As October approaches, many of our patients are about to renew their health care plans with their employers. While dealing with insurance benefits can be daunting, evaluating your needs as a family or individual can make the process a lot easier. If you plan to stick to the standard medical path, with routine check-ups by your MD or have expensive prescription medications, one of these consumer directed health plans may not be right for you. But if you plan to use services with benefits that have limited or no coverage by your plan, such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic; or you anticipate future health care bills, such as a planned surgery, pregnancy or for just a “rainy day”, one of these tax free “medical bank accounts” might be the perfect fit. Please note, not everyone has the option to opt-in or out of these plans.
FSA/HSA/HRA — The consumer directed health plans defined
These plans are like medical bank accounts, giving you more control over a portion of your health benefit dollars.By enrolling in one of these accounts, you can use it just like your bank account or to receive coverage through the medical plan that is connected to your fund. It’s important to note that you may spend more out of pocket in these plans, and if you have a choice, think through whether these benefits are right for you.
Flexible Spending Account: With an FSA, money is taken from your paycheck before taxes (you set the amount) and put into an account. You can then use that money to pay for medical expenses throughout the year. The money in an FSA does not roll over to the next year. So this is the “use it or lose it” plan.
Health Savings Account: With an HSA, traditionally money may be taken from your paycheck before taxes or you can open up an individual HSA account and contribute money on your own. Your employer or a family member can also contribute to your HSA. This account also earns tax free interest, qualified withdrawals are not taxed and the unused balance carries over to the next year.
Health Reimbursement Arrangement Account: An HRA is an account offered to employees or retirees, where you can use the money to pay for deductible and co-insurance amounts, or covered medical expenses. Only your employer can contribute to this account. Like an HSA, leftover dollars generally can be used from year-to-year, as long as you continue to be a member of the plan. With this type of account, reimbursements are excludable from the employees gross income.
HELPFUL TIPS regarding medical expenses & tax deductions:
- One can only claim medical expenses if it is greater than or equal to 7.5% of adjusted gross income (if covered by an employer’s plan).
- If one is self employed, one can claim 100% of medical expenses on one’s taxes.
Summer is the time of fresh produce, and we all love hitting up farmer’s markets and local stores for the freshest vegetables of the season. What’s one of our favorite things to make with all of these vegetables? Stir fry! Stir fry points of power:
1 – Simplicity – Your grocery list, like the ingredients, is as raw and simple as it comes… just about any type of veggies, some lean meat (if you like), garlic, chicken/vegetable stock, oil and a good hot wok and you are set. The cooking is easy and the key is high heat, frequently tossing some garlic and a touch of oil in with each bunch of veggies and cooking the firmer veggies (e.g. cauliflower, carrots) a little longer. Popping the lid over the wok will cook and soften things a little quicker.
2 – Cleans you – If you are on cleanse, trying to eat healthier, carnivore to the end, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, anti-inflammatory, you name it…the basic stir fry can satisfy all the above diets. One of the cleanest and healthiest meals on the planet…go ahead and pick up an issue of your “Clean Eating” magazine or a copy of your cleanse diet and the stir fry is your go-to without sacrificing flavor or creativity.
3 – Cleans your fridge – Yes! The added bonus with cooking up a stir fry is it is the perfect way to clean out the fridge and use those aging vegetables and that half-empty broth container. Basically empty the veggie drawer (with some minor prepping) into that stir fry. The stir fry is not picky about what you put in it, it welcomes all veggies with open handles.
In Chinese medicine, each of our organs has a physical and energetic function that define their role in keeping the body in balance. They all work together in harmony, and when one organ becomes out of balance, each of the other organs have to work harder to compensate for that. If this imbalance continues for too long, chronic issues can develop.
The Liver organ is responsible for the smooth movement of qi in the body. Qi is defined as the “energy” or “life force” within us, and by nature, wants to flow unobstructed through meridians in the body. The Liver is also the organ that is first affected by stress in our lives. During high times of stress or overwork, our Liver qi becomes stagnant.
Signs of Liver qi stagnation include muscle tightness and tension, irritability, and PMS symptoms in women. It can also create excess heat in the body, which can manifest as high blood pressure, red face, and headaches.
How do we soothe our Livers and prevent qi stagnation? There are many things we can do. Acupuncture is a wonderful way to move Liver qi and address the root cause of the problem, stress. Exercise, deep breathing, getting adequate rest and sleep, and practicing meditation are all good techniques to help soothe the Liver. Letting go of mistakes made in the past, working through feelings of guilt and fear, and avoiding obsessing about events that might occur in the future are also ways to help keep the flow of qi moving and fluid, rather than stuck and stagnant.
Tip: Liver 3 is a great acupressure point to help move Liver qi. It is on the top of the foot, between the big toe and the second toe. Move about an inch up from the crease between these two toes, and feel for the most tender spot, using firm pressure to massage the point. Your Liver will thank you!