A Health Savings Account Saves Me Over $350 a Month!

I switched to a Health Savings Account and it is like putting another $350 a month in my pay check.

Healthcare costs are getting out of control. I work for an agency and don't get benefits so I have to pay for my own.

I have been with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida for several years and the monthly premiums started out at around $150. I got older and the premiums kept going up so I changed my deductible from $500 to $1,000. They continued rising so I went for a $2,000 deductible.

Three years ago at age 56 my premiums were over $400 a month and I was only having a yearly check up with my G.P. and a yearly woman's check up. So I decided to look for more options.

I found out about a Health Savings Account. I could still use my provider or change to another one. I checked on Humana and the premiums were almost identical so I didn't change

The great thing was my monthly payment went down to $200 a month. I did have to go with a $2,500 deductible and an 80% – 20% co-payment for the next $2,500. However I was already saving over $2,500 a year by paying less than half on the premium.

I set up a Health Savings Account and contributed to it and kept my money. It is an interest bearing account, which is another bonus. I received a checkbook and a debit card so when I go to the doctor's office or buy my prescriptions I can use either. The money builds up and when it comes to tax time, you don't pay taxes on it. It has to be used purely for medical expenses, which is fine, by me. I have been putting $2,500 in the account each year. This is the same amount as my deductible.

This year my monthly premium is $248 and some of my friends of similar age are paying $600 or more. I would much rather put money into my pocket and into my H.S.A.

I am fairly healthy and only spend between $300 and $500 a year on medical visits etc. so my account keeps growing. At age 65, when I receive Medicare, I can still use this money tax free for out of pocket medical expenses. At age 70 and a half, if I still have money in the account, it will be treated like an I.R.A. and I will have to take money out and pay taxes on it.


Healthy Snacks for Teens: Stop the Obesity!

Obesity is a rising problem in the United States. One way in which we can help decrease this problem is by monitoring after school snacks of high school teenagers. When arriving home after a long day of school, teenagers are often starving and will eat anything they can get their hands on when they step inside the house. The idea of "spoiling their dinner" means nothing to them. In order to help maintain their diet/weight, you must have the proper snacks at their disposal. Here are 10 recommendations:

SLICED Apples: Yes, we all know apples are good for you, but you also must know that sliced apples are much more appealing than a whole apple. The idea of eating a whole apple is not nearly as exciting, as you sometimes have an apple with lots of soft brown spots. A sliced apple just has a fresher taste and teenagers will be more inclined to eat them.

Pretzels: No, pretzels do not have a lot of nutritional value, but they are low in fat and low in calories . . . and more importantly, they can fill a teen's stomach in a timely manner. It's not one of those foods in which a kid will eat the entire bag in one sitting.

Chocolate Milk: Most teens still have a soft spot for chocolate milk, although they are probably "too cool" to drink it at lunch in high school. They will probably choose juice, instead, just so they don't look as "kiddie" among their friends. But once they're home, there is no peer pressure and nobody to impress. A large glass of lowfat chocolate milk provides plenty of protein and it can also be filling, as well.

Garden Salads: The truth is, many teens actually do enjoy salads; however, they are usually only given that option at dinner time. If you load up the salad with plenty of veggies, and buy some tasty lowfat Thousand Island or Ranch dressing, then teens may opt for it when they get home. Just don't let them go crazy with the croutons.

Sliced Watermelon: Watermelon won't add to anybody's waistline and it is actually very affordable compared to most other fruits. Plus, kids and teens LOVE watermelon!

Crystal Light: In addition to chocolate milk, it's also beneficial to have some Crystal Light in your fridge. There is no fat and barely any calories. If you have chocolate milk and crystal light in your fridge, then the temptation of drinking a high-calorie, sugar-infested soda will not be as much of a factor.

Veggies & Dip: When teens get home, they don't want to take the time to make or cook anything. Veggies and dip is the simple and healthy quick fix. Cut up some carrots, celery and tomatoes, throw a bowl of lowfat (or non-fat) dressing in the middle of the plate, and let the kids go crazy.

Granola Bars: A granola bar is a filling and healthy snack that will help keep the teen satisfied until dinner time. Make sure to check the ingredients, though, as some granola bars have much more fat and calories than others. I would recommend getting some sort of trail mix flavor.

Lowfat Triscuits: Like pretzels, Triscuits will not invade your waistline and they can fill your kids up fast. I've yet to meet any teen that has eaten a whole entire box of Triscuits in one sitting! Heck, I've never even met anyone that has eaten a HALF-box of Triscuits in one sitting . . . unless they added pepperoni or cheese to them or something.

Bananas: A healthy and convenient snack for teens. Just don't let them put it in a big fat bowl of ice cream and chocolate sauce.


Health Care Myths

To all those people that question the wisdom of those who oppose the nationalization of the U.S. free enterprise health care system, allow me to point out a few facts.

I grew up under a communist government where national health care was practiced. The best I can compare it to would be to any government bureaucracy you ever had to deal with.

In this country, health care is practiced, as a competitive industry and health practitioners must compete like any other business. This competition is what drives the medical innovation that has caused virtually every other countries citizens to come here as a last resort for their health care. Canadians and Europeans come here by the thousands every month to take advantage of the superior training and experience that our health care professionals can provide. People the world over strive to come here for medical training because it is the best.

Whenever the leaders of countries world wide need serious medical attention, they come here.

These and many other reasons should be considered when you make your choice to either support or oppose this law. This present "health care crisis," is nothing more than another power grab by politicians to increase their control over our economy. Just take a good look at all the government agencies who control different parts of our economy. Has there ever been a program other than the military that has performed as promised? The answer is a resounding No!

The people who have attended town hall meetings nationwide were there to ask questions and when the politicians claim they are being attacked, they are spinning the situation. The irritation of the attendees is caused by their abuse at the hands of their elected officials. Those officials have never been put under pressure to answer questions before, and the public is suddenly finding out how foolish and arrogant these officials really are.

Now that the health care bill has passed into law, we can only hope that the Constitutional challenges mounted by various states, will work their through the Supreme court with the speed that such a critical law demands.

I can only hope that the voters will remember these characters at the next election cycle and hold them responsible for their actions.

Let's see which of those public voices that tell us how wonderful medical care under a government controlled system is, will be the first to actually go to Cuba, Canada, or almost any country in Europe for their care.

Remember, by law everyone must be treated in a hospital no matter their financial situation. True, they may not get the absolutely greatest care possible but then that is true of everyone no matter their insurance situation. I encourage those of you that have questions for their elected officials to continue to hold their feet to the fire and insist on answers that are true and not political mumbo jumbo. If that term is not understood by you, then just find the video of Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts at his town meeting last week.

Here is a link to that video, just copy and paste.

Whichever side of the health care issue you're on, remember argue your point with logic and passion.


Packing a Healthy Lunchbox

My daughter came home from her first day of 1st grade 2 years ago complaining about the school lunch their. I thought she was just exxagerating. But when my son came home that day he told me the school lunch was ridiculous. He also spoke to me about how poorely they presented these meals. Which made me remember the days when there were no kitchens in school in our area anyway. I thought that any kid would be ecstatic to go and eat a nice hot meal. But my children were sitting there complaining about it so I thought if both my children refused to eat the food I would pack them healthy and nutritious lunches.

My first tip is to always pack atleast 4 of the 5 major food groups in your child's lunchbox. The 5 major food groups are grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins(meats and beans), and dairy. It is a great way to start your child on a road of good health. My second tip is to always add in fruits and vegetables secretly. A great way is adding a juice box or giving your child pasta topped with tomato sauce. Whatever the method try to involve as many food groups as you can.

Here are some suggestions for healthy well rounded lunches.

1) Standard Sandwich with deli meat and cheese. Fruit juice on the side with yogurt or a box of raisins.

2) Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with minature carrots, as well as stringed cheese on the side, and a carton of milk.

3)Thermos with macaroni and tomato sauce inside, a juice box on the side, and an old fashion fruit to accompany it all.

I'm sure you can make plenty of combinations from what you have in your pantry to pack a healthy lunch for your children. If you start your child on a path of healthy eating they will maintain this lifestyle for years to come. Do not force your child to eat any food if it is not to his/her liking. After some research I've found out that many schools offer lunches high in sugar, fat, and calories and if your kid doesn't like the food they are in no way benefiting from school lunch.


Healthy No Cook Recipes

Nobody wishes to spend their time sweating over a hot stove during the warm weather, and more often than not, we don’t feel like eating hot meals. There is no stove top cooking involved in the following recipes and they are quick and easy to prepare, and as an added bonus they have versatility.

Prawn and Avocado Peacock

You will need approximately 15g of prawns to each half of avocado.

Mix the prawns with a seafood sauce. Cut the avocados in half and take out the stones, then fill the indentations with the prawn mixture and pile as high as possible. Sprinkle the prawns with a dash of ground paprika, and then cut a slice of cucumber and make an incision from the centre to outer edge. Twist the cucumber slice and place on top of the prawn filling. Take a bunch of watercress and tuck the stems between the avocado and the filling towards the wider end of the avocado. Fan out the watercress into a plume, this gives a peacock tail impression and makes an attractive and delicious snack. It can be adapted to your preference. For example, the seafood sauce can be exchanged for low fat mayonnaise, the black pepper can take the place of the paprika, and a slice of lemon may be used instead of the cucumber.

Ham and Brie Garlic Toasty

Peel a segment of raw garlic and rub it into a slice of toast. Spread a small amount of olive oil onto the toast and then lay some slices of fresh tomatoes on top. Place some slices of lean ham on top of the tomatoes and then lay on some wedges of brie cheese. This is an extremely tasty and filling snack, and it is also open to experiment; it can be adapted with a variety of cold meats and cheeses. The key ingredient to this dish is the raw garlic scratched into the toast; it is this that gives this snack its distinct and exquisite flavor.

Summer Salad

Chop some cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes and spring onions, slice an avocado and place in a large bowl. Add in a good measure of pitted or stuffed olives. Pour in 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar, the juice of half a lemon, half a teaspoon of salt (just to give the salad an edge) half a tablespoon of black pepper and drench with olive oil. Stir well and you have a delicious salad within minutes. Other ingredients can be included if required, for example, grated carrot, chopped peppers, celery and just about any salad ingredient that you require.

Melon Medley with Crème Fraiche

Chop the melon flesh into bite size chunks, then place in a bowl. Stir in approximately 250g of crème fraiche and mix together, and that’s it. Simple and delicious and yet again versatile as all types of melon can be included, and the crème fraiche can be substituted with yogurt, either natural or your favorite flavor. Pineapple yogurt in particular, is a delicious accompaniment to any melon.

One final tip: If you can find one, there exists a delicious melon that’s not well known. It’s called a pineapple melon, and this is a pineapple crossed with a water melon, it is the same size as the watermelon, it looks like a watermelon on the outside, but the flesh is yellow and it is tremendously sweet and refreshing.

Each of these dishes take approximately ten minutes to prepare, therefore no slaving over a hot stove is necessary, and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors this summer.


Natural and Home-Made Tips for Healthy and Pretty Hands!

When we meet someone new, our hands make a big long lasting first impression, from when you wave in greeting to when you shake your new friend's hand. The last thing you want is to have dry, cracked, or poorly taken care of hands, it can really ruin a first impression, and even affect the outcome of that dinner party or interview! Keep your hands smooth, radiant, and healthy with these tips and recipes, and keep your confidence high during those all important first impressions!

Normally, the biggest issue people have with the skin on their hands is that it's to dry, and after applying lotion, it becomes dry too quickly. Usually the problem with this is the lotion you're using contains far too many chemicals and scents rather than agents that actually moisturize your skin. In this day and age, it's far too much to ask for someone to start buying the twenty dollar lotions at the mall, so keep your scented lotions, they're not useless after all! All you need is a weekly regimen of scrubs and soaks for your hands that will make your digits dazzle everyone you shake hands with.

For a simple, easy to make and easy to use scrub for your hands, combine sand, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and any lotion you have around that has vitamin E. You can eyeball the amounts fairly easily, just mix them together until the consistency is not too gritty, and is not too much of a liquid to be used as an effective scrub. Once the mixture is complete, let it sit for about 60 seconds and then begin to work into the problem areas of your hands first, like the base of your palm and the very tips of your fingers.

Be very gentle with the area between your fingers, it's very sensitive especially to scrubs containing sands and salts! (If a scrub or soak or anything similar calls for sand as an ingredient, a good tip is to buy the decorative untouched sand from a craft or hobby store. Most is natural and unbleached to be added to things around your home, and it hasn't been stepped all over!)

One handy thing you might have around your house is multivitamin pills that can either be crushed with a mortar and used in a soak or scrub, or taken apart to let out the vitamin oil inside. It's common knowledge that vitamin E is very good for your skin, but what many people don't know, is that there are so many other vitamins that give you smooth, radiant skin that are just as easy to find and readily available to them!

Vitamin C has been known to be great for our skin since the dawn of history, as well as vitamin B complex and vitamin K. Vitamin B complex can be found in your medicine cabinet most usually along with E and C, and these multivitamins can be used for more than just ingesting to obtain all their benefits. Try adding equal parts of C, E, B complex, and K to a soak you can hold your hands in. (If you have trouble finding a vitamin that's pure vitamin K, you can use the most natural source of this vitamin of all – green leafy vegetables! Not only are they the best source of vitamins, but they have a natural grittiness that can exfoliate and cleanse the skin on your hands as you soak them.)

Once you have all of your vitamins added to about a liter of water, add a teaspoon of an oil that's good for your skin. Some good choices are rose oil, lavender oil, coconut oil, and even extra virgin olive oil, which is easy to find and helps get rid of impurities lying on and under your skin. Mix it all together well and stick your hands into the soak palm first, letting your hands soak in a shallow basin for about 6-10 minutes. The results are astonishing and immediate, you'll be able to feel the difference before you even rub your dried hands together!

For some quick remedies, try running a cucumber slice against the sensitive skin between your fingers. If the skin there becomes dry, it's difficult to find a lotion that can moisturize that part of your hand without making the rest feel oily. Also, try an orange slice for your fingertips and the tops of your nails! Don't ever forget that natural vitamins and minerals are always what's best for your skin! Good luck to you, your skin, and your wallet!


Chicago Wastewater a Potential Health Threat?

Chicago needs to begin disinfecting its wastewater before discharging it into public waterways, a practice that currently poses a threat to public health, according to a new report from the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

The report, “Protecting Public Health, Caring for Chicago’s Waters: An Agenda for Action,” notes that Chicago is one of only four large cities in the U.S. that don’t disinfect their wastewater. The report also pointed out that the three other cities — Memphis, St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri — all plan to begin disinfecting wastewater in the near future.

Other major cities in the U.S. all disinfect their wastewater to kill any viruses, bacteria or other pathogens that could threaten public health after that water is released back into local waterways.

“While disinfection will not keep beach closings and swimming bans from occurring, it will help reduce the influx of these harmful pathogens into our environment,” said Jonah Smith, water quality project manager for the Alliance and the primary author of the report. “To protect the lakefront, we need to protect the river as well. This means storm water management and disinfection.”

The potential threat to public health comes when heavy rainstorms overwhelm the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago’s ability to manage the flow of the Chicago River. Engineers reversed the river’s flow in 1900 to prevent sewage entering the river from flowing into Lake Michigan, the city’s source of drinking water. However, during heavy rains, the MWRD must allow the river to flow back into the lake. When that occurs, bacteria and other pathogens can enter the lake, prompting authorities to close beaches and enact swimming bans.

Lake Michigan provides drinking water for about 10 million people; the entire Great Lakes system provides water for up to 40 million people throughout the region.

Alliance chairman Dale Bryson said the MWRD has historically “viewed the Chicago River system as a waste conduit.”

“We need a new vision, one that treats water as vital for recreation and life itself,” Bryson said. “Getting MWRD to disinfect its waste is the first step toward moving ahead with the new vision for Chicago’s waterways.”

According to the Alliance report, Chicago could disinfect its wastewater for as little as $8.52 per person per year, using ultraviolet light, ozone or chlorination/dechlorination systems.

The Alliance report was produced in collaboration with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Prairie Rivers Network and the Sierra Club

Alliance for the Great Lakes, “Chicago Must Step Up Sewage Treatment; Stop Risking Public Health.” URL: (


The Government Health Care Mandate May Set Precedence for Future Mandates

The government acquisition of the healt hcare system was a lengthy piece of legislation designed to help the uninsured gain affordable health insurance. The bill organizes a system by which people without health insurance can buy with assistance from the federal government. Candidate Obama promised health insurance would be available to all legal inhabitants of the United States and in this fact President Obama has kept his promise. The mandate goes beyond providing available insurance. It requires insurance. Any person that does not purchase a government approved insurance plan will be subject to a fine and the Internal Revenue Service will have authority to collect the fine. People will be required to provide proof of insurance on their tax forms. Congress argues that the commerce clause in the Constitution gives the government authority to require citizens and legal occupants to buy a product.

Whether the federal government has the authority under the commerce clause will be tested. Representatives of fourteen states have joined together to file suit against the health care mandate and the suit will be decided in the Supreme Court. More are adding their states to the list. In some of the states the Governor has been pitted against the Attorney General claiming Republicans politically motivate the lawsuits. In addition to the lawsuits, 37 state legislatures have passed or are in the process of passing laws against the federal mandate. It is unlikely the states will have the power against a federal law as first tested in the early 1800s during the Nullification Crisis. States do not have the authority to nullify a federal law. The democratic representatives should support the lawsuits and welcome the opportunity to prove the government does have authority for a mandate. The Supreme Court decision will set a new precedence.

The federal government may realize that costs for health care does not meet budget neutrality and look for ways to reduce costs. Costs reductions could come in the form of a new healthier lifestyles bill, which could mandate better foods such as berries (high in antioxidants), daily vitamins and regular exercise. The tax form would add the proof of a fitness club line right after the proof of insurance line. Certainly the costs of medical treatment would decline when all people live healthier lifestyles. Once the Supreme Court sets a new precedence in favor of the mandate, present and future Congresses can use it.

The commerce clause simply states that Congress has the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the states and with Indian tribes. How does this clause translate from regulating commerce to mandating the purchase of a product? The passing of health care legislation was also justified using the car insurance example. People who drive are required to have insurance to protect other drivers. But, people are not required to drive. Those of driving age may choose not to drive while others may loose the privilege. They are not required to have car insurance.

Whatever decision the Supreme Court may determine will have bearing in the future. Those supporting the health care bill and pending mandate may or may not be as supportive when Congress legislates similar mandates.


Implementing a Tax on Unhealthy Foods

One of the most difficult to solve problems facing Americans today is obesity. People across the spectrum are gaining weight and becoming unhealthy and obese as a result. One of the reasons that people have become so obese is the cheap cost of unhealthy food. In order to provide an incentive to pick something healthier, a "fat tax" should be implemented. This would be a tax on foods that are unhealthy, hopefully to reduce the consumption of these foods overall. Children are among those most harmed by obesity and schools need to take notice and do something about it. In addition to the tax on unhealthy foods people should have better nutritional education. The tax could increase the number of healthy foods available and force consumers to take a hard look at what they're really eating

At the moment, the cheapest calories are also the emptiest calories. In a vending machine for less than one dollar, a multitude of junk food can be purchased from potato chips to candy bars to donuts. For a person who doesn't have much money this cheap food source is very alluring. According to a journal article
/How to Add Healthy New Twists to Old Breakfast Recipes/Many of us have breakfast recipes that we enjoy on a daily basis! Sometimes by changing recipes just a little, it's possible to make them healthier. Following are some twists to old breakfast recipes that make them healthier for you.

Breakfast Recipe #1: Scrambled eggs

Instead of plain old scrambled eggs, why not add some veggies? Veggies provide vitamins and nutrients. Simply saute your choice of veggies such as diced tomatoes, zucchini, green or red peppers, mushrooms, etc. in a bit of olive oil. After a few minutes, drain liquid from the pan and add 1 or 2 beaten eggs. Cook until the eggs are done.

Breakfast Recipe #2: Whole wheat toast with peanut butter

This is just too simple! Instead of having a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter on top, just add fruit, like sliced bananas, to the top of the peanut butter. Or blueberries, or blackberries, or strawberries, etc.

Breakfast Recipe #3: Toasted bagel

Choosing the right kind of bagel can make a big difference in its nutritional value. Sesame seed bagels and poppy seed bagels will provide much needed essential minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Instead of adding cream cheese to your bagel, add smoked salmon with just a touch of light cream cheese. Or add a touch of almond butter instead of cream cheese. Almond butter is rich in protein and fiber. Another great topping idea for a bagel is sliced avocados and tomatoes.

Breakfast Recipe #4: Yogurt

Yogurt is rich in calcium and a great choice for breakfast. You can add fruits, nuts, honey, etc. to the yogurt and make it even healthier. The variations are endless. Try bananas, strawberries and walnuts; or peaches and almonds; or raisins and coconut; or blueberries and crushed granola or wheat germ. Even dried fruit tastes great in yogurt.

As you can see, it's easy to add healthy new twists to old breakfast recipes. You can cut up the veggies and fruit ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for use as you need them.


Obama, Healthcare Reform and the Cost of Good Health

In a move to close the budgetary gaps of the administration’s plan to overhaul healthcare, the House and Senate are considering increasing taxes in several areas. One alternative being debated is whether or not to increase the amount of taxes paid on sugary beverages. Several states already impose higher taxes on beverages such as soft drinks and have expanded these taxes to cover candy and other junk food.

Proponents suggest that a marginal increase of three cents on products high in sugar could help lower federal health care cost by decreasing the consumption of these products. However, opponents of the tax argue that the resulting decline in consumption and production of the products would result in a smaller tax base, decreasing the amount of income and payroll taxes collected. These results would be negated by the governments proposed increase in payroll taxes.

The Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is primarily financed by payroll taxes. These funds help pay for the inpatient care cost of those covered under Part A of Medicare. Two options are being considered under this plan.

The first option would be to raise the tax rate by 1 percent. This would increase the payroll tax paid by employers and employees from 1.45 percent to 1.95 percent. It would increase the payroll tax paid by the self-employed from 2.9 percent to 3.9 percent. Under this option the government would generate an extra $592.2 billion over the next 10 years.

Alternatively, the tax increase could only be applied to those making more than $150,000 and be adjusted annually for inflation. While this approach would avoid increasing the tax burden for lower and middle income earners, it would only provide about 13 percent of the revenues provided by the first option or $77.2 billion over the same period.

While the increase in payroll taxes will add to the HI Trust Fund substantially, some contend that the higher tax rates will reduce employee’s incentive to work. They say that this will also result in people looking for alternative nontaxable forms of income. On the contrary, a number of people argue that it may actually result in people working more as to maintain their standard of living because the increase in taxes would result in a lower after-tax income.

Although it has been agreed upon that healthcare reform is much needed, the question of who will foot the bill remains. It would appear that the proposed increases would have a higher affect on lower and middle income earners since the goods being considered are consumed in higher quantities by those classes. The increases in payroll taxes would also be a heavier burden on those earning the least in addition to negatively affecting the self employed.

It leaves one to ask, do the ends really justify the means.

Congressional Budget Office
Budget Options Volume 1, Healthcare