Co-Pays, Deductibles, and Essential Services – Oh My!!


Are you new to the health insurance system?

Did you recently change plans and are a little apprehensive about using your coverage?

Does the phrase “essential services” mean anything to you?

If you answered yes to the first two questions and are a little fuzzy on the third one, this post is for you! Don’t be embarrassed to admit that the health insurance is a bit confusing.  You are not alone! Think of it as learning a new language and remember the more you use it, the more familiar you will become with it!

On the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) site, learn about the benefits to health insurance:

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies and group health plans are required to provide you with an easy-to-understand summary about a health plan’s benefits and coverage…. The Summary of Benefits and Coverage is designed to help you better understand and evaluate your health insurance options.

Also on this site, you can learn about co-pays and deductibles! If your insurance provider offers education on the ins and out of using your insurance coverage, try to attend their workshop or read their materials. These are usually effective ways to help you get the most out of your health benefits.

Now let’s get started using your health insurance plan. Here are some helpful actions you can take:

  • Find a doctor who accepts your plan.
  • Figure out which health screenings, immunizations or essential services you are in need of. To do this, search the complete list provided on the website of HHS’s Office of Women’s Health.
  • Make the appointment! Ask if you will need to fast or not eat prior to the visit.
  • Inquire about your co-pay or deductible.
  • Write down your questions for your provider before showing up to the waiting room at the doctor’s office. The newness and nervousness may cause you to forget.
  • If this is a provider you’ve never seen before, be sure you take any prescriptions with you that you currently take.
  • Remember to take your new insurance cards!
  • Don’t be a “no show.” Visiting the doctor for the first time in a long time can be scary, but it is a vital step to take on the road to good health. Set the alarm on your cell phone to help remind you!
  • Arrive early, first visits generally require the completion of paperwork.
  • Remember you are your best advocate. If you are confused by something that came up during your visit or in the statement you received in the mail following the visit, contact your provider or insurance provider.

If you haven’t signed up yet, click this link to see if you qualify to enroll during a Special Enrollment Period.

And remember insurance coverage is not a privilege, it is a right! Take care of yourself. The world needs you!!

The Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen


Is that fruit you’re buying at the grocery store the healthiest it could possibly be? Did you know that lots of fruits and veggies have been exposed to pesticides and may still carry a residue with them? According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly two-thirds of the fresh produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and analyzed by EWG contained pesticide residues.

Why should we be careful about pesticides in our food?

EWG writes:

Pesticides are toxic by design. They are created expressly to kill living organisms — insects, plants and fungi that are considered “pests.” Many pesticides pose health dangers to people. These risks have been confirmed by independent research scientists and physicians across the world.

As acknowledged by U.S. and international government agencies, different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including: brain and nervous system toxicity; cancer; hormone disruption; and skin, eye and lung irritation.

Sometimes we can’t avoid it, but sometimes we are able to make a choice. Some produce is more likely to carry pesticide residue with them – and some are less likely! EWG puts out information every year about what produce is more pesticide-contaminated so that we can do our best to avoid them. Read more here.

It’s true – organic food can be expensive. If you are going to buy organic, why not buy organic produce where it really will impact your health? For example, a few items on the Clean Fifteen list – these are ok to eat non-organic - include avocados, sweet corn, pineapples and cabbage. And the Dirty Dozen – produce that is better when organic - includes apples, peaches, nectarines and strawberries.

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Honoring Women & Girls at Fred Hutch on March 10th


Join us on Tuesday, March 10th, to honor National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day!

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Date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Time: 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Where: Weintraub Building, Pelton Auditorium

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

1100 Fairview Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98109

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an annual observance to help raise awareness of the continuing need to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and shed light on the impact that HIV/AIDS has on women and girls. The event will feature a panel discussion with local women who have made a significant difference in the field of HIV. Representing the areas of policy, medicine, research, social services, and faith communities, panelists include:

  • The Reverend Mary Diggs-Hobson from AARTH
  • Dr. Lara Strick from the University of Washington and the Washington Department of Corrections
  • Dr. Connie Celum from the University of Washington
  • Dr. Kathy Brown from Group Health Cooperative
  • Nicole Price from BABES Network-YWCA

We hope to see you there!

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Don’t forget to enroll by February 15th!


Since last November, thousands have been enrolling in health coverage for 2015. Don’t miss your chance to sign up for a health plan through Washington HealthPlanFinder. Enrollment ends on February 15th!

Visit Washington HealthPlanFinder to learn more about your options and to enroll in a plan. And if you’d like help signing up for coverage, reach out to a Navigator who can walk you through the steps of signing up.

Know Your Rights


As we begin the new year and consider how we want to live in 2015, it’s a great idea to consider how you want your health to be and any new health care changes coming your way. Maybe you would like to speak with a counselor about stress in your life, are expecting a new baby in the family, or are due for your first mammogram this year.

We meet with medical professionals for help and trust their expertise. But it’s also important to know your rights when it comes to your health care. HealthCare.gov shares information with us about new rights and protections we all have, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

How the health care law protects you

Here some additional rights and benefits, and information on how to protect yourself from fraud when you apply for insurance:

On top of what HealthCare.gov outlines as protections in the Affordable Care Act, there are protections and rights that directly support people who identify as LGBTQ. In 2014, LGBT HealthLink partnered with PROMO Missouri and lawyer Corey Prachniak to create the Healthcare Bill of Rights - a short document summarizing LGBTQ rights in the healthcare world now.

The creators of the Healthcare Bill of Rights write:

Your personal life and relationships affect your health more than you realize, so your doctor and other providers need to know your story.

We should all feel safe talking about our sexual partners, sex lives, sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity.

  • Learn how to file a complaint if you’ve faced discrimination.
  • See how you can find a medical provider who will respect your rights and identity.
  • Read how you can plan for your future care with a healthcare power of attorney.

Read the Healthcare Bill of Rights here:

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Learn more about the Healthcare Bill of Rights and its history here. And if you want your very own copy of the Healthcare Bill of Rights, check out the different versions available here.

Cervical Cancer is Preventable


This month is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a great time for us to educate ourselves about cervical cancer and the importance of screening.

Due to the availability of screening, few women get cervical cancer. However, many women are still not getting screened. Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented if more women had tests to find cervical cancer early. No woman should die of cervical cancer in our state.

There is good news:

  • Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care. A Pap test can catch cervical cancer early, when it’s easier to treat.
  • HPV causes most cervical cancers. The HPV vaccine significantly reduces the risk of cervical cancer. Doctors recommend that both girls and boys get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12.
  • Under the Affordable Care Act, nearly all health insurance plans cover cervical cancer screening tests at no cost.
  • Women under 40 can contact one of these family planning clinics to ask about free or low cost screenings.
  • Refer low-income, uninsured or underinsured women ages 40-64 to the Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program (BCCHP).

Who should get screened for Cervical Cancer?

  • Women ages 21 to 65 should get the Pap test every 3 years.
  • Women 30 to 65 may choose to have the Pap test every 5 years if done with an HPV test. When these tests are performed together, it is called co-testing.
  • Women who have had the HPV vaccination should continue to get screened because the vaccine does not prevent all types of cervical cancer.
  • Women who have had a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer.

Educational materials you can use in your community:

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Questions? Contact Kendria Dickson at kendria.dickson@doh.wa.gov or 360-236-3598.

Thanks to Public Health – Seattle & King County for the content of this blog post.

Stress Strategies


From coping with the holidays, to dealing with the darker and shorter winter days, to the ongoing stress that results from care-giving, many of us experience stress on a regular basis and have different ways to cope with it.

Today, the Office on Women’s Health and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine hosted a live conversation on Twitter about stress – they called it a #stresschat. Want to catch up on the conversation? Go here. Many different people and organizations have been participating in today’s conversation on Twitter. Here are some resources people shared that I am finding helpful.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) helps us understand what stress actually is:

Stress is a physical and emotional reaction that people experience as they encounter changes in life. Stress is a normal feeling. However, long-term stress may contribute to or worsen a range of health problems including digestive disorders, headaches, sleep disorders, and other symptoms. Stress may worsen asthma and has been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

NCCAM also talks about relaxation techniques we can all use to reduce tension and address the stress we are experiencing. Different techniques include deep breathing, guided imagery and meditation. Want to learn more? Check out these five things to know about relaxation techniques for stress.

The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health says, “If you’re alive, you experience stress.” How true that is.

A little bit of stress is ok, but chronic stress can have long-lasting impacts on our health. Dr. Susan Lord, a Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member and expert in mind-body medicine, says we can “transform stress by intentionally activating the relaxation response, which increases blood flow to the brain and releases chemicals that make your organs slow down.” And that’ a good thing.

There are seven steps she suggests to activating our relaxation response and increase our mindful living:

  1. Develop self-awareness via yoga and meditation.
  2. Express yourself creatively.
  3. Be here now. Live in the present moment – not too much in the past or the future.
  4. Find community.
  5. Identify stressful thoughts and beliefs. Eavesdrop on your internal dialogue. Just noticing will prepare you to start shifting stressful thoughts and beliefs to more positive ones.
  6. Do experiments: “Identify one concern you have about your life or health, and come up with a new way to deal with it.”
  7. Avoid judgment. Notice when you start to criticize yourself and others, and be kind instead.

These are all great tips that you can use to care for yourself. But what about when you have someone else to care for, as well? AARP talks about when caregivers experience a lot of stress – and what to do to take care of yourself and the other person you’re caring for.

AARP has their own list of 10 tips. Here are just a few!

  • Put your physical needs first. If you’re not caring for yourself (eating well, getting enough sleep, getting regular medical check-ups…), you wont’ be in any shape to care for others.
  • Ask for help.
  • Get organized. Develop a system with calendars and to-do lists to help you stay on top of it all.
  • Take a break. You deserve it. Really.

We all experience significant stress at some point in our lives. It is so important that we take care of ourselves, model self-care to others, and be there for others who may be going through a tough time. What are some strategies that work for you? What is one new thing you plan to try to manage the stress in your life?

Join us at tonight’s World AIDS Day concert!


Every year, December 1st is World AIDS Day – a day when all us around the world unite together in the fight against HIV, show our support for people living with HIV and commemorate those who have died. Learn more about World AIDS Day and how you can get involved here.

Tonight, BABES Network-YWCA will be attending Wo’Pop World AIDS Day Concert – a free KEXP concert – at the EMP Museum. From 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM, join Wo’ Pop host Darek Mazzone for this free, all ages event complete with art, snacks, education, culture, and music provided by Chimurenga Rennaissance, and Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited.

We hope you will join us! RSVP here.

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Participating Wo’ Pop World AIDS Day partners: Lifelong, EMP Museum, East African Community Services, Fred Hutchinson, One Vibe Africa, BABES Network YWCATheo Chocolates, and with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A Time of Thanks!


It is really early in the morning and once again the phone alarm clock is ringing. It has been cold lately and your warm bed with fluffy pillows probably feel quite nice. You would love to snuggle deep under the covers and go back to sleep. Yet like many of us, you have to go to work!

Have you ever taken time to stop and consider how many lives the work you do really affect? Come on, pause for a minute and think about it!

As I prepared to write this post, I instinctively thought of Thanksgiving. No, I didn’t think of the meal I would eat or whether or not the Seattle Seahawks will beat the San Francisco 49ers this week! My mind drifted to the women we serve through Women’s Health Outreach at the YWCA!

Between July 2013 and June 2014, our team of three  provided 7,658 individuals – mostly women – with educational information and materials  regarding breast cancer and the importance of cancer screenings! Of this number, 445 women attended one of our monthly community mobile mammogram events in King County and had a mammogram. As a result of these mammogram events, breast cancer was found and treated in two women! Imagine the sighs of relief and the depths of appreciation from these women and their families.

Even though the people represented above entrusted Women’s Health Outreach with their health care and health education, we could never have done any of it without the Breast, Cervical, and Colon Health Program of Washington State, the Puget Sound Susan G. Komen Foundation, Swedish Medical Center, or the many donors who contribute dollars to help offset the cost of services provided.

In addition, we are grateful for the churches, schools, mosques, temples, stores, businesses and community centers that allow us to use space in their facilities to work with our patrons. And of course we can never forget our volunteers: Mrs. Etta, Mom Emma Guiterrez, Agnes, Gabby, Jenn and Letitia for supporting the cause, our work and the women we serve.

Finally, we would like to thank our co-workers at the YWCA,  friends, and families for everything done to give our careers a sense of purpose!

Although Women’s Health Outreach is a small program of Health Access within the YWCA of Seattle, we are grateful this Thanksgiving! Please take a few moments and share the things you are thankful for with us and others.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Winter Weather


winterweatherCan you believe it? It’s nearly wintertime. In the past, snowstorms and extreme weather have caught us off guard – and this year, we can all plan ahead to be better prepared.

To be safe on the roads, consult the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Winter Weather Response Map. The map will show you where snow plows have been and you can view road conditions via traffic cameras. For those of us who get around by bus, King County Metro will show you your planned Snow Route – just type in your bus route number in the search bar and click Enter on your keyboard. Learn more about what the Seattle Department of Transportation does to prepare for winter weather and who to contact for information by reading SDOT’s incredibly helpful Winter Weather 2013-2014 brochure. And if you’re concerned about other hazards and threats that might threaten your transportation – like flooding – sign up for an email or phone notification from the Regional Public Information & Notification emergency alert system.

On top of being safe while in transit, there are ways we can be safe in our homes. Thanks to Public Health of Seattle & King County for the tips below.

Be careful what you burn. Burning fuels like gasoline, propane, oil, kerosene, natural gas, coal or wood can let off carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. To be safe and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Only use a generator outside and away from windows and vents
  • Don’t use a generator or portable propane heater indoors, in a garage or in a car port
  • Don’t cook or head indoors by using a charcoal or gas grill

Carbon monoxide poisoning can feel like a splitting headache, nausea and vomiting, and lethargy and fatigue. If you are experiencing these symptoms, get fresh air immediately and call for medical help from a neighbor’s home.

If you lose power, use different ways to stay warm. Try to stay with friends and family who still have power. Or, go to a city location set up for people without power. To find out where these locations are, visit www.kingcounty.gov/safety/prepare when there’s bad weather – they’ll have the location information listed. If you do stay at home, close all curtains and cover windows and doors with blankets. Everyone should stay together in one room with the door closed to warm each other and the room with body heat. Wear multiple layers of lightweight clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. And don’t forget to put on those hats and mittens!

And please do what you can to help others!

  • Check on elderly friends, family members, and neighbors to make sure they are alright.
  • Warn others about carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Invite friends and family over if you know they have lost power.

What other tips do you have on how to stay safe and warm this winter?

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