Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why Even The Insured Are Paying Too Much For Prescriptions

You probably think that if you have health insurance, you’re covered when it comes to medications. However, even with insurance, you could still be spending too much - it many cases, it's not the cheapest option. There are many ways to save on prescriptions, and insurance isn't always going to lead you to the best savings. Insured or uninsured, here’s what you can do to make sure you're saving effectively, every time.

Using your insurance may not be your most cost-effective option

Using your insurance coverage may actually cost you more, in some cases. Here are some tips for finding the best price:

  • Use a discount card, such as the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card, and you may see savings of up to 75% off the retail price. Unlike some discount cards, the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card does not charge a registration or membership fee, and it's free and easy to use.
  • Consider paying cash for medications. In a few cases, this might equate to savings greater than using insurance. Always ask your pharmacist for the retail price of a medication so that you can compare.

Don’t forget generic brands

The generic version of a medication is often less expensive than one with a brand name. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure a generic is right for you and your particular medical condition.

Find out your insurance’s “preferred” pharmacy

Some commercial insurance and Medicare plans offer savings on prescription drugs if you use a specific pharmacy. For drugs that you use long-term (typically 3 months or more), you can often see savings by buying a supply that will last longer.

Try therapy in steps

This practice, known as “step therapy,” involves trying less expensive medication options first. If these options are ineffective, try more expensive options. You may experience savings if you never need to take the most expensive medication for your condition.

Do an annual review

Experts recommend an annual review with your healthcare provider of any medications, supplements or vitamins you take. You may often be able to eliminate something from your current regimen, which results in a lower medication expenses for you.

Just like when it comes to shopping for clothes or groceries, being a savvy shopper when it comes to medications can result in cost savings everyone can enjoy.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Donut Hole is Real

If you're covered under Medicare Part D, the “donut hole” is real, and can dramatically affect the cost of your prescriptions. Here’s how and why.

What is the Medicare donut hole?

The "donut hole" is a coverage gap in certain Medicare prescription drug plans. This gap is a temporary limit on what the plan will cover.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance program Medicare gives qualified recipients (people 65 or older, people under 65 with certain disabilities, and a few others) the option of paying a monthly premium for outpatient prescription drug coverage. This section is called Medicare Part D.

With Medicare Part D, you pay a monthly premium, plus the full price of your medication until you reach the $310 deductible amount. After meeting this deductible, you pay 25 percent of your prescription drug costs, until the total spending between you and your plan reaches a certain limit ($2,960 in 2015, or $3,310 in 2016).

After you hit this limit, the coverage gap, or “donut hole,” begins. You are now responsible for 45 percent of the cost of covered brand-name prescription drugs until you reach the yearly out-of-pocket spending limit (which differs from year to year), after which coverage kicks back in.

Reducing the wallet impact of the donut hole

If you're looking to save during the coverage gap, switching over to generics could be a good option. Medicare pays 35 percent of the price for generic drugs during the coverage gap, as opposed to 45 percent for brand-name. More good news: the percentage you pay for generics during the coverage gap will decrease each year until it reaches 25 percent in 2020.

However, even with these discounts on generics, the Medicare “donut hole” can make it hard for senior citizens without any supplemental plan to pay for their prescriptions. This is a good reason to look into the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card. It’s free to obtain and use, and gives you discounts on prescriptions, whether you're insured or uninsured. There’s no registration required, and using the card when buying prescription drugs can save you up to 75 percent.

Just show the FamilyWize card to your pharmacist the next time you pick up a prescription, and ask them to compare the discount offered by the card to the discount offered by your insurance. In many cases, the FamilyWize price is often the better deal. You can also check the price and compare before picking up by using our Drug Price Lookup tool, available on our website or through the smartphone app (just search "FamilyWize" on your smartphone's app store).

You can also check to see if you qualify for Medicare’s Extra Help options for paying Part D, which prevents you from entering the coverage gap. Also, check out the Medicare website’s Part D section for further information on the donut hole gap, with scenarios to help explain it.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back to School Savings Strategies

According to the National Retail Federation, average back-to-school spending has grown 42 percent over the past 10 years. To help you combat the budget-busting burden of school-related expenses, we offer the following savings strategies:

1.  Save on clothing for school
Clothing can be a big expense when your kids are going back to school. These tips will help you keep costs manageable:
  • Take stock: Before you purchase any new clothing, take an inventory of your child’s current clothes for the school year. Figure out what still fits, what is still in good shape, and what should be donated or thrown away. This may mean pulling out the boxes of winter clothes before the weather turns cold, but that extra effort could save you hundreds of dollars down the line.
  • Save with hand-me-downs: While new clothes are fun for the kids, you can save a ton by tapping into your inventory. Any clothes that are too small but still in good condition can be handed down to one of your younger children.
  • Host a clothes-swap party: You can expand your clothing options and get rid of unwanted items by hosting a party to exchange your inventory with parents in your neighborhood, church, or other social group.
  • Consider secondhand shops: New clothes at a retail store can cost ten times more than those purchased from a secondhand store or consignment shop.
2.  Save on school supplies
The inevitable school supplies can be cheaper with these smart tips:
  • Ask for discounts: Many brands or stores give big discounts to students, particularly those in college. This article from Business Insider lists students discounts for retailers ranging from Amazon to the Apple Store.
  • Bulk buy: If you can swing it financially, buying school supplies in bulk at your local warehouse store can lead to big savings in the long run. If you don’t need a whole ream of printer paper or a 12-pack of notebooks, split the supplies - and the cost - with fellow parents.
3.  Save on school lunches
Food costs can add up if you aren't careful, but there are steps you can take to reduce the daily price of school lunch:
  • Ask about free lunch: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) gives out 19.2 million free lunches each day, so check to see if your family qualifies for free lunches. 
  • Consider buying: Don’t assume that it’s cheaper to make a lunch than to buy one. According to statistics for one school system, you can save about $1.83 per day, or $329/year, if your child buys a school lunch instead of bringing one from home. However, that changes when you buy in bulk, by purchasing and preparing homemade lunches for four kids instead of one.
  • Research the best options: Check out the ChooseMyPlate.gov website, featuring food purchasing and meal preparation tips to help you serve nutritional and affordable meals for your family. The Healthy Eating on a Budget section is especially helpful.
4.  Save on prescriptions
Kids going back to school often get sick. If this happens and your doctor prescribes medication for your child, you can save an average of 42 percent by using the free FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card:

  • Get the card: Just print out a FamilyWize card (or use the online form to request one be mailed to you) on our site, show it to your pharmacist when picking up your prescription, and ask for the lowest price.
  • Use the app: The FamilyWize smartphone app works the same as the card, and allows you to instantly start saving up to 75 percent on your prescriptions. It also lets you easily compare drug prices at virtually any pharmacy in your area by using the Drug Price Lookup.
To download the FamilyWize app, search in your app store for “FamilyWize,” or follow these links to the Apple App Store,  Google Play, or the Windows Store.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.
Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Power Up Your Day With a Better Breakfast

September is Better Breakfast Month – the perfect time to beef up your knowledge on the importance of a strong dietary start for the day. As WebMD notes, eating a regular breakfast is important to your overall health and wellness; breakfast provides necessary nutrients, and may even lower your overall cholesterol.

Read on for information about the importance of breakfast, and recipes for a more productive and energy-filled day.

Is breakfast really that important?

Several studies show that you’re better off when you eat breakfast. For example:
  • Research by the No Kid Hungry Initiative reports that students who eat breakfast on a regular basis average 18% better on math scores, have better attendance records, and are 20% more likely to graduate high school.
  • Evidence from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute shows that the cereals we often eat for breakfast provide us with more fiber, iron, folic acid, and zinc, and less fat, sodium, sugar, and cholesterol than the nutrients we get in other foods.
  • Research shows that when you eat breakfast, you are less likely to be overweight. Another study found that people who regularly skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to be overweight. Scientists believe that this is because breakfast helps regulate your appetite, and positively influences calorie burn rates.
  • The Journal of Adolescent Health reports that adolescents who eat breakfast are as much as five times more likely to get the right amount of nutrients than adolescents who skip breakfast.
What a better breakfast looks like

Make sure that your breakfast includes healthy sources of protein and carbohydrates to improve concentration and alertness throughout the day. Include foods with fiber, especially fresh fruit or vegetables (many of which also have phytonutrients and health-preserving antioxidants).

While some ideas for fast and easy breakfasts are included below, be aware that not all fast breakfasts are good for your family. The high sugar content of many sweet breakfasts, such as breakfast pastries, muffins, donuts, breakfast cereal bars, and many boxed cereals have enough sweeteners in them to interfere with your blood sugar levels. This can result in a short burst of energy followed by a blood sugar drop, leaving you lethargic, irritable and fuzzy-brained.

Recipes for a better breakfast

Some healthy breakfasts that take almost no prep time include:
  • A whole grain toaster waffle with peanut butter
  • Plain yogurt with fruit 
  • A fruit smoothie with yogurt, with a spoonful of flaxseed flour, wheat germ, or chia seeds for fiber
  • A meat and cheese sandwich with lettuce or sliced cucumber
  • A bowl of cereal that has less than five grams of sugar and three or more grams of fiber per serving (check the label on the cereal box, or use this list of healthier boxed cereals)
Any of these can be prepared in less than five minutes. If you have more time to cook up a healthy breakfast, you’ll find several other healthier breakfast options here.

If you have an easy-to-prepare healthy breakfast recipe, use the comments field below to share. And don't forget that when you save money on prescriptions by using your free FamilyWize card at the pharmacy, you'll have more to spend at the grocery store!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What Can You Do to Reduce the Risk of Ovarian Cancer?

There are more than thirty different types of ovarian cancer, the fifth highest cause of cancer-related deaths among women. While research is still being done, several risk factors for ovarian cancer have been identified - these are things that can affect your chances of developing it.

Some risk factors are controllable, such as your diet and overall health; other risk factors, such as age and gender, cannot be changed. What are these different factors, and what can you do to lower your risk?

According to the American Cancer Society, the risk factors for ovarian cancer are:
  1. Age: Ovarian cancer is rare in women under 40, but the risk increases with age. 50% of those who suffer from ovarian cancer develop it after age 63.
  2. Obesity: Women considered obese (body mass index of 30+) are at higher risk. You can check your BMI here.
  3. Reproductive history: If you’ve never had a full-term pregnancy, or became pregnant after the age of 35, you’re at higher risk. On the other hand, if you have had a term pregnancy before the age of 26, you are at lower risk. Each full-term pregnancy further reduces your risk. Breastfeeding may lower your risk, as well.
  4. Birth control: The use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) for just a few months lowers your risk. Your risk lessens the longer you take birth control pills, even after you stop taking them. Injectable hormonal contraceptive, DMPA or Depo-Provera CI, also lowers your risk.
  5. Gynecological surgery: Having a tubal ligation (“tubes tied”) or a hysterectomy (removing the uterus, but not the ovaries) may significantly reduce your risk.
  6. Fertility drugs: Use of the fertility drug Clomid, or clomiphene citrate, for longer than one year may increase your risk, especially if no pregnancy resulted. Fertility drugs seem to increase your risk of developing low malignant potential tumors. Infertility may put women at higher risk even without the use of fertility drugs; this may be associated with no full-term pregnancy (see reproductive history above).
  7. Hormone therapy: Although more studies are needed, experts believe taking male hormones, known as androgens, may increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer. The use of estrogen after menopause increases your risk. The risk appears higher for those taking only estrogen, not an estrogen/progesterone combination.
  8. Personal and family history: You have an increased risk if any relatives have had ovarian cancer. A personal or family history of breast or colorectal cancers, which may be caused by inherited mutations in certain genes, may also put you at greater risk.
  9. Diet: Following a low-fat diet may decrease your risk for ovarian cancer. In general, the American Cancer Society recommends following a diet filled with healthful whole foods, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limiting the amount of red meat and processed foods in your diet is recommended.
  10. Smoking and alcohol use: Although there isn’t research available to support a link between smoking or alcohol use and ovarian cancer, experts suggest that abstaining from these practices is beneficial to overall health.
How can you lower your risk? There are a few simple ways you can start.

First, try to control which factors you can. You might not be able to change your age, but you can manage your weight through changes to your diet and exercise. Make proactive choices regarding your health, such as eating a more well-balanced diet, exercising more, and quitting smoking. This will reduce your risk for several diseases, including ovarian cancer.

It also helps to know your family history, if you don't know it already. If a relative has had a form of cancer, that may mean you are more likely to get it. 

Finally, speak with your physician about possible options. If your history indicates you may be at risk for ovarian cancer, he may order tests.

Remember that the earlier cancer is detected, the easier treatment becomes. If you believe you may be at risk for ovarian cancer, make sure to get tested. For more information on ovarian cancer, including its signs and symptoms, please visit the CDC website.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Dilemma for Parents: When Work Pressures Compete With Your Child's Health Needs

Research from the University of Bristol indicates that when a younger child’s parents work, there is often conflict between the child's needs and the parents’ job responsibilities. This often leads to continued daycare use, even when the child is ill and potentially able to pass on the illness.

The study, Parents' Choices About Daycare, interviewed parents about their choices and decisions when dealing with their sick children, and whether work responsibilities made it difficult to take
time off to care for them.

The researchers investigated the attitudes of working moms and dads, asking them what they do when their child is ill and scheduled to attend daycare or nursery facilities. The parents were also asked about changes that could affect their decisions.

One finding from the study is that most parents considered a cough or other cold symptoms to be less serious than other illnesses.

"Parents are aware that sending their child to nursery when they are unwell is not always the ideal thing to do, but there are often other factors meaning it is not possible to keep their child at home,” says Dr. Fran Carroll, the study’s lead author and Research Associate at the University of Bristol's Centre for Academic Primary Care. "However, there are some changes that nurseries could make which may help parents with their decisions, and reduce the spread of infectious illnesses in both children and staff in nursery environments."

The Bristol research found parents made decisions based on the childcare facility’s policies, as well as employment issues like lost work time, financial impact, and whether or not they had access to alternative care. Parents in the study pointed out a few care facility practices that, if implemented, could help reduce the problem:
  • Reduction in nursery fees if the child cannot attend 
  • Being able to swap sessions with others 
  • Getting clearer guidance on the facility’s sickness policies
Many companies in the U.S. have adopted new family-friendly practices to help their employees keep a healthy work/life balance. These companies offer flexible schedules, work-from-home options, paid sick leave (usable for family illnesses), and other measures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25% of U.S. workers work from home at least occasionally. In addition, this appears to be growing; from 2005 to 2012, telecommuting increased 79.7%.

Such family-supportive adjustments are increasingly important in a world where single parents are common, as are households where both parents work full-time. Unfortunately, for many jobs, such as construction, assembly lines, and health services, there is no work-from-home option.

In many cases, the issue preventing proper care is not time, but money. This is why FamilyWize freely distributes its prescriptions savings cards, available through the FamilyWize website or through  partners like United Way. The cards save an average of 42% on prescriptions and can be used nationwide.

Have you faced this issue? How have you handled it? If you have suggestions for other parents facing this work/home balancing act, use the comments below to share your insights.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Boost Your Immunity, Naturally

Cold and flu season is just around the corner. While FamilyWize is proud to partner with organizations like Walgreens to provide free flu shots to communities nationwide, you don't need to wait for a shot to boost your resistance. Read on to learn more about your immune system, as well as suggestions for naturally boosting your immunity.

What is immunity, and why is it important?

Your immune system, via your lymphatic system, removes toxins from your body, wards off infections, and helps fight illnesses. For more information on the lymphatic system, read our previous blog post on the subject.

Immunity is central to your overall health, as it affects when and how you get sick as well as how quickly you recover. Children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and individuals under stress can benefit the most from immunity boosters; however, a healthy immune system is important to everyone.

What are some healthy living strategies?

While research is still underway regarding the connection between lifestyle and immunity, this Harvard study suggests the following lifestyle strategies:
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Do not smoke

How can I boost my immune system?

According to herbalist Brigitte Mars, there are natural remedies that may be beneficial to your immune system. For example:
  • Ginger: Consuming ginger may help with colds as well as nausea. Drink ginger tea, or add ginger to cooked dishes for maximum benefits.
  • Mushrooms: Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms are known for their positive effects on your immune system. Add them to soups, salads, and stews for an easy way to incorporate them into your diet.
  • Cayenne pepper: This spice contains vitamin C, and may help relieve pain and congestion associated with sinusitis. You can add cayenne pepper to warm water for a therapeutic drink, or season prepared dishes with it.
Additional suggestions for maintaining good health and a healthy immune system:
  • Wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly, to combat germs
  • Consider taking probiotics. Studies show gut health is at the root of immunity
  • Get enough sunlight, or take vitamin D. Check with your healthcare provider to determine if vitamin D is appropriate for you, and in what dosage
Where can I learn more?

Check out sites such as the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases for more details about your immune system. And remember to always consult your healthcare provider before taking anything to boost your immune system, even natural ingredients or remedies.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: What Do You Need to Know?

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a mental health condition that may affect you, a family member, or a friend who has experienced or witnessed a traumatizing event. Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) may happen during the first month after a traumatic event has occurred. PTSD occurs after this initial phase, and can often continue long-term.

What are the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Signs and symptoms of PTSD may include, but are not limited, to the following:
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in personality and activities
  • An inability to maintain one's typical routine, such as attendance at work or school, or relationships
Who may PTSD affect?

According to experts, PTSD most often affects:
  • Servicemen and servicewomen
  • Cancer survivors
  • Sexual assault victims
  • Individuals who have witnessed others dying, or those who have been exposed to injury or the threat of injury
  • Those who have faced or are facing repeated stressful situations in their lives
How is post-traumatic stress disorder treated?

Treatment options for PTSD may include a combination of the following:
  • Talk therapy, which is also called cognitive therapy.
  • Guided eye movements: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a process that may help alleviate the symptoms experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
  • Exposure therapy: A coping mechanism that allows an individual suffering from PTSD to safely face what’s frightening him or her.
  • Medication: Antidepressants and antianxiety medications have been used to help manage PTSD.
Why does PTSD occur?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur based on a complicated mix of:
  • Your brain’s response to situations.
  • Your individual temperament, which is a personality trait that you inherit.
  • A collection of experiences in your life, from childhood to present.
  • A predisposed risk of anxiety and depression.
4 types of post-traumatic stress disorder:
  1. Intrusive memories: These include dreams and flashbacks that remind you of the incident.
  2. Avoidance: Staying away from places, people, or activities that remind you of the occurrence.
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, and changes in relationships.
  4. Changes in emotional reaction, known as arousal symptoms. These include:
    • Being easily startled or frightened.
    • Behavior such as drinking and reckless driving.
    • Sleep difficulties.
How is PTSD diagnosed and treated?

Seeking the support of family and friends can be helpful for managing stress and anxiety in the short-term. however, PTSD is a serious condition that should be diagnosed and treated by a trained medical professional, who will evaluate signs and symptoms and decide on the most effective treatment.  Medications to combat feelings of anxiety and depression may be prescribed, as well as several psychotherapy techiques such as cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR.

Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event doesn’t have to lead to a life-long disorder. With the proper help and support, sufferers of PTSD can learn to manage their anxiety and regain a sense of control, allowing them to maintain normal lives without high levels of stress.

To learn more about PTSD, visit the Mayo Clinic website.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to Be On the Lookout for Vision Problems In Your Children

Did you catch the news story about the two-year-old who had likely had been blind in one eye since birth, yet the blindness had not been realized by his parents until doctors recently identified it? Such late identification of eyesight problems is not as rare as you might hope. This event highlights two facts about children and vision problems:
  • Though rare, eyesight problems can arise at a very young age, or exist from birth.
  • Vision problems in small children often go undetected and undiagnosed.
The younger your child is, the harder it can be to know if there are issues with their eyesight. This is especially a problem before your child is able to speak and express themselves verbally. 

However, even when children develop verbal skills, they may not realize they have a problem, as a vision issue they’ve lived with since birth may be perceived by them as normal.

Eye or vision problems that may arise during your child’s prelingual phase of development, if treated early, might be more easily treated (or even cured) than if the problem goes unrecognized for years.  For this reason, you need to be the eyes for your child, looking for signs of vision problems and taking action if you think something is wrong.

Preventing eyesight problems in your child

If you follow the recommended timing and schedule for getting your children’s eyes examined, many vision problems will be identified early. The American Optometric Association (AOA) advises having your baby get its first eye exam when they are six months old, even if there are no obvious vision problems.

The AOA recommends early and more frequent eye exams whenever:
  • Your child has a family history of eye disease.
  • Your child has strabismus – eyes that are turned out or crossed.
  • Your child was born prematurely or has a low birth weight.
  • Your child has had any developmental delays.
  • Your child already wears eyeglasses.
  • The child’s mother had an infection when she was pregnant.
Beyond optometric or pediatrician visits, you can help your child develop normal, healthy vision by engaging in activities that align to normal eyesight development phases.  This could include talking to them while you move about the room (which trains them to use the eyes to keep an eye on you) and to change up which side you feed your child from. See the AOA’s What Parents Can Do to Help With Visual Development for more activities that stimulate normal vision development.

Identifying symptoms of vision problems in younger children

To keep an eye on developing eye and vision problems, the AOA advises parents to look for the following in their infant: light sensitivity (which may by a sign of unusual eye pressure), high amounts of tears (often indicative of tear duct blockage), eyes that frequently turn (a sign of eye muscle control problems), encrusted eye lids (suggests the presence of infection), or a white pupil – the part of the eye that is normally black. The whiteness can be a cancer sign.

What to do if you suspect your child has eyesight problems

Even if it’s not yet time for your child’s regular eye exam, see your optometrist or family doctor right away if the child has any of the telltale symptoms noted above. Like with all other medical conditions, the early a problem is spotted, the easier it is to treat.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Counting the Cost of Raising a Child

USDA Estimates the Cost of Raising a Child at Nearly a Quarter of a Million Dollars

It’s tried-and-true advice to count the cost of something before making a commitment. Recent projections by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that the cost of raising a kid – a big commitment – is on the rise.

In a 2014 USDA annual report, Expenditures on Children and Families, calculations indicate that a middle income family with a 2013 newborn should expect to spend about $245,340 – nearly a quarter million dollars! – on raising that child up to age 18. The annual child-rearing expenses for that same family ranged from $12,800-$14,970, depending on the age of the child.

The calculations the USDA used include:
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Child care
  • Education
  • Other common child-rearing expenses
While this represents an overall 1.8% increase from 2012, the percentages spent on each expenditure category remain about the same, with housing representing the largest piece of the pie.  This image shows the breakdown:

The cost estimates did not include expenses that you might want to include in your own calculations, such as the actual cost of pregnancy, or any expenses commonly incurred after age 18, such as higher education.

When it comes to cost, where you live matters

Want to raise your kids for less? Move to the south. Even better: move from the city to the country.

As in the past, the costs by location are lower in the urban South ($230,610) and particularly in the rural regions of the country ($193,590).

Cheaper in the past? You bet’cha!

How have things changed? While it likely comes as no surprise that child-rearing costs have risen over the decades, the total change is remarkable.

The USDA began tracking these statistics in 1960, back when the average expenditures on raising a child for a middle income, husband-and-wife family amounted to $25,229. Factoring in the cost of living, that would amount to $198,560 in 2013 dollars. But in 2013, that cost per child was actually 24% higher, at $245,340.

Cheaper by the dozen

Predictably, families spend less per child when there are more children in the household, as a result of economies of scale and the necessity of dividing the same income among more family members.

For example, when comparing husband-and-wife households, a single child family will spend 25% more per child when compared to a two child family. And those with three or more children spend an average of 22% less per child.

How much you earn makes a difference

The report notes that family income affects child-rearing costs. From birth up to age 18:
  • A family earning less than $61,530 per year can expect to spend a total of $176,550 (in 2013) on a child.
  • Middle income parents with an income between $61,530 and $106,540 can expect to spend $245,340.
  • A family earning more than $106,540 should expect to spend $407,820. 

Controlling those costs

Since food is among the top three child-rearing expenses, how do you meet the challenge of providing food that is tasty, healthy, and yet affordable? Here is a resource to help with that: the ChooseMyPlate.gov website, featuring food purchasing and meal preparation tips to help you serve nutritional and affordable meals for your family. What you’ll find:
  • The Healthy Eating on a Budget section, with tips and materials to make healthy choices while staying within your budget.
  • 10 Tips: a nutrition series with a wealth of suggestions to help you get started toward a healthy diet.
  • Recipes: an interactive tool to help with healthy meal planning, cooking, and grocery shopping.
  • MyPlate Kids' Place: A section for children, with online kids’ games to get them engaged in healthy eating.
These USDA statistics are useful, not only for giving families with children an indication of expenses they might want to be prepared for, but also as a valuable resource for state governments in determining child support guidelines in foster care payments.

Having a child will be one of the biggest commitments you'll ever make, but it will also be one of the most rewarding. By knowing the costs in advance and preparing accordingly, you can help ensure your child will be well provided for.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

5 Common Vaccine Myths Squashed!

Vaccinating children has been a controversial topic for years, and it’s no wonder. Up to 23 shots can be given by the time a child is two years old, with as many as 6 shots administered during just one visit. However, there is a great deal of misinformation out there right now regarding their safety and effectiveness; to clear the air regarding vaccines, check out five of the most common myths surrounding them below.

Myth #1: Autism is caused by vaccines

Autism is still a mystery, but many believe the link to vaccines is unwarranted.

  • A study that appeared in The Lancet started the notion that vaccines cause autism. That study has since been discredited; follow-up studies don’t show any direct connection between autism and vaccines.
  • Symptoms of autism are often present much earlier than a child’s first vaccines.
  • Autism may develop before a baby is born, long before vaccines come into the picture.
Myth #2: Vaccines overload a baby’s immune system

In fact, compared to the bacteria in the food they eat, or the dust particles in the air they breathe, vaccines are a relatively insignificant challenge for a baby’s immune system.

  •  Even if all vaccines were given at one time (although they’re not!), a child’s immune system could handle it.
  • Since cells in the body are constantly replaced and replenished, the immune system can never really be overwhelmed.
  • Modern vaccines are more efficient than ever before.
  • Today’s vaccines expose children to fewer immunologic components, that is, proteins and sugars, than ever before. Check out this site for more info. 
Myth #3: Natural immunity beats vaccines

Natural immunity means you actually catch a disease and get sick from it. In some cases, relying on natural immunity can be dangerous, even deadly. For instance, in the case of measles, you would face a 1 in 500 chance of death if you relied on natural immunity. However, only 1 in 1 million individuals have suffered from severe allergic reaction to the actual vaccine.

Myth #4: If other kids are being vaccinated, yours don’t need vaccines

This is not true, due to a concept known as “herd immunity.” Not only do vaccines work by preventing your child from contracting a disease; they also help to prevent the spread of disease. This concept, known as herd immunity, recognizes that vaccines work, but that the number of children who receive them is crucial to their overall effectiveness.

Myth #5: Major diseases have already disappeared so vaccines aren’t necessary

Many of the diseases you no longer hear about have disappeared, in part due to vaccines. If everyone stopped vaccinating their children, there is a chance many of these diseases could reappear. Consider:

  • Unvaccinated children can still get diseases.
  • Children can bring diseases and illnesses home to other individuals in a household. Those especially at risk include babies and infants, individuals with a compromised immune system, and the elderly.
  • People travelling from other countries can bring diseases and illnesses with them, even if those conditions haven’t been seen here in the U.S. for years.
As with any decision that affects your child’s health, speak with your doctor or healthcare provider regarding the pros and cons of vaccinating. Check out PublicHealth.org for additional information, myths, and most recent findings.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Breastfeeding doesn’t only benefit baby – it benefits mommy, too!

Every new mom knows the decision about whether to breastfeed her baby is an important one. But many new moms are not aware that while breastfeeding offers benefits for the baby, there are benefits for her, too. Before you make a decision about breastfeeding, check out these facts.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding your baby? Breastfeeding:

  • Provides great nutritional value. Colostrum, the “first milk” produced, is rich in nutrients and antibodies. Mature milk is made up of the perfect formula of fat, sugar, water and protein for your baby.
  • Protects against numerous childhood illnesses and infections.
  • Lowers risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Lessens chance of developing Type 1 diabetes and some allergies.
  • Creates physical and emotional bonding with mother.
  • Breastfed children are less likely to become overweight or obese.
  • There is a correlation between breastfeeding and better cognitive development in school-age children.

What types of illness and infections does breastfeeding protect against?

  • Asthma
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Ear infections
  • Eczema
  • Gastrointestinal challenges, specifically NEC, or necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Leukemia (childhood)
  • Lower respiratory infections
How do moms benefit from breastfeeding?

  1. Improved healing and less blood loss after giving birth.
  2. Better weight loss after having a baby.
  3. More opportunities for emotional bonding with baby.
  4. Lowered risk of postpartum depression.
What health conditions may breastfeeding lower risk for in moms?
  • Certain types of breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
What are the economic benefits of breastfeeding?

According to the government's MedlinePlus website:
  • Breastfeeding can save hundreds of dollars per year that might otherwise be spent on infant formula.
  • Better overall health of breastfed infants could mean less need for medical services.
  • Healthier breastfed infants could result in parents who take fewer sick days to stay home and care for ill infants.
  • Fewer premature deaths of breastfed infants could mean a savings associated with the funeral costs as well as lost workdays for parents.
Reasons women don’t breastfeed:
  • Mom works outside the home. Check out this link for workplace solutions. 
  • Believes it will be too time-consuming. In fact, breastfeeding can be a quick and easy solution to feeding your baby. 
  • Baby has health challenges. Speak with your doctor or health care provider.
  • Mom has health challenges and/or takes medication. As is the case if your baby has health challenges, consult with your doctor or health care provider in this case. 
While breastfeeding may seem challenging at first, experts agree it can actually become easy once you develop a routine. Consider:

  1. There are no bottles and nipples to sterilize.
  2. There is no need to purchase, make and mix formula.
  3. No bottles to warm.
  4. Breastfeeding allows you to feed your baby immediately.

Where can you find help and support?

There are many types of assistance and support available regarding breastfeeding. Visit this site for information regarding help and support.

Breastfeeding offers numerous health, economic and emotional benefits to both baby and mom. With the help and support available, new moms should consider this method of feeding and relish the benefits it provides!

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Survey Says: Consumers are leaving money at the pharmacy counter

We recently conducted a survey where we asked 1,000 consumers about their spending, shopping, and savings habits when it comes to purchasing prescription medication. The results revealed that while a majority of people taking prescription medication and are interested in saving money, only a small percentage has actually attempted to do so at the pharmacy.

Over 65% of respondents said that they take at least one prescription, and 50% said that they fill at least ten per year. And over half – 59% - are spending $150 or more on their medication on an annual basis. For many people, this price can be too high to pay, and even skip their medication because they can’t afford it.

With an estimated 80-100 million Americans currently uninsured (and many millions more who are underinsured), it’s not surprising that people are spending too much.

The survey also brought to light the harsh reality around the limited awareness regarding prescription savings options.

The FamilyWize card saves an average of 42% on prescriptions, and in many cases gives a deeper discount than insurance – but only 18% of people have ever even tried to use a savings card. That’s the equivalent of 4 out of 5 people never using coupons or looking for deals when they shop for groceries.

Why are so many people missing out? Awareness could be a key issue. Only half or the consumers polled had ever heard of prescription savings cards, meaning there are many people out there who are missing a chance to save simply because they don’t know that it’s out there.

What can we do to change this? We can start by spreading the word. FamilyWize works with partners like United Way, the American Heart Association, and the NCOA to increase awareness about the savings offered by FamilyWize. By working together, we can strengthen communities nationwide.

Know someone who you think might be spending too much for prescriptions? Print out a free card for them at http://familywize.org/card, or direct them to the free FamilyWize app, available on iPhone, Android, and Windows Phones.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ensure Cyber Safety

The internet has become the first place we go when we want to communicate, do research, or even conduct business. For most of us, our time in cyberspace is increasing each day. But with breaches of information becoming more common, have you even wondered just how safe your information is online? What can you do to ensure cyber safety for you and your family members?

How can you keep your family members safe online?

Educate family members about appropriate online activity.
Monitor and stay involved in online activity.
Recognize the need for different strategies for a variety of age groups.

Why is cyber safety important?

The information you make available online may be subject to hacking and exposure to the public. Safety is crucial due to privacy issues and overall security, and prevents issues like cyberbullying.

When should you start talking with your kids about cyber safety?

It’s never too early to start discussing cyber safety. Make it an issue that’s brought up often in your household. Don’t forget that cyber safety doesn’t just apply to your children. Adults of any age, especially older adults, need to be aware of cyber safety.

Latest news regarding cyber safety:

According to a recent report, your internet searches and the health information you provide online may put you at risk of medical-related discrimination. Check out this Science Daily article for more details.
Parents are often guilty of providing too much information about their children online.  When parents put too much information about their children online, it may lead to safety and privacy risks for their children, both now and in the future. Read this article on "sharenting" to get the full picture.
Your online information may be most vulnerable when you’re traveling. From laptops left behind in hotel rooms to connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, cyber safety can be an issue once you’ve left your home.  Be aware of these issues when traveling to help ensure your safety and privacy.

Keeping your passwords secure:

Ensure the strength of your passwords by making them a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Don’t share your passwords with anyone.
Change your passwords on occasion.
Always log out of your computer and any sites you visit, especially when using a public computer.

Where can you learn more about staying safe online?

Visit sites such as iKeepSafe for valuable information on keeping your family safe online.

Do you have any suggestions for ensuring cyber safety, or any stories to share? If so, please feel free to leave a comment!

Live Healthy. Live Smart.