Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Health Care and Medical ID Theft

Have you ever been victimized by identity theft, or had someone steal your wallet or purse with all your credit cards and other vital information? Has anyone ever tried to open up new accounts using your name or social security number? Even worse, have you ever had to challenge billing from a health care provider because someone received medical treatment using your name? Medical ID theft has skyrocketed over the past few years, and it only continues to get worse as internet hackers and those expert in ID theft rachet up the thievery. Although the incidents of medical ID theft are increasing, some of it can be blamed on cases where insurance company employees leave their office with a laptop that gets stolen from their vehicle. In that case, the negligence on the part of the company, and representative, is a big part of the overall problem. And the media loves to blast this type of story all over the national news.

How would you know if your personal, health, or health insurance information has been compromised? According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, you may be a victim of medical identity theft if:
--You get a bill for medical services you didn’t receive;
--A debt collector contacts you about medical debt you don’t owe;
--You order a copy of your credit report and see medical collection notices you don’t recognize;
--You try to make a legitimate insurance claim and your health plan says you’ve reached your limit on benefits; or
--You are denied insurance because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.

Medical identity theft, according to the FTC, may change your medical and health insurance records: Every time a thief uses your identity to get care, a record is created with the imposter’s medical information that could be mistaken for your medical information – say, a different blood type, an inaccurate history of drug or alcohol abuse, test results that aren’t yours, or a diagnosis of an illness, allergy or condition you don’t have. Any of these could lead to improper treatment, which in turn, could lead to injury, illness or worse. And according to, while you're probably well aware of identity theft and its impact on your credit, you may not be aware of a type of identify theft that can be even more harmful to you personally. You may not only end up with bills incurred by the person who steals your identity, but the crime can even prove fatal.

When someone uses your identity, incorrect information gets into your medical files, according to In many cases the ID thieves steal your personal information to make money by filing fraudulent claims against your own health policy. Medical ID thieves often get your personal information, such as your health-insurance number and Social Security number, from employees at medical facilities. The information is then resold on the black market. Another way they get the information is to hack into medical databases. Many times you'll never know you are a victim of Medical ID theft, which can cost you thousands of dollars, unless you check your medical records closely. In most case you won't even know of the fraud until after the damage has been done. As many as 500,000 Americans have been victims of medical identify theft, according to the World Privacy Forum. Medical identity theft is rapidly growing.

According to, There are a number of ways medical ID thieves steal your identity:
--Bill your health plan for fake or inflated treatment claims. Often these crooks are doctors or other medical personnel who know how the insurance billing system works. Organized theft rings also are involved. Using stolen information they buy on the black market, they set up fake clinics to file bogus claims.
--Use your identity to buy prescription drugs. They then sell these prescriptions or use them to feed their own addictions. For example, dishonest pharmacists might bill your policy for narcotics or nurses may call in prescriptions in a patient's name but pick it up themselves.
--Get free treatment. Medical ID thieves who don't have their own health coverage can use your identity to get free medical treatment based on your policy. They sign into a hospital or clinic using your identity and your policy receives the bills.

More info can be found on this website:

And, according to, if your medical identity is stolen, your medical records may be altered and may show incorrect information. This may prevent your obtaining proper medical care and insurance benefits, according to the FTC. Here's what you can do to prevent medical identity theft:
1. Keep a close eye on information in your credit report. Identify any medical debts on the report and make sure they are yours.
2. It's a good idea to monitor any explanation of benefits that may be sent to you by insurers. If anything appears to be incorrect, contact the insurer or provider for a full explanation. If you get a statement that's not yours, don't ignore it simply because it may say you don't owe any money. 3. Request and review all the benefits that have been paid in your name by insurance plans to which you belong. You should do this at least once a year, and much more often if you think there may be a problem.

The fallout of medical ID fraud is that the victim is forced to sort out what happened with doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, credit agencies and sometimes even lenders that may have granted a loan for medical reasons. According to a survey provided through a report on, 29% of victims of medical ID theft discovered the problem a year after the incident, and 21% said it took two or more years to learn about it. The average cost of sorting out the mess was $20,160, which might include making out-of-pocket payments to a health plan provider to restore coverage. Nearly half of the victims (48%) lost coverage due to medical ID theft. Roughly 75% found resolution difficult, and only about 25% said there were no consequences due to the theft. Among the victims surveyed, 46% did not report the incident to law enforcement or other legal authorities, according to the report, and 33% said the medical ID theft occurred because a family member used their medical ID for goods and services without their knowledge. Other medical ID thefts were attributed to a lost wallet with insurance card in it, and a data breach that exposed patient information. The study was done by The Ponemon Institute.

According to, you pay a high price for medical ID theft. Medical ID theft can cause serious and long-lasting damage. Recovering can take years. Here are some of the issues you deal with in the recovery:
--Ruined credit: Thieves often ring up large hospital bills in your name, then disappear without paying. This can ruin your credit. Straightening out inaccurate credit records can take months or even years of time-consuming headaches. Meanwhile, you could be hounded by bill collectors, turned down for loans or mortgages, and forced to pay higher lending costs. You also could lose jobs; some employers check a candidate’s credit history.
--Loss of health coverage: Fraudulent insurance claims can max out your health-policy limits. This can leave you with no coverage when you have a medical emergency, or need an expensive operation or other treatment.
--Inaccurate records: Medical ID theft can threaten your health or even life. A thief’s treatment history can end up on your medical records. This could include the wrong blood type, or medicine to which you’re allergic. Your life thus could be on the line if you receive the wrong treatment based on the thief’s treatment. Your records also could be falsely saddled with damaging—and inaccurate—diagnoses such as mental illness. This could follow you throughout your life.
--Legal troubles: A pregnant woman stole the medical identity of a mother, and delivered a baby who tested positive for illegal drugs. Social workers tried to take away the real mother’s four children, falsely thinking she was the addict. She had to hire a lawyer to keep her family.
Higher health premiums. False claims against a health insurance policy can raise your health premiums—costing you yet more money.

Correcting records can be hard, according to In general, federal law lets patients correct medical records created only by the medical provider or insurer that now maintains your information. A hospital or insurer that later receives your information doesn’t have to correct its records—even when they’re wrong. But… you do have the right to have your records state that you disagree with the information, and why. Be sure your complaint is entered into your records.

According to, if you are a victim of medical identity theft, here are several steps to take immediately:
--Keep detailed records of your conversations and copies of your correspondence.
--File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online at or by phone at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
--File a report with your local police, and send copies of the report to your health plan’s fraud department, your health care provider(s), and the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Information on how to file a police report is at
--Exercise your right under HIPAA to correct errors in your medical and billing records. Write to your health plan or provider detailing the information that seems inaccurate. Include copies (keep the originals) of any document that supports your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item in your record that you dispute, state the facts and your reasons for disputing the information, and request that each error be corrected or deleted. You may want to enclose a copy of your medical record with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, and ask for a “return receipt,” so you can document what the plan or provider received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
--Visit this site for more information by the FTC on medical ID theft:

Protecting your identity is a must for everyone, especially when dealing with medical records and any health care related case. If you are a victim of fraud or theft on any of these types of issues, follow the guidelines that are available to all consumers. Additionally, you may wish to buy an ID theft protection plan. There are many products on the market that will help you prevent ID theft, but medical ID theft is a specialized threat. In the interim, you can check out plans online with reputable companies, like LifeLock, Careington, ID Experts, and others. Also, you can purchase a plan that includes access to ID theft prevention and recovery, in addition to financial counseling and legal advice through Careington ( in a plan the company markets under the brand name CareShield for just a few dollars per month for membership.

With the availability of millions of medical records, sooner or later you may be a victim. It makes sense to protect yourself and your family as much as possible by being smart about your health care and your credit. Following simple precautions may help keep you healthy and safe.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Health Care and Child Abuse Prevention Month

Child abuse. The mere thought of it sends chills down your spine and makes your hair stand on end. For those who suffer it, the nightmare continues for a lifetime, or until death at an early age. For those who are guilty of perpetrating the crime, the punishment cannot be severe enough or the shame of it great enough. Forgiveness of the incident is hard to provide, and treatment of the psychological effects is long term. Some victims never recover, even as adults. Others who have been scarred emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally carry the memories forever. Those who are abusers are in many cases those who have been abused as children and act out those violent actions in behavior as older children, adolescents, or adults.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, according to pediatrician Dr. Vincent Ianelli on Awareness of child abuse is a major factor in leading to the reduction of cases, as noted:
--Learn about child abuse prevention, recognizing the signs of child abuse, and the devastating effects of child abuse.
--Review some of the signs of child abuse that can alert you to when a child is being abused.
--Learn about child abuse statistics, including how many cases of suspected child abuse are reported each week and where the reports come from.
--Child abuse cases and stories straight from the headlines of recent newspapers can help to highlight how common child abuse is so that everyone may be more likely to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

According to, child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuse might be the most visible sign, other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse or child neglect, also leave deep, long lasting scars. Some signs of child abuse are subtler than others. However, by learning common types of abuse and what you can do, you can make a huge difference in a child’s life. The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal from their abuse and not perpetuate the cycle. Learn the signs and symptoms of child abuse and help break the cycle, finding out where to get help for the children and their caregivers. Much more info about this topic is available at this website:

According to the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, the following signs may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect:
1.) Signs of Child Abuse in The Child:
--Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance.
--Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention.
--Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes.
--Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen.
--Lacks adult supervision.
--Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn.
--Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.
2.) Signs of Child Abuse in The Parent:
--Shows little concern for the child.
--Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child's problems in school or at home.
--Asks teachers or other caretakers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves.
--Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome.
--Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve.
--Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs.
3.) Signs of Child Abuse in The Parent and Child:
--Rarely touch or look at each other.
--Consider their relationship entirely negative.
--State that they do not like each other.

Child abuse is doing something or failing to do something that results in harm to a child or puts a child at risk of harm, according to Medline Plus and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And, child abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Neglect, or not providing for a child's needs, is also a form of abuse. Most abused children suffer greater emotional than physical damage. An abused child may become depressed. He or she may withdraw, think of suicide or become violent. An older child may use drugs or alcohol, try to run away or abuse others. Child abuse is a serious problem. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the police or your local child welfare agency.

According to the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), child abuse is common. The newspapers and TV news are so full of reports about child mistreatment that you cannot help but wonder how safe your child really is. Although it is a mistake to become overprotective and make your child fearful, it is important to recognize the actual risks and familiarize yourself with the signs of abuse. Approximately three million cases of child abuse and neglect involving almost 5.5 million children are reported each year. The majority of cases reported to Child Protective Services involve neglect, followed by physical and sexual abuse. There is considerable overlap among children who are abused, with many suffering a combination of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect. Most child abuse occurs within the family. Risk factors include parental depression or other mental health issues, a parental history of childhood abuse, and domestic violence. Child neglect and mistreatment is also more common in families living in poverty and among parents who are teenagers or are drug or alcohol abusers. Although it is certainly true that child abuse occurs outside the home, most often children are abused by a caregiver or someone they know, not a stranger.

Sexual abuse is any sexual activity that a child cannot comprehend or consent to, according to and the AAP. It includes acts such as fondling, oral-genital contact, and genital and anal intercourse, as well as exhibitionism, voyeurism, and exposure to pornography. Studies have suggested that up to one in four girls and one in eight boys will be sexually abused before they are eighteen years old. Physical abuse occurs when a child’s body is injured as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other show of force. One study suggests that about 1 in 20 children has been physically abused in their lifetime. Child neglect can include physical neglect (failing to provide food, clothing, shelter, or other physical necessities), emotional neglect (failing to provide love, comfort, or affection), or medical neglect (failing to provide needed medical care). Psychological or emotional abuse results from all of the above, but also can be associated with verbal abuse, which can harm a child’s self-worth or emotional wellbeing.

According to, the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information has developed compendia of civil state laws to help legal and non-legal professionals in the analysis, formulation, and implementation of child protection and child welfare legislation. The Compendia (previously titled State Statutes Elements) contain citations and text of key civil statutes pertaining to child maltreatment, child welfare, and domestic violence. The Compendia are updated and expanded annually. The Compendia are intended as research tools and do not substitute for the official version of any statute. Also, to help meet the information needs of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and other professionals who work to adjudicate criminal child maltreatment, the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse (NCPCA), American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI), has developed Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Elements. The Elements contain citations and text of key criminal statutes related to investigations, child witnesses, and crimes. The State Statutes Elements should be used only as research tools, and not as a replacement for the official version of any statute. In addition, because many other factors besides the statutes collected for the Elements may influence a particular case, users should not rely on this information for legal advice but instead seek the advice of counsel. NCPCA also has produced several criminal Statutes-at-a-Glance publications. Statutes-at-a-Glance highlight specific topics from the criminal State laws Elements, presented in a table format to provide a quick overview and comparison across the States. Much more info about these tools can be found online at

Handling abuse, especially for children, can be difficult. According to, by now you know it's important for a child to tell someone if they think they are being abused. But how does a kid tell? Here are some ideas:
--Talk to a trusted adult in person.
--Talk to a trusted adult on the phone.
--Write a note, an email, or send a letter to the trusted adult.
--Tell someone at school, like a school counselor, school nurse, teacher, or coach.
--Tell a friend's mom or dad.
--Tell someone who answers the phone at a hotline service, such as 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
The way a child who has been abused tells and whom he or she tells will be different depending on the situation. The most important thing is to tell someone — or even several people — until someone takes action to stop the abuse from happening. An abused child who tells on an abuser might be helping other children, too. Some abusers hurt more than one child. It takes a lot of courage to talk about this kind of thing, and sometimes it takes a while to feel strong enough to talk about it. That's OK. Just know that, in the end, telling a safe person is the bravest thing you can do. It can feel really good when you take steps to stay safe and protect other children from getting hurt.

There are many resources available to help fight child abuse. Although there are many internet sites that offer assistance on this topic, here are a few that have materials and information to use if you suspect someone is being abused:

If you suspect that a child is being abused, according to Dr. Ianelli, you should report it right away. There are many reasons why people don't report child abuse, such as:
--Not wanting to get involved.
--Not being sure if it really is child abuse.
--They aren't sure how to make a report of child abuse.
--Thinking that someone else will do it.
--Not being aware of child abuse laws in their states, which could make reporting mandatory for certain people.
--Being afraid of getting in trouble for filing a report if the child isn't really being abused, which doesn't happen as long as you are making the report in good faith.
None of these reasons is going to help a child who is being abused though, especially if they are in a life threatening situation. What if you're wrong? The local child welfare agency will likely do an investigation. If you are right and stop the abuse, you may change or save a child's life.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Health Care and Dental in Health Reform

Now that the new health care legislation is the law of the land, health care companies and businesses everywhere are scrambling to make sense of the thousands of pages that make up the bill. One major consideration for people to decipher is about dental care. So far the analysis indicates that, except for children, dental benefits are largely unaffected. One of the concerns was the essentially high cost tax or the tax on Cadillac health programs that was considered that it might apply to dentistry, according to People are still wondering a bit about how much impact and how involved dentistry will be.

The National Association of Dental Plans indicated that it believes that the standalone dental and vision plans will not be taxed. So what that would mean for the individual as that they wouldn’t be taxed on those benefits that they got which allowed them to purchase how purchase dental services. That’s good news for dentistry relative to standalone dental insurance plans like Delta Dental Program or any other dental program that is viewed as an independent product and it’s not part of a medical plan. The great news is that discount dental plans, like Careington, will likely be unaffected as well. The national health program as it’s conceived really focuses on dentistry for children. It will be interesting to see whether these dental benefits will go to people other than children.

According to, the provisions contained in the health care reform legislation expand access to dental care for children and families and seek to strengthen the oral health of all Americans while working to promote early and effective prevention. Among the provisions directed specifically at improving America’s oral health are:
- Expanded dental coverage. A significant investment in ensuring access to public and private dental coverage for children in America.
- Prevention. Dental disease prevention initiatives including public education, school-based sealant programs in all 50 states and research grants to improve the prevention and management of tooth decay in young children.
- Tracking and monitoring. Resources for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other federal agencies to assess American’s oral health and dental care with a special emphasis on pregnant women.
- Workforce development. Expanded education of dental professionals and those who train and educate future dental caregivers in rural areas and among underserved populations. Grants to allow study options for new dental care providers.
- Safety net improvements. Support for dental programs in school-based and community-based health centers. Creation of a new commission to study oral healthcare workforce capacity.
- Infrastructure improvements. Support for states to bolster their dental public health programs through leadership development, oral health data collection and interpretation, and best use of science to improve oral health.
- Medicaid and CHIP. Expands Medicaid coverage and increases Federal government’s contribution to Medicaid in all states, extends the CHIP program for five years, and addresses payment to dentists and other healthcare professionals through the Medicaid and CHIP Access and Payment Commission (“MACPAC”).

The legislation also recognizes dental hygienists as primary oral health providers through the inclusion of dental hygiene providers, students, and education programs as eligible entities for workforce development funds, according to the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA). Additionally, the legislation provides for 15 demonstration grants to train or employ alternative dental health care providers to evaluate emerging workforce models that improve access to oral health care. Public health dental hygienists, independent dental hygienists, advanced practice dental hygienists, and dental therapist models are listed models eligible for the grants.

Also, the addition of pediatric dental coverage under health reform acknowledges the connection of oral health to overall health, according to In effect, children’s dental services will be required to be offered through state health insurance exchanges. Additionally, the legislation recognizes the special value of stand-alone dental plans by allowing those seeking coverage through an exchange to purchase their children’s dental benefits separately from dental carriers that have decades of experience designing and administering dental plans. Given a choice, most employers purchase dental insurance from a stand-alone dental carrier, and many individuals likewise prefer dental benefits offered by specialty carriers that focus on dental. Allowing people to select stand-alone dental coverage ensures transparency and is consistent with the current market, where about 97 percent of dental coverage is provided through policies that are separate from medical plans. In future years, as the new essential benefits requirements are applied outside of insurance exchanges, refinements will need to be made to ensure that stand-alone dental plans will continue to be available alongside medical plans. Failure to make these clarifications could result in an unnecessary disruption of dental coverage for millions of families.

Deemed by the U.S. Surgeon General a "silent epidemic," dental disease remains the most common childhood disease, disproportionately affecting those from low-income families who lack access to adequate care, according to The provisions contained in the health care reform legislation expand access to dental care for children and families and seek to strengthen the oral health of all Americans while working to promote early and effective prevention.

Apparently, dental plans will be available through several options in the new health care legislation. According to Delta Dental of Iowa, although complete information is not yet available, a preliminary review offers the following points regarding some of the key provisions affecting dental plans and our customers:
1.) First, from a stand-alone dental benefit plan perspective, it appears that a great deal will stay the same, especially for companies with more than 100 employees. In the short-term, stand-alone dental benefits are not subject to most of the immediate insurance reforms enacted by the new law, such as no lifetime or annual maximums, and the extension of dependent child coverage to age 26. Many of the reforms and health benefit mandates contained in the new federal legislation target individuals and employers with 100 or fewer employees. Some of the reforms are effective immediately or within 6 months, and others are effective beginning in 2014. Larger employers governed by ERISA are also subject to most of these changes.
2.) For smaller employers, the legislation's impact on dental begins in 2014. Individuals with existing coverage and enrolled in a health benefit plan on the date of enactment (March 23, 2010) are "grandfathered" and subject to some, but not all of the insurance market reform changes. Generally speaking, smaller businesses and individuals will become subject to new benefit mandates as defined by an "essential health benefits package." Under the mandates, groups with fewer than 100 employees will be required, among other things, to provide dental coverage for children up to age 21. Essential benefits can be purchased inside or outside a state - or regionally - administered health exchange. These benefits must conform to an assortment of new market reforms including no annual or lifetime maximums, no copayments for some services, and an annual out-of-pocket maximum of $5,000 when combined with medical costs.
3.) Details about the applicability of these market reforms to stand-alone pediatric dental plans will likely be written by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and are, as of now, unknown. Additionally, the final children's dental benefit plan design is not yet defined. Within the exchanges, individuals and smaller employers will be allowed to purchase stand-alone pediatric dental coverage from companies, in combination with essential medical benefits. Yet, clarification is needed to assure the same choice will be available to smaller businesses and individuals opting to purchase benefits in the private marketplace. In future years, larger employers will also have access to plans available through the exchanges.

Planning for dental benefits and taking advantage of the best plan designs are where companies and individuals should focus for this health care need. Although quite alot of what will take place with the new legislation still needs to be sorted out, dental costs certainly will not be on the decrease. Using reliable companies who provide dental services is key, and managing costs is paramount to receive maximum care for minimal expense. There are very good plans now in the marketplace including both dental insurance and dental discount plans. Based on your needs, explore the value of both before deciding to choose a plan for your oral health expenditures. If you are looking at either alot of work to be done, or just limited dental hygiene and dental maintenance, there are very good plans that are available to fit your budget.

According to, the growing evidence linking oral health to overall health, and consumers' awareness, provides a great opportunity for carriers, health care purchasers and consumers (and, yes, even politicians) to reprioritize and reposition dental benefits so that everyone can afford dental care and maintain better overall health. All this news about dental care’s importance provides agents, employers, and individuals their own opportunity. Whether presenting new dental plans that can help groups reduce their medical plan costs, or bundling discount dental plans to stretch benefit dollars in an HSA-type individual medical plan, selling the benefits of affordable dental care has never been easier — or more important.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Health Care and West Nile Virus

"Summer time, and the livin' is easy. Fish are jumpin', and the cotton is high." --cool words from a great American song by lyricist and songwriter George Gershwin. The days of summer are fast approaching, and with them are the good times that families, especially kids, look forward to and celebrate. But with the heat, also comes the mosquitoes that often swarm, and bite, and carry disease. For the most part, people are immune to the majority of "bugs" carried by these flying bugs. One of those illnesses is the West Nile Virus. If you are planning to spend a great deal of time outdoors during the summer, you should know how this disease affects people who get it. Longer days and warmer nights mean more outdoor activities for you and your family, according to It can also mean more chances of being bitten by mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus.

West Nile virus is a disease spread by mosquitos, according to the CDC. The condition ranges from mild to severe. West Nile virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda in eastern Africa. It was first discovered in the United States in the summer of 1999 in New York. Since then, the virus has spread throughout the United States. The West Nile virus is a type of virus known as a flavivirus. Researchers believe West Nile virus is spread when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person. Mosquitos carry the highest amounts of virus in the early fall, which is why the rate of the disease increases in late August to early September. The risk of disease decreases as the weather becomes colder and mosquitos die off.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, although many people are bitten by mosquitos that carry West Nile virus, most do not know they've been exposed. Few people develop severe disease or even notice any symptoms at all. Mild, flu-like illness is often called West Nile fever. More severe forms of disease, which can be life threatening, may be called West Nile encephalitis or West Nile meningitis, depending on what part of the body is affected. Risk factors for developing a more severe form of West Nile virus include:
--Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV, organ transplants, and recent chemotherapy.
--Older age.
--West Nile virus may also be spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. It is possible for an infected mother to spread the virus to her child through breast milk. More info about individual state notices can be found at this CDC site:

Most people infected with the West Nile virus have no signs or symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. About 20 percent of people develop a mild infection called West Nile fever. Common signs and symptoms of West Nile fever include:
--Body aches.
--Skin rash (occasionally).
--Swollen lymph glands (occasionally).
--Eye pain (occasionally).

In less than 1 percent of infected people, according to the Mayo Clinic, the virus causes a serious neurological infection. Such infection may include inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or of the brain and surrounding membranes (meningoencephalitis). Serious infection may also include infection and inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), inflammation of the spinal cord (West Nile poliomyelitis) and acute flaccid paralysis — a sudden weakness in your arms, legs or breathing muscles. Signs and symptoms of these diseases include:
--High fever.
--Severe headache.
--Stiff neck.
--Disorientation or confusion.
--Stupor or coma.
--Tremors or muscle jerking.
--Lack of coordination.
--Partial paralysis or sudden weakness.
Signs and symptoms of West Nile fever usually last a few days, but sign and symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis can linger for weeks, and certain neurological effects, such as muscle weakness, may be permanent. Mild symptoms of West Nile fever usually resolve on their own. If you experience signs or symptoms of serious infection, such as severe headaches, a stiff neck or an altered mental state, seek medical attention right away. A serious West Nile virus infection generally requires hospitalization.

According to, if you have a fever and headache that continue for more than 2 or 3 days during West Nile virus season, or if you have any of the more severe symptoms of West Nile encephalitis, call your doctor immediately. If your doctor determines that you have a mild infection, make sure to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. You may feel well enough to continue your normal activities. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to stay home. You can take steps to lower your risk of mosquito bites:
--Stay indoors at dawn, at dusk, and in the early evening, when mosquitoes are most active.
--Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors and are likely to be where mosquitoes are.
--Avoid wearing floral fragrances from perfumes, soaps, hair care products, and lotions. These may attract mosquitoes.
--Spray clothing with an insect repellent containing permethrin or DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), because mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. DEET can damage plastic items, such as watch crystals or eyeglass frames, and some synthetic fabrics. You also can use natural products such as soybean-based Bite Blocker.
--Apply insect repellent sparingly to exposed skin. An effective repellent will contain 24% DEET. DEET in concentrations greater than 50% does not provide any additional protection. Avoid applying repellent to the hands of children. Repellents may irritate the eyes and mouth. Plus, whenever you use an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the directions for use.
--Do not keep open containers of water near your house. Standing water is a breeding place for mosquitoes.
--Vitamin B and ultrasonic or ultraviolet (UV) devices such as "bug zappers" are not effective in preventing mosquito bites.

According to, call your state or local health department if you find a dead bird. Also, you should consider the following suggestions:
--Call your state or local government if you have additional questions about West Nile Virus.
--Call the American Mosquito Control Association at 1-732-932-0667.
--Call the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378.

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of West Nile virus infection, especially if you may have had contact with mosquitos. According to, if you are severely ill, go to an emergency room. If you have been bitten by an infected mosquito, there is no treatment to avoid getting West Nile virus infection. People in good general health generally do not develop a serious illness, even if they are bitten by an infected mosquito.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Health Care and Healthy Pets

Are you a pet owner? Do you have dogs, cats, birds, fish, or other types of critters around your house? Are you a more traditional pet owner, or do you have an interest in the more bizarre creatures available for your personal fulfillment? Are your pets considered part of the family and provide companionship for you, or are they just a fashionable appendage? Are you one of the millions of Americans who enjoy spending time with non-humans? Well, join the crowd. According to the 2009/2010 National Pet Owners Survey published by the American Pet Products Association, 62% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 71.4 millions homes. Wow! Now that's a lot of puppy chow!

A healthy pet is a happy pet. No one knows your pets as well as you do so make sure you act on the first odd behavior that your pet displays. Often times owners will try the wait and see approach but some sickness may need immediate attention before it gets worse. According to, here's 10 signs that your pet may be ill:

1.) Vomiting or Diarrhea--Your pet may vomit or experience diarrhea from time to time due to a change in diet or unfamiliar consumption. Such cases may not be of much concern but when there’s blood, undigested blood in either their vomit or diarrhea, make sure you visit the vet right away! There may be parasites present or gastrointestinal issues.

2.) Change of Appetite--Pay attention to how long your pet refuses to eat. An unusual period of time can be caused by a serious stomach ache issue. Your pet may refuse to eat their food in hopes of receiving human food; such cases should not be much of a concern. An increased in appetite can also show that they may not be receiving all the nutrients needed and should get checked on for cause of deficiency.

3.) Change in Urination Behavior--A straining pet or one having a hard time urinating may have bladder issues or a urinary blockage. Increased urination can also signal signs of liver, kidney or even diabetes problems. The first sign of a urinating problem should be of major concern!

4.) Skin Problems--Itchy skin or signs of hair loss can be caused by a deficiency in nutrition or a result of infestation or even parasites. Seek for help immediately at signs of excessive hair loss or bald spots as it could also be a sign of cancer.

5.) Weight Loss--Parasites and worms can cause rapid weight loss in pets. Observe their stool and vomit for any signs of tape worms. If no obvious signs are visible see a veterinarian regardless, your pet may be having some digestive issues that can cause rapid lost in muscle mass.

6.) Change in Behavior--Irritated, unusually over active or even less active pets are signs that something is wrong. Lethargic or disorientation of your pet should all be signs of concern.

7.) Unusual Odor--Pay attention to how your pet normally smells. A change in odor can be a cause of infection or disease. Ear infection can cause a nasty change in odor that can be detected by giving a sniff near their ears. A foul smelling mouth can be caused by dental problems and a full body odor may be issues of skin infection.

8.) Runny Nose or Eyes--Excessive runny eyes and of the nose can be signs of diabetes, respiratory issues or at its worse, even cancer. Moderate levels of runny noses and eyes are normal for pets and should not be much of a concern.

9.) Change in Breathing--Seek immediate attention at the first sign of an unusual breathing pattern. A shallow breathing pattern or even an excessive one may be a serious cause of concern. Like humans, our pets can at times experience some episodes of coughs but if the coughs persist then attention must also be given.

10.) Body Temperature--Increased in body temperature alone may not be of any concern, perhaps your pet had just finished actively running around, but coupled with any of the signs above can be an issue of concern. If you are not comfortable rectally taking the temperature of your pet you should seek a veterinarian for help, otherwise a normal resting dog and cat’s temperature is around 101.5F. A reading above or below 103 or 100 should be of concern. Much more details can be found at this site: .

According to, You may care to tag along next time your pet is whisked to “the back” of the veterinary clinic for an injection, a diagnostic test, or a nail trim. Perhaps you are curious about what actually goes on “back” there. Maybe you believe that your best buddy will feel more secure if you are present. Whatever the reason, know that if you desire to go where your pet goes and see what your pet sees, this is a perfectly reasonable expectation in most circumstances. Your request might be denied if:
-Your pet is better behaved without you there (all vets have experienced aggressive patients in the exam room who become gentle as lambs when separated from their humans).
-There is something going on that is private (for example, a grieving client) or too graphic for you to see (trust your vet on this one).
-Your dog or cat will be in an area of the hospital that is off limits to humans. For example, in my hospital, in order to avoid radiation exposure, no one other than the patient is allowed in the room where X-rays are taken. Gentle sand bags are used for restraint along with mild sedation if needed.
- The staff is aware that you have a lot to say and no one will be able to get anything done because they will be too busy responding to your questions.

Admittedly, some vets simply don’t like having clients tag along, according to If your doc falls into this camp, some patient persuading on your part may be necessary. Provide reassurances that you will be on your best behavior and remind him or her that large animal vets do practically all of their work in front of their clients. Have you ever accompanied your dog or cat to “the back” of the hospital? Was it a good experience for you? How about for your pet?

According to, pets provide many benefits to humans. They comfort us and they give us companionship. However, some animals can also pass diseases to people. These diseases are called zoonoses. Although animals can carry germs, it is important to know that you are more likely to get some of these germs from contaminated food or water than from your pet or another animal you encounter. Many groups encourage people to enjoy the benefits of common household pets. Because wild animals can carry diseases that are dangerous to people, CDC discourages direct contact with wildlife. You should never adopt wild animals as pets or bring them home. Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if the animals appears to be friendly. However, if you manage a location that has been properly developed according to suggested animal control methods, your contact with these animals can be managed on a more secure and healthy basis. Also, maintain regular visits with your primary health care provider to monitor your own medical status on an ongoing basis for your personal protection and safety.

As veterinary treatments have gotten more advanced and sophisticated -- and vet bills for serious conditions can quickly add up to thousands -- buying pet health insurance is something to consider, according to However, only about 5% of U.S. pet owners have pet insurance. Pet insurance is very much like human insurance. Pets live longer and longer lives these days, thanks to advances in medical care. As treatment options have become more sophisticated and more widely available, they’ve also become more expensive. Veterinarians now routinely perform hip replacements and administer cancer treatments.

But longevity definitely comes with a price tag. Pet insurance plans primarily are for dogs and cats, and not much is available for exotic animals like ferrets or reptiles, according to Basic plans offer reimbursement for accident or illness expenses only. But there are plans that cover such routine needs as vaccinations. Coverage on some plans may include dental care, flea prevention, prescription medicines, and common medical screening tests, such as blood work, fecal examination, and urinalysis . With all plans, there can be caps or limitations on coverage. For instance, a company may pay only up to a certain amount per incident of illness or per accident. And, a plan may or may not exclude a common pre-existing condition that requires fairly inexpensive treatments. You should check the fine print before buying pet insurance.

If you still want to take care of your pet and save money, and your budget is tight, a discount plan membership can help offset expenses for vet bills, medications, and more. There are several vendors in the pet care market place. You can source those companies online or go to a company that will offer you a plan at a very nominal cost for your pets through well known vendors. Careington International ( has a pet discount plan through an extremely well established pet industry company (Pet Assure), and the discounts on services are very good. The plan is only a few dollars a month, and you can cancel it at any time without having to worry about penalties or additional fees. The savings are healthy, just like how your pet will be when you take care of them with one of these plans.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Health Care and Eternal Life

Almost 2,000 years ago a singular event happened in Jerusalem that shook the earth literally and figuratively--the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Known in the region as an itinerant preacher and miracle worker, He was crucified by the Roman government under the authority of a local military governor. Everyone knows the New Testament story of Pontius Pilate, the local face of Rome, who was spurred on by his fear of retribution from Caesar if he failed to quell Hebrew uprisings in his region and the bigotry of religious leaders in the Jewish community. However, the story did not end at the location chosen by the soldiers for carrying out the death penalty.

Being crucified was the most heinous and barbaric method of getting rid of criminals, and was heightened to an art form by the Romans. It was extremely cruel, visually disgusting, and horribly painful. Also, being a method of torture before death, it was considered by the the Jews to be a spiritual defeat. The Bible says that anyone who hung on a tree was cursed, and this was no exception. According to, the word crucifixion comes from the Latin "crucifixio," or "crucifixus," meaning "fixed to a cross." Crucifixion was an ancient method of execution in which the victim's hands and feet were bound and nailed to a cross. It was one of the most painful and disgraceful methods of capitol punishment. Victims were usually beaten and tortured and then forced to carry their own cross to the crucifixion site. The Roman cross was formed of wood, typically with a vertical stake and a horizontal cross beam near the top. Different types and shapes of crosses existed for different forms of crucifixion.

The Roman form of crucifixion was not employed in the Old Testament by the Jewish people, as they saw crucifixion as one of the most horrible, cursed forms of death, according to, as noted in the book of Deuteronomy, part of the Torah (Law of Moses). In New Testament Bible times, the Romans used this tortuous method of execution as a means of exerting authority and control over the population. Before nailing the victim to the cross, a mixture of vinegar, gall and myrrh was usually offered to alleviate some of the victim's suffering. Wooden planks were usually fastened to the vertical stake as a footrest or seat, allowing the victim to rest his weight and lift himself for a breath, thus prolonging suffering and delaying death for up to three days. Unsupported, the victim would hang entirely from nail-pierced wrists, severely restricting breathing and circulation. This excruciating ordeal would lead to exhaustion, suffocation, brain death and heart failure. At times, mercy was shown by breaking the victim's legs, causing death to come quickly. As a deterrent to crime, crucifixions were carried out in highly public places with the criminal charges posted on the cross above the victim's head.

A description of crucifixion is not for the faint of heart. With Jesus' shoulders against the wood, the Roman legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of the wrist. The soldier drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum, or cross beam, was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes, and the titulus reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" was nailed into place. The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim was now crucified, according to

According to Evangelical Outreach, as Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet. At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.

The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the leg, according to Evangelical Outreach. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocation occurred. Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, "And immediately there came out blood and water." Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium. So much for Roman compassion. After His death, Jesus' body was taken down from the cross and hastily buried in a borrowed tomb, sealed, and then guarded around the clock with a heavy contingent of Roman soldiers to make sure He would stay there and the body not be stolen by His followers.

The story has a twist that no one expected. Not even the most clever novelist of the day could have dreamed up the next chapter, and here is where Truth is stranger than fiction. Three days later, the tomb was empty and Jesus was alive--seen by his disciples and many others. No doubt the Roman guards had run away for fear of death themselves or fainted and then disappeared. When the tomb opened up, they either freaked out or ran or dropped in their tracks. Jesus' tomb was secured in three ways, according to
(a) A large stone was rolled against it. It was customary to roll big stones against tombs; the stones were generally too big to be moved by just a few men, so levers were used to move them. Some have estimated that the stone that sealed Jesus' tomb weighed 1-1/2 to 2 two tons, which is the approximate weight of a midsize car.
(b) A Roman guard unit--which usually consisted of four soldiers--was stationed at the tomb. Roman guards were strictly disciplined fighting men held to the highest standards. Failure often required death by torturous and humiliating methods.
(c) The Roman seal was affixed to the stone that secured the tomb. The seal stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. Breaking the seal meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb's entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law.

On that Sunday after the crucifixion, the tomb indeed was empty. The Christ had been resurrected by the miraculous power of God. Why is this significant? Without the Resurrection, the Christian faith has no justification for existing. According to, there are many reasons why this watershed event is important. Here are a few:
1.) First, the resurrection is one of the major evidences that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
2.) Second, Jesus’ resurrection represents an assurance that we can have forgiveness from our sins.
3.) Third, the resurrection tells the world that the kingdom of God is ruled by a living sovereign.
4.) Fourth, Jesus’ resurrection proves that physical death is not the termination of human existence. God, who is the giver of life, has the power to reanimate the human body.
5.) Fifth, Jesus' resurrection previewed the ultimate victory of Christianity over all its enemies.

To deny the resurrection is to deny the basis for faith in the Jesus and eternal life, according to Furthermore, Jesus' resurrection is essential to salvation. If He was not raised, then no one could possibly be saved to a life with God after death. Because God is gracious, He offers eternal life to those who obediently receive Jesus' salvation. But because He is just, He must punish those who do not repent and live for Him. If there is no reward after death, then there is no real grace. Many good people suffer in this life just as much or more than evil people. Grace demands a resurrection so the righteous may be rewarded. Many wicked people prosper in this life far above righteous people. Many criminals and sinners are neither caught nor punished. If there is no resurrection and punishment after death, there is no real justice. If there is no resurrection, then God is neither gracious nor just. His word states that the inequities of this life will be corrected AFTER this life. If you believe God is just and righteous, you must believe in life after death. To deny this is to deny the very character of God. If there is no resurrection, Satan is the ultimate victor and God has been defeated. The ultimate victory of God requires a resurrection. How much do you think about the fact that someday you really will die, someday you really will be raised and stand before Jesus in judgment and enter your eternal rewards? If you can positively claim a personal faith relationship in Jesus, then your eternal health care will be forever positively sealed with no fear of pain, suffering, or loss "when the roll is called up yonder."

Until next time. Maranatha!