all 50 states. All BCBSND plans include BlueCard coverage that covers members throughout the U.S. and BlueCard Worldwide, which covers members when they travel to 200 countries worldwide.

  1. Make sure your doctor is in your network.

When searching for a doctor, clinic or hospital on our website, you will first need to select your network, then you can search for a specific specialty and look for a doctor or medical facility in your area.

After selecting your network, you can search for doctors and medical providers.

A network is a group of doctors, clinics or hospitals that have agreed to provide medical services at a discounted rate for BCBSND members like you. Members who see doctors outside their network, or doctors who are not participating providers with BCBSND, may experience higher out-of-pocket costs. Networks vary depending upon your specific insurance plan. Please call the phone number listed on the back of your BCBSND ID card if you have any questions about your network.

  1. Find the right doctor for you.

When searching for a primary care doctor, it is important to consider the different types of primary care doctors.

Here is a list of some different types of primary care doctors you might want to consider:

  • Family practice doctors can treat patients of all ages and serve as a doctor for your whole family, including your children. Family practice doctors are generalists who can treat a wide variety of conditions.
  • Pediatricians specialize in treating children and would serve as the primary care doctor for your child.
  • Internal medicine doctors typically treat adults and specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and management of chronic conditions and diseases.
  • General practice doctors can also treat patients of all ages, but don’t generally specialize in one particular area of medical practice.
  1. Ask around.

One way to find the right doctor for you is to ask your friends and family what they like about their doctor and if they would recommend a doctor.

If you are already seeing a medical specialist, you can ask them if they could recommend a good primary care doctor. If you are moving or your doctor is retiring, ask your current doctor to recommend a doctor in your area.

  1. Meet your doctor.

You should plan to meet with your new doctor to make sure they are the right fit for you and your family. Make sure you feel comfortable with your doctor and that you pick someone you would feel comfortable discussing your medical history and medical care with.

Some other considerations when selecting a new primary care doctor include:

  • The location of their office and its proximity to your home and work
  • The doctor’s office hours
  • How far in advance you will need to schedule appointments

Once you have selected a doctor, here are some tips to help you when talking with your doctor.

Doctors play an important role in helping to keep us healthy. We would like to thank North Dakota’s doctors for their dedication to help improve the lives of others.

Some of the resources shared in this blog were adapted from materials prepared by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. BCBSND is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

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

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What is a deductible?

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Health insurance can be confusing. We’re here to help.

What is a deductible?

Your DEDUCTIBLE is how much you must pay before your health insurance company begins to share costs with you.

After you pay your full deductible, the insurance company will start to pay part of your medical bills. This can happen through multiple medical visits during the same plan year.

If you get a $5,000 hospital bill and your deductible is $1,000, you owe $1,000. The insurance company would share the remaining $4,000 in costs with you. This typically occurs through coinsurance.

Please call the phone number on the back of your ID card 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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5 ways to become your own health care boss

While your doctor is the medical expert,  you are your own best advocate. Practicing these five things will help put you in the driver’s seat of your health care.

1. Make health care choices based on information, not fear. When your doctor recommends a procedure or medication, you should find out more. What are the pros and cons of the procedure? Is it truly necessary? Is this procedure covered by my insurance? Are there other ways to accomplish the same goal? What is the cost? Insurance costs are a direct reflection of medical costs, so being a wise consumer helps with your out-of-pocket expenses and ultimately your insurance costs. Make sure you are informed on the benefits and risks of all your health care decisions, even the ones that seem obvious.

2. Use medications responsibly. If you have been prescribed long-term medications, make sure to use them as prescribed. When starting a new drug, ask your doctor if a generic alternative is available. You can also ask about a pill-splitting option to decrease your out-of-pocket medication costs. Americans incur $200 billion worth of care per year for illnesses and hospitalizations that could have been avoided if medications were taken as prescribed.

3. Understand your health insurance policy. Health insurance is complicated. But the more you know your plan, the better you will be able to understand what is covered and how much you will have to pay out of pocket. Many preventive services are covered under your plan. Check to see which services are covered. Preventive services can help prevent high costs later. In addition, when scheduling appointments, ask the provider if they participate with a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan. You will be responsible for additional costs if you see a provider who is not participating.

4. Exercise. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Yes, prevention is still the best medicine. Controlling your weight with a healthy diet, regular exercise and enough sleep can help prevent the onset of diabetes, heart conditions and cognitive deficits. Even if you are young, making healthy decisions today will positively impact your health in the future decades. Controlling diet, weight and healthy habits will save you lots of money in the future.

5. Choose the right care at the right time. When assessing an illness or injury, ask yourself if it constitutes an emergency department visit, a walk-in clinic visit, or if you can hold off for a less-expensive office visit. Some providers offer a free nurse helpline, which may be helpful to get resolution. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the average cost of a visit to the doctor is about $199; a visit to the ER costs about $922. About 25 percent of those visits are unnecessary.

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

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Find out if you’re eligible to buy 2015 insurance after February 15 deadline

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February 15 was the deadline for North Dakotans to sign up for new Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota individual or family plans to receive 2015 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 February 15, you still might be able to get a new health insurance plan in 2015:

  • If you have a significant life change such as getting married, divorced, the birth or adoption of a child, or even some income changes after February 15. You may be eligible for a special enrollment period to sign up for 2015 coverage. Please call us at 1-800-280-BLUE (2583) to find out if you are eligible.
  • If you qualify for Medicaid, you can enroll at any time at healthcare.gov.
  • If you lose health insurance through an employer after February 15, you can sign up for 2015 health insurance.
  • If you meet certain age requirements and other circumstances you may qualify for Medicare.

The next enrollment period for health insurance begins on October 1, 2015, for coverage starting on January 1, 2016.

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 February 15 deadline does not apply to you. If you have insurance now, but you lose your coverage during 2015, you may qualify for a special enrollment period to select a new insurance plan.

If you are a current BCBSND member and have an individual or family plan, and your plan is being discontinued in 2015 you will be automatically transferred to a new plan unless you contact your local independent agent or call us at 1-800-280-BLUE (2583) and we’ll help you.

More information about health reform is available on our website.

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.
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Longer customer service phone line wait times

Our customer service representatives are currently receiving twice as many phone calls as usual. As a result, the wait times that our members are experiencing when customer service are increasing as well.

We pride ourselves on delivering world class customer service and we are doing our best to help all our members as quickly as possible. If call volume is especially heavy and we aren’t able to help everyone at a certain time, you may hear a recorded message asking you to call back later.

One reason for the high call volume is the February 15, 2015 deadline to enroll in health insurance coverage for 2015. We expect the wait times to decrease after the deadline and we are doing everything we can to add more resources to help members during this time. We appreciate your patience.

Tips to reduce your wait time
Here are some tips to avoid waiting on hold when calling customer service:

  • You can call the phone number listed on the back of your ID card. Our customer service phone line is answered Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central time. We usually receive fewer calls in the early morning, so you can try then, if possible.
  • When calling in if you have your ID card with you, enter it in on your phone’s keypad when prompted to help speed up your call.
  • You can also use our Online Member Services tool on our website to ask your question, perform tasks like checking your claims, finding out what has been paid by insurance and updating your address.

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

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Get an online quote, shop for a plan on our website

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Did you know that you can get a health insurance quote before signing up for a plan?

All you need to do is visit www.BCBSND.com/shop and shop for insurance for individuals or families. You can click on the “Get a Quote” button to shop and compare insurance plans.

The open enrollment period for 2015 coverage runs through February 15, 2015. After that you must have a qualifying life event, such as getting married or the birth of a child, to be able to get 2015 insurance.

If you want to see if you qualify for a federal tax credit to lower your premiums on the Health Insurance Marketplace, we have a handy calculator to help you see if you might qualify. If not, you just need to enter some basic info about yourself and your spouse or any dependents you want to add to your plan.

Then you can start shopping and comparing plans to find one that works best for you and your situation.

Let us know if you have any questions. You can also call us at 1-800-280-BLUE (2583) for help enrolling in a plan.

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

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What you need to know about new IRS tax filing requirement

You are now required to report your health insurance coverage when filing a federal tax return.

For the first time this tax season, you must report to the Internal Revenue Service if you, your spouse or dependents had qualifying health insurance coverage during 2014.

We mailed a statement outlining members’ health insurance coverage in early February. That statement will help you with a new requirement of the Affordable Care Act.

If you have individual coverage from us …

We mailed a statement of coverage to members to help them prepare their 2014 tax return.

  • If you purchased a qualified health plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov, you can call 1-800-318-2596 to receive this information.

Please use it when doing your taxes, or share it with your tax preparer.

If you get insurance through your employer from us …

  • Your statement of coverage will come directly from us, provided the company you work for is a fully insured group.
  • You will need to get the information from your employer if the company you work for is a self-funded group or trust.
  • Please contact your HR department if you have questions on the type of group insurance your employer offers.

Can we help?
If you have more questions, please call 1-800-280-BLUE (2583).

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

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What is a copay?

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Health insurance can be confusing. We’re here to help. Here’s an explanation of an often misunderstood health insurance term and what it means.

A COPAYMENT, or a copay, is a set amount you pay when receiving medical care. Patients are often asked to pay a copay when arriving for a doctor’s appointment, or seeking other medical care.

The amount of your copay is listed on your Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota ID card. Copay amounts vary depending on the type of service received and the specifics of your health insurance plan. For example, some members have a different copay amount for doctor’s appointment than for visits to the emergency room.

After paying your copay, you may still be required to pay a deductible and coinsurance (or a percentage of the remaining balance).

Please call the phone number on the back of your ID card 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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February 15 is deadline to enroll in 2015 health insurance

If you don’t have health insurance, you have until Sunday, February 15, to enroll in 2015 coverage.

If you miss the deadline, you will need to wait until this fall to enroll in coverage that won’t take begin until 2016.

Ways to enroll in coverage from us:

  • Go to www.BCBSND.com/shop
  • Call 1-800-280-BLUE (2583)
  • Work with your independent insurance agent
  • Visit one of our nine offices located throughout North Dakota

We will have staff taking phone calls the weekend of February 14-15 to help those seeking assistance enrolling by the deadline.

Sunday, February 15, is also the last day you can enroll in a new health insurance plan through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace at www.healthcare.gov. Our plans are offered on the Marketplace. You can select “North Dakota” as the state to shop for coverage at healthcare.gov.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • You must enroll by February 15 to have coverage in 2015.
  • You only need to enroll through the Marketplace if you plan to apply for a federal tax credit to help pay for your insurance. You can visit BCBSND’s Tax Credit Calculator to see if you might qualify.
  • If you don’t want to apply for a tax credit, you can enroll in coverage directly from us at www.BCBSND.com/shop, or by calling 1-800-280-BLUE (2583).
  • If you change jobs, move to a new state, experience the birth of a child, a change in marital status or another major life event after the deadline, you may qualify for a special enrollment period to purchase coverage.
  • When filing your federal income taxes for the 2015 tax year you will be required to show proof that you had qualifying health insurance in 2015 to avoid paying a tax penalty.


We are here to help.

If you have questions, please call one of our health benefits consultants at 1-800-280-BLUE (2583), talk to your local independent agent, or visit one of our offices during regular business hours.

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

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