Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Are we as insured as we should be?

Life insurance is a pretty essential thing to have if you have a mortgage - otherwise it could mean that the money left owing on the property would lead to the house being taken back by the bank. Which in terms of scenarios is far from ideal - unless, perhaps, you live alone without dependants and aren't minded about the value being transferred back.

And in an article in Health Insurance magazine this week, there's some interesting info on just how well (or otherwise) insured we are generally. Apparently - according to a study that's been carried out - while a many of us have a mortgage that is still being paid off, about a tenth of people don't have life insurance which would mean that if they died then they could be leaving their family without a home.

In terms of insurance it's sometimes the case that people will also often forget which financial products they have - and sometimes what the cover includes.For instance the report in the news over the summer that some people were going on holiday without dental insurance while others were unsure if their policy covered dental treatment. In terms of private medical insurance there are different levels of cover available, so if you're looking at getting life assurance or a pension for the first time it's also well worth checking out the different levels of health coverage available. Like life assurance, medical cover is affordable and you can choose the things you require - meaning peace of mind should you require any of the treatment you're eligible for on the policy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Health and flying

If it's a short journey we need to undertake - say, a mile - then often it's not just healthy but more fun just to walk - especially if the weather is nice and the traffic is heavy. Cycling's also good too, as it's a healthy way for getting from A to B. So long as A and B aren't that far apart, of course. And the longer the journey, the less chance there is of finding an alternative means of transport.

Sure, you *could* travel from London to Sydney without the aid of an aeroplane. But it would be a bit of a trek. So, what can we do to make sure our flights are as healthy as they can be?

Make sure you know the facts about deep vein thrombosis - and how it can be avoided. This is something that is important to do if you intend on long distance travel. Things that help include doing leg exercises and if possible getting up out of your seat every so often for a short walk. This page on preventing DVT has some good info. And importantly, it recommends that you see your doctor in the time prior to embarking on your journey if you are at risk of DVT.

Cosmic radiation. Interestingly, radiation levels are higher at the altitudes a plane flies at than on the ground. Cosmic radiation (in other words, radiation that's from space) is occasionally mentioned with regards to flying and health but most people won't travel in the air enough for there to be enough exposure that it would have any effect. And even in the case of pilots and other airline staff who are the most frequent flyers out of all of us, there's no proven link between this and any ill health effects.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Smoking and health advice

About the author: Jen Jones writes on topics including medical insurance abroad and workplace wellbeing, on a selection of UK blogs and websites.

While we all know by now - or at the very least should have a very strong inkling - that smoking is bad for us, it doesn't mean that the health advice is going to stop.

In fact, as long as there are smokers around, expect to see the same warnings pop up every time you read about smoking,

  • it's bad for your gums
  • it increases heart disease risk
  • it increases the risk for various forms of cancer
  • it makes your breath smell
  • it increases your chances of having a smoke
... and so forth.

And if you're ever in a dentist or doctor's surgery you may well get advice on certain health problems. And in a lot of cases one of the things you'll be advised to do - if you haven't already done - is avoid smoking. In fact a dentist will tell you that after an extraction you can't smoke at all for a number of days.

The advice - not really surprising - is to quit smoking completely, either by going cold turkey or by using one of the various types of nicotine replacement therapy that are available: these include patches, sprays, gum, inhalers, and so on.

But some new advice is now being dispensed, which is aimed at those who are finding it harder to quit. According to a BBC Health news report that appeared this week, smoking rates - while having dropped a lot between the 1950s and the year 2000 - have hovered around the same level (20%) for the last decade or so. And the new guidelines encourage smokes who are finding it hard to stop smoking to inhale less and cut down.

The NHS choices site advises that cutting out smoking is of course still the best way to go about being healthy - and it seems that that the new guidelines from NICE are aimed at helping the 'highly dependent' at least make some headway in consuming less.

Monday, October 8, 2012

AXA PPP healthcare expands open referral

Private medical insurance provider AXA PPP healthcare has enhanced its corporate health insurance offering with the introduction of its new Healthcare Pathway policy. The policy uses an open referral process and means that there will now be a wider range of hospitals available under the scheme.

What does 'open referral' mean?

Well, previously what would happen without open referral is that someone who was requiring treatment that the private medical insurance policy they held covered them for, they would be given the name of a consultant by their doctor. With open referral, instead of the patient being referred to a consultant in this way, they are provided with a list of consultants by their insurer - and they make the choice from this list.

Currently, open referral isn't the most common choice for big organisations, but the insurer's direcotr of sales and client relationships has said that the company hopes that this will be the default choice within two to there years.

One of the big benefits of PMI - whether you purchase a policy for yourself or its provided by an employer is the aspect of choice - and open referral being rolled out to more hospitals will certainly give corporate clients a wider choice.

It was also reported recently that sales of business health insurance have increased year on year - perhaps down to a continuing need for firms to attract and retain the best staff as the competition for talent remauns strong. Of course it's also the case that - as studies have shown - providing staff with wellbeing benefits has the potential to postively affect sickness absence in terms of reducing it, as well as increase employee engagement rates.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hospitals and and food: healthier plates?

Last year, Jamie Oliver added his voice to a campaign aimed at improving the healthy factor of food within NHS hospitals in England – and there were also calls for vending machines selling sweets and crisps to be removed.

Oliver has of course been famous for the last few years for his healthy eating crusades, memorably showing people on his television programmes just how much sugar or fat they eat by dumping a month or year’s worth into a container in one go, with horrified looks from the audience.
Then of course there was Oliver’s valiant attempt to promote healthy eating within a school across the Atlantic.  Holding up a selection of fairly ordinary vegetables, many of the class pupils he asked were unable to identify even the most common among them.

Obviously mass catering on a budget does present its challenges – as Oliver found out while working to improve the food in a UK school. I don’t remember the exact amount of budget the school had available for each meal, but it really wasn’t very much at all. However a report on the subject by the Daily Mail last year gave the example of two NHS trusts in England who cook all their food fresh on site and source their ingredients from independent local suppliers.

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg is aiming to make hospitals places of improved healthy eating with his Healthy Hospital Food Initiative – with public hospitals taking measures to decrease the amount of calories in the meals served to patients, while cutting down on the sale of things like crisps and sweets.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The reasons why people choose PMI

Of all the things that are important in life, health is right up there at the top. Having enough money to get by is of course a top priority for all of us, and for many it's also good to have some cash spare for going on holiday in an exotic location or driving a prestige car.

But health remains the number one. So it's no wonder that we try and keep our consumption of fatty foods low, and make sure there's plenty of fruit and vegetables in our diet. And staying active too - with a gym nearby or a nice park to go for a walk in, being active can also be good fun - so much so that when we're laid low with a cold or flue, we miss our fitness activities and can't wait to get back to the pool for a swim or the local park for a brisk stroll.

And there are a number of ways that we can help to keep our wellbeing and healthy levels up. Things like stress management techniques can help us to deal with the stresses and strains that affect us all at some point in our lives - and there have even been news stories saying that mindfulness meditation can positively affect the human brain.

Having peace of mind is valuable too - family medical insurance means knowing that if you or one of your family requires any treatment that's covered under the policy, they'll be seen in surroundings that are well equipped and also you'll be able to avoid waiting lists too.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Smoking and the workplace

Older readers of our blog will probably remember the days when smoking was just an inescapable fact of everyday life. people smoked on the bus, at their desk in the office - and even in shops. It's incredible to think back to those days now. And it's a fair bet that even if a modern day smoker was to travel back in time to the 1960s or 70s, even they would find the sheer prevalance of smoking in enclosed public spaces to be excessive.

Of course, as time passed, bit by bit smoking was eradicated. Smokers in offices by the mid 1980s were only allowed to indulge the habit in a closed off room in the building. Needless to say, if you ever had to enter one of these rooms to speak to someone within, the air was heavy with cigarette smoke - a fug, a cloud - rendering the air almost opaque.

Around the same time, a lot of bus companies made the top deck the only smoking area. And in time, offices would only allow staff to smoke out in the street, off the premises. And smoking was banned on public transport. And smoking in public buildings was finally stubbed out in the middle of the last decade when it was prohibited in bars and restaurants.

And how quickly we got used to it. Nobody - not even smokers themselves (or none that I've met, at any rate) - ever gets nostalgic about the old days.

This week brings news of a development from the US, where -never mind smoking being banned - where one city has made the decision not to employ smokers, in an effort to cut spending on health insurance. This news follows that of another authority which still hires smokers but requires them to pay towards the raised insurance premium.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stopping smoking and being healthier

As the nights begin to get longer and the summer recedes into recent memory, it's a good time to think about all the things we do to stay healthy. Perhaps, for instance, there's a temptation - when the temperature dips below summer levels - to reach for the comfort food. But then when you think of all the great food that's in season during the autumn, there are comfort options that are very healthy, such as pumpkin soup. And of course when it's colder it might not be so much fun to exercise - but there's always the welcoming lights of the gym instead.

And autumn - if you're a smoker - is a good time to think about giving up on tobacco products for good. Stopping smoking is pretty much the health mantra no matter what area of your health you're trying to improve on. Whether it's to increase your fitness levels, improve oral health, or reduce the risk of serious disease - stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do.

The UK health campaign Stoptober is designed to help people give up for good, and it has an interesting basis - the idea is that by challenging people to stay off cigarettes or other smoking products for four weeks, then it increases the likelihood of being able to stop smoking for good.

In terms of health and wellbeing for the autumn time there are also some other things worth thinking about, including:

  • Looking at getting a health eating plan together
  • Refreshing your fitness plan
  • Looking at private healthcare options
  • If you're busy at work and have too much to do, having a look at the various stress management techniques available to keep you mentally alert and focussed during your working day.