Tag Archive for: Staying Healthy

Get Vaccinated Now in Anticipation of a Severe Flu Season

From ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield

Some years, flu season is less severe than others. The 2020-21 flu season was mild, partly because of the safety practices in place to avoid COVID-19, such as physical distancing and mask wearing.

Earth’s southern hemisphere — where winter flu season typically peaks between June and September — provides a preview of the kind of flu season we can expect north of the equator later in the year. And based on reports from Australia and New Zealand this summer, where flu season started earlier and hit much harder than usual, our 2022‑23 flu season is expected to be severe. Both countries had what’s been described as the biggest surge in winter illness ever, with double the average number of flu hospitalizations, persistent COVID-19 infections and a massive rise in other viruses and respiratory illnesses.

Flu season in the United States officially began on Sept. 1, and will stretch through March 2023. During this time, when more people stay indoors longer, flu will spread just as it does every year. It will likely cause many hospitalizations and an average of 20,000 to 60,000 deaths, mostly among people vulnerable to complications, including pregnant people, seniors and those with chronic health conditions.

Protect your and your family’s health with an annual flu shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu shots for everyone 6 months and older, with rare exceptions. Getting vaccinated can reduce the risk of serious illness and death, costly hospital and doctor visits, and missed work and school.

Yet fewer than half of U.S. adults get annual preventive flu shots; the majority take their chances and hope they don’t catch it.

Even those who don’t consider themselves to be at risk of flu-related illness or death should get vaccinated to help lower their risk of spreading the virus to others who may be vulnerable.

Flu vaccines are proven effective, but not all are recommended for every individual

Flu vaccines are updated each year to fight the latest strain of the virus, and more than one effective vaccine is available to most recipients. Recently the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended people age 65 or older receive a new high-dose version of flu vaccine when it’s available. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for the vaccine that’s appropriate for your age.

COVID-19 is present year-round

The same conditions that can cause flu to spread — mainly people spending more time indoors — are expected to continue fueling COVID-19 surges. To help prevent serious illness and death, the CDC recommends that people age 6 months and older stay up to date on their vaccinations. People age 5 and older can get a booster dose as well. The CDC recommends people age 12 and older get boosted with the newest reformulated COVID-19 vaccine that targets the highly transmissible omicron variant of the virus. People are eligible for the latest booster when a minimum of two months have passed since they received their most recent booster. You can get your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccination at the same time.

Playing catch-up to keep up

If you or your loved ones have fallen behind on getting routine vaccinations since the onset of the pandemic, consider getting caught up while you’re receiving your flu shot and COVID-19 booster. With the polio virus being detected recently in New York, you may want to check with your pediatrician to make sure you’ve been vaccinated against it; similarly, people age 50 and older who’ve had chickenpox should get a two-dose series of shingles vaccines, which provide a high level of immunity for at least seven years.

ALLtech members can get vaccinated at no cost

Flu, COVID-19, polio and shingles vaccines are covered at no cost to most Regence members — including those enrolled through ALLtech — when received at an in-network pharmacy or provider office. Members can visit their account on regence.com or the Regence app, or call the number on their member ID card, to quickly find local in-network providers who stand ready to give them a flu-fighting poke in the arm, along with necessary boosters, to help keep them healthy this year and for years to come.

Get More From Your Vision Insurance in Tough Economic Times

From our vision provider VSP Vision Care Inc.

Don’t let vision take a back seat in these difficult economic times. For ALLtech members enrolled in vision, VSP Vision Care Inc. has you and your family covered with access to a nationwide network of eye doctors and low out-of-pocket costs for the savings you deserve. To find out what your vision plan includes, simply create an account at vsp.com and log in for detailed benefit information.

Make your plan work for you:

    1. Find a conveniently located VSP network doctor 
      As a VSP member, you’ll get the most out of your benefits when you visit a Premier Program location. Don’t have an eye doctor? No problem! Visit vsp.com to find a Premier Program location near you. At your appointment, just let them know you have VSP. Here are more tips to finding a Premier Program location.
    2. Eyecare is healthcare — Get your annual eye exam!
      An eye exam can help detect serious eye diseases and health conditions. Even if you don’t need glasses, everyone in your family can benefit from an annual eye exam — including young children and teens — and summer is a great time to squeeze in appointments and get a jump on the next school year.
    3. Choose from a wide selection of stylish frames and lenses 
      Using your VSP benefits makes finding the right eyewear for your look and your pocketbook easy when you see a VSP network doctor. Get the most out of your benefits with an extra $40 to spend on select frame brands.* Plus, you’ll get an extra $20 to spend when you choose a featured frame brand.*
    4. Take advantage of your second-pair eyewear discount 
      You’ll save up to 20% on a second pair of glasses including lens enhancements — like anti-glare coating, progressives, and light-reactive lenses — when you purchase from your VSP network doctor within 12 months of your last exam. With these savings, why not get a second pair?
    5. Shop Eyeconic — The only online eyewear store to partner with the VSP Doctor Network.
      Most VSP members can use their benefit to buy eyewear online at Eyeconic® — including stylish frames, lens enhancements, and contacts. It’s the only online store where qualifying VSP members can apply their vision benefit to their order and enjoy in-network savings. You can also save up to 40% on lens enhancements.** Like to plan ahead? Take advantage of the Virtual Try-On Tool at Eyeconic® and come face-to-face with the perfect frames for you. Visit Eyeconic® and see how seamlessly you can connect your eyewear insurance coverage with your doctor’s expertise.

    Want to learn more about the vision insurance benefits available to ALLtech members? Take a look at VSP Vision Coverage through ALLtech.

    *Available only to VSP members with applicable plan benefits, which includes ALLtech members enrolled in vision. Frame brands subject to change.
    **Savings based on doctor’s retail price and vary by plan and purchase selection; average savings determined after benefits are applied. Available only through VSP network doctors to VSP members with applicable plan benefits. Ask your VSP network doctor for details.

Get Back on Track with Routine Vaccinations

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, an annual observance that highlights the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout your life.

If — like many Americans — you or your loved ones have fallen behind on your routine vaccinations since the COVID-19 outbreak, now is the time to get back on track! During National Immunization Awareness Month, ALLtech encourages you to talk to your doctor, nurse or healthcare provider to ensure you and your family are protected against serious diseases by getting caught up on routine vaccinations.

A healthy back-to-school season

As your children head back to school this fall, it’s particularly important for you to work with your child’s doctor or nurse to make sure they get caught up on missed well-child visits and recommended vaccines.

Remember to take care of yourself, too! Make sure to receive any vaccines you need to stay healthy. Use adult vaccine assessment tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to see which vaccines might be right for you.

August is also a critical time for those who are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. To learn more about the COVID‑19 vaccination, check out the following CDC resources:

ALLtech members can get vaccinated at no cost

Most Regence health plans — including those available through ALLtech — cover 100% of the cost of vaccines, including for the flu, measles, pneumonia and childhood immunizations, as a preventive benefit. Members can check the complete preventive care list at regence.com.

Vaccines Protect Us All — At Every Stage of Life

From ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield

World Immunization Week, April 24 to 30, is a great time to remember that keeping up to date on vaccines is critical to preventing the spread of infectious disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates this week annually to promote the use of vaccines, which prevent 2 million to 3 million deaths worldwide every year from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza (flu) and measles.

The WHO’s theme for 2022’s World Immunization Week is “Long Life for All.” And check out the recommended schedule for immunizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so you can talk with your doctor about whether you or your children are up to date on what you need to stay healthy.

“Immunizations can save your child’s life and protect others you care about,” said Dr. Drew Oliveira, senior executive medical director for Regence. “Nobody wants to see the return of deadly diseases that have long since been eradicated or nearly so. Vaccines are safe and very effective.”

This year’s campaign comes at a time when public health officials have reported a shocking decline in vaccination rates and vaccine orders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is likely due to disruptions in the ability to seek routine care and general vaccine hesitancy.

However, guidance from the CDC says it’s critical for everyone to stay up to date with their vaccinations — especially as the pandemic continues. As communities continue to open, it’s an important time to catch up on missed vaccinations so we can all help prevent outbreaks of preventable diseases.

ALLtech members can get vaccinated at no cost

Most Regence health plans — including those available through ALLtech — cover 100% of the cost of vaccines, including for the flu, measles, pneumonia and childhood immunizations, as a preventive benefit. Members can check the complete preventive care list at regence.com.

We Don’t Talk About Colorectal Cancer (Enough)

From ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield

Talking about colorectal cancer can be uncomfortable but pushing through the discomfort is crucial to finding it early — when it is most treatable. There is no better time to start this conversation than now during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the United States. It is expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths this year. And yet, if found early, it’s one of the most treatable forms of cancer.

Get screened

The best way to find colorectal cancer early is through screening, which is covered as preventive care by most health plans including Regence. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society, regular colorectal cancer screening should start at age 45 for people at average risk. (This recently changed from 50 years old.) People who are at high risk for colorectal cancer may need to begin screening before age 45.

The most well-known screening method is colonoscopy. If the thought of a colonoscopy makes you hesitant to schedule an appointment, you have options. Speak with your doctor about an at-home stool test or a sigmoidoscopy, which is a less invasive form of screening than a colonoscopy. Getting screened is most important; find the option that works best for you.

Get talking

  • Talk to your family to find out your risk for colorectal cancer. Ask if anyone in your family has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and how old they were when it happened.
  • Talk to your doctor to learn what screening method works best for you.
  • Talk to your insurance company to understand your coverage for preventive screenings for colorectal cancer.

While it’s far from a favorite topic of conversation, talking about colorectal cancer is a lot easier when you know it can be caught early and treated with regular screenings. Remember, a little bit of discomfort could lead to a lot of prevention.

Trails Abound at 9 Lesser-Known King County Parks

Hoping to take advantage of the “false spring” weather gracing the Seattle area this weekend? The Washington Trails Association has plenty of recommendations in its Winter Destinations corner, but we wanted to highlight their list of 9 Lesser-Known King County Parks that offer options for every athletic level.

“Parks and greenspaces dot the map from the northern reaches of Lake Washington to the outskirts of Enumclaw, and from the beaches of Vashon Island to the shores of the Snoqualmie River,” says the post.

Consider the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail, shown above, offering a 6.5-mile trail that connects the riverside towns of Preston and Snoqualmie and features a viewpoint of Snoqualmie Falls.

Or head to Vashon-Maury Island, where you can take a jaunt along the 3 miles of trails throughout Maury Island Marine Park, or take it a bit farther with the extensive 9-mile trail system throughout Dockton Forest.

In Auburn, the 1,000-acre Green River Natural Area might be just a few miles from downtown Auburn, “but it feels worlds away with its fern-covered big leaf maples and meandering trails.”

For more ideas from the Washington Trails Association, check out the full list of 9 Lesser-Known King County Parks.

Know Your Risk Factors and Prioritize Your Health During American Heart Month

From ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Although heart disease can affect anyone, women are particularly at risk. Many women are unaware of the risk factors for heart disease, which makes them more vulnerable. In fact, the symptoms of a heart attack are different for women and knowing how to spot them could save lives.

February is American Heart Month — a time to reflect on and bring awareness to the widespread impact of heart disease across the country. This includes National Wear Red Day on Feb. 4 when the American Heart Association (AHA) helps encourage women in particular to take charge of their heart health.

For Tonya Adams, Regence’s senior vice president of customer experience and operations and long-time supporter of AHA, this year’s American Heart Month is particularly personal. In June of 2021, her mother passed away from a stroke, an unexpected loss of a loved one who Tonya describes as the person who took care of everybody — and yet her mother ultimately didn’t do enough to take care of herself. Watch the video below to hear more of Tonya’s story.

Take charge of your heart health

Family medical history is a key risk factor for both heart disease and associated symptoms like high blood pressure and cholesterol. Make sure you know about your family’s health history and talk with your primary care provider (PCP) about your personal heart health during your annual physical.

Nearly 80% of cardiac events can be prevented by making small lifestyle changes like moving more, eating healthy and managing blood pressure. Health plans also offer wellness tools and other resources, including the Regence Empower well-being platform that’s available to most members. Experts on regence.com offer self-care resources and wellness tips, and those who need extra support may reach out to Regence’s care management team.

Regence and the AHA look forward to raising heart health awareness throughout the month of February and beyond.

1-in-5 People with Diabetes Don’t Know They Have It

From ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield

November is National Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness of a chronic condition that’s far more common than many people realize.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 34 million people in the U.S. — 10 percent of the population — have diabetes. Another 88 million people — more than a third of adults in the U.S. — have prediabetes, where their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed.

People with diabetes are unable to manage how much glucose exists in their bloodstream. Glucose, a type of sugar, is the main source of energy for the cells in our bodies. A hormone called insulin controls glucose levels, and people who have diabetes often require insulin injections to help maintain healthy glucose levels.

The different types of diabetes

There are three types of diabetes — type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is, by far, the most common, representing about 90 percent of people with diabetes. It’s usually diagnosed in adults, and type 2 diabetes is both preventable and sometimes reversible through weight loss, exercise and a healthy diet.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition where a person’s pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, usually diagnosed in children. The third type is gestational diabetes, which develops for some pregnant women who have never had diabetes.

Over the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled. It’s the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., and people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke, and more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19.

How to prevent developing diabetes

Type 2 diabetes sneaks up on us. It develops over many years, and the symptoms are often not noticeable. Eighty-four percent of people who have prediabetes don’t know they have it, and one in five people with diabetes don’t know they have it.

The known risk factors for prediabetes and developing type 2 diabetes include:

  • Being overweight
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Age (45 or older)
  • Genetics — e.g. having a close relative with type 2 diabetes

If you have risk factors, talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested. ALLtech members also have access to health plan resources for managing and preventing diabetes — more information is available on the Regence site.

Regence’s Dr. Drew Oliveira shares helpful diabetes information

Watch the short video above for helpful tips, including the importance of staying current with your screenings, ways to reverse prediabetes and prevent type 2 diabetes, and what you can do if you are diagnosed.

Prepare Your Workforce for Cold and Flu Season with Regence Webinar on Nov. 4

ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield* is sharing some of its own unique strategies with a member webinar at 9 a.m. November 4 on Solutions you can implement today to prepare your workforce for an unusual cold and flu season:

The kids are going back to school. Some of us are going back to onsite work (or never left it). And the holidays are on the horizon. How can you ethically encourage your employees to proactively manage their health heading into the fall? In this session, Dr. Jim Polo will share his tips, tricks and tools to mitigate absenteeism during a cold and flu season in the midst of a COVID resurgence.

In the second half of this session, we’re pulling back the curtain in today’s changed world. You’ll hear from Chief Human Resources Officer Elizabeth Cole on how our HR team is meeting the needs of our organization’s 5,000 employees and their families.

This webinar is a can’t-miss for those who want to benchmark their own strategies against best practices and insights from medical experts and fellow employers. Have questions now? Please submit them when you register, and we’ll have our guest speakers address them live.

Session participants are eligible for 1.0 Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM Certification Program (SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®). For more information about SHRM certification or recertification, please visit www.shrmcertification.org.

*Asuris Northwest Health services ALLtech members in Asotin, Adams, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens and Whitman counties.

Now is the Time to Catch Up on Immunizations

From ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield

Thousands of people in the U.S. become severely ill and are hospitalized or even die each year because of vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines have saved lives from polio, measles, mumps, rubella, flu and now COVID-19. At times, vaccines have helped to remove disease from areas that have high vaccination rates.

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States. However, in December 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1,276 cases in 31 states. So how did measles make a comeback?

Most cases where vaccine-preventable disease re-emerges involve unvaccinated people. It’s also important to remember that measles and other diseases are still common in other countries. This makes it easy for unvaccinated travelers to become infected with preventable disease and bring it back to the U.S. And as the number of unvaccinated people increases, the virus is more likely to spread to others and cause infections.

“Immunizations play such an important role in protecting our health as well as the health of our loved ones and communities,” says Dr. Drew Oliveira, senior executive medical director at Regence. “National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to highlight the value of getting recommended vaccines. You have the power to protect yourself and your family against serious vaccine preventable diseases like measles, the fluwhooping coughhepatitis, and cancers caused by HPV.”

Vaccines aren’t just for young children. Adults also need vaccines to protect against different types of pneumonia and shingles. And adults with certain health conditions like diabetes are more susceptible to severe complications from certain vaccine-preventable diseases. By getting recommended vaccines during pregnancy, women can give their babies and themselves the best protection against whooping cough and the flu.

Specific immunizations are recommended for young adults and teens entering middle school and college, anyone who may be traveling abroad, and those with underlying health conditions. The CDC provides immunization schedules for all age groups on their website.

If you have school-age children, Oliveira recommends scheduling an appointment for their vaccinations as soon as possible to ensure they get all their recommended doses before school starts. “This is the month where we see the biggest delay in being able to schedule an appointment,” says Oliveira. “We encourage everyone, including adults that may not be aware they need vaccines, to have a conversation with their health care provider now to ensure they’re up to date on all routine vaccines”

Regence health plans cover most immunizations at 100% when members use an in-network provider. ALLtech members enrolled in Regence BlueShield can use the online Find a Doctor tool at regence.com to find a doctor or clinic. Be sure to sign in to your account so results are based on your benefits.