profile of senior dog

5 Reasons to Adopt a Senior Pet

Every year approximately 3.2 million animals are adopted from shelters in the United States. And while everyone loves how cute puppies and kittens can be, adopters sometimes find that they aren’t able to handle the needs of their pet. When this happens, the animal is often returned to the shelter, or worse — put outside on the street to fend for themselves.

Finding the right pet for you or your family comes down to finding the right fit — which may not always be an energetic and untrained puppy or kitten. In fact, there are many older dogs and cats that have already settled into adulthood, gone through training, and just need a home and a human to call their own.

So what are some of the ways adult and senior dogs and cats differ from their younger selves?

Temperament

Puppies and kittens seem to have two modes: asleep or crazy. But older dogs and cats, who’ve had time to mature, are usually more mellow because everything isn’t shiny and new. The biggest changes to an older cat or dog’s personality may occur in the first few weeks after bringing them home for the first time. Even still, they are unlikely to do a complete personality flip from when you first met them.

If the idea of an energetic pet makes you nervous, a calm, older animal can make a great companion for new pet owners and senior citizens.

Training

Many older dogs who end up at shelters have already had some training and may know some basic commands. They will almost certainly be housebroken and may even be crate trained. Even if your new pet is not trained in all the areas you would like, building on existing training fundamentals is a much easier place to start from.

Exercise

Much like humans, as cats and dogs mature their energy levels tend to decrease resulting in a need for fewer long walks and less playtime. However, they should still be taken outside at regular intervals and played with for extra bonding time. Dog parks are also a great way for your dog to expend some of their excess energy while socializing with other dogs.

Cats, on the other hand, are notoriously independent. Given a proper assortment of toys to choose from (or cat furniture and scratching posts) most will exercise themselves. However, playing with your cat can do every bit as much good for your wellbeing as for theirs. Is your cat acting out? Playtime can also help relieve your cat of aggression they may be showing. Just be sure to put the squeaky and jingly toys away before bed or your cat may decide it’s time to play at 3 am.

Veterinary Care

When adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue you’ll receive a breakdown of the animal’s medical history. Adult and senior animals will almost always be spayed or neutered, whereas some puppies and kittens may be too young for the procedure upon adoption. In cases like these, the surgery will need to be scheduled when they are old enough. Vaccination records, current medications, and general health concerns should also be discussed.

Love

A puppy or kitten will love you no matter what because it has also never known (or has no memory of) a life before you. But the best part of adopting an adult or senior dog is that they have every bit as much love to give you and your family as a puppy or kitten would — maybe even more.

By adopting an older dog or cat, this animal will love you unconditionally because it knows what life is like without you, or worse — what life is like without anyone. Dogs and cats that come from the street spend their lives scrounging for food, dodging cars, and staying away from other more aggressive animals or predators. Being in that constant state of fight or flight, they may need a little time to adjust to their new surroundings and understand that they are safe. Once this happens, there is no limit on their love, loyalty, and gratitude.

Keeping Your Pet Happy and Healthy

Have you recently adopted a pet, or are you considering it? Regardless of a pet’s age, accidents can happen and veterinary bills can be expensive. Members of the AMSA have unique access to a special discount on pet insurance from Nationwide Insurance. To learn more or to request a quote, please visit https://amsa.memberbenefits.com/pet-insurance/ today.

A Smile Has More Power Than You Think

The act of smiling is part of a universal language that everyone understands. When someone cries, they are sad or hurt; when someone laughs, they felt something was funny; and when someone smiles, they are happy or being friendly. No matter where you are in the world, a smile will always be welcomed and understood.

But could smiling have more health benefits we thought?

Health Benefits of Smiling

According to NBC News, “science has shown that the mere act of smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system and possibly even prolong your life.”

Smiling triggers the body to produce serotonin and dopamine resulting in an elevated mood. Not only are these chemicals part of the recipe for happiness, they may also play a part in boosting the immune system.

In one study, participants were separated into two groups, and both exposed to a virus. The first group was exposed to happiness-inducing stimuli and the second group was not. The results of the experiment showed that the group not exposed the happiness-inducing stimuli experienced higher infection rates than the other, leading some scientists to suggest that happiness can have an impact on one’s immune system.

This is just one study of many to suggest a link between those who are unhappy and those with weaker immune systems.

In addition to boosting immune systems, smiling has also been scientifically linked to:

  • lowering heart rate
  • lowering blood pressure
  • longevity

What does your smile say?

Wouldn’t it be nice to smile with confidence? Whether you find yourself in need of costly dental repair or just a good bi-annual cleaning, as a member of the AMSA, you have access to unique savings on dental insurance.

With the Comprehensive PPO Dental Plan you have the freedom to visit any licensed dentist in the country and enjoy an annual max of $1,750. To learn more about the Comprehensive PPO Dental Plan or what other options are available to you as a member of the AMSA, visit https://amsa.memberbenefits.com/dentalvision/ today.

family outside in sunshine on a park bench with smiling baby

Why Young People Need Disability Insurance

When we’re young, we don’t always think about what could happen in the future. The truth is, debilitating accidents, illnesses, and injuries can happen to anyone, at any time, and any age. So no matter how young you are, it’s important to have a long-term disability insurance plan in place that can help protect your savings if something should happen to you.

Plan for the unexpected.

According to a 2017 Disability and Health Journal report, a long-term disability diagnosis can increase cost-of-living expenses by almost $7,000 a year. If you were suddenly no longer able to work, how would you manage to support yourself? Would your family be able to maintain its current way of life? Could your savings survive the average disability length of 31 months?

If a paycheck is your main source of income, you’ll most likely need long-term disability coverage to meet these needs. Even if your employer already has long-term disability coverage in place for you, it may not be enough. Employer-based plans sometimes only cover a fraction of your salary and may not factor in any bonuses that you (or your family) rely on.

What is long-term disability insurance?

Long-term disability insurance coverage is designed to help you and your loved ones withstand the financial changes that a disability can bring. If you become disabled and are no longer able to continue working, your coverage will kick in and help pay everything from medical copays to everyday expenses such as your mortgage or credit card bills.

Hopefully, you will never have to reap the benefits of a long-term disability plan. But if you do, you’ll be glad you have coverage ready when you need it. Your life can change forever in the blink of an eye – and being prepared can make all the difference in the world.

As a valuable benefit of your membership, the AMSA Health Insurance Marketplace offers affordable long-term disability insurance coverage to members of the AMSA.

To learn more, visit https://amsa.memberbenefits.com/long-term-disability/ or contact us at 1-800-282-8626 with any questions you may have. Our benefits counselors are available to help guide you to a plan best suitable for your unique needs.

weimaraner puppy

My Pet Ran Away, What Do I Do?

One of the scariest situations anyone can face is a missing pet.

The good news is, when a pet runs away, they seldom go very far – which makes it more likely to reunite with them. According to a 2012 study, 59% of lost cats and 20% of lost dogs return home on their own after being lost. But there are always additional steps you can take to help ensure a happy reunion.

Lure Them Back with Scent

Both cats and dogs have highly developed senses of smell and direction. For dogs, consider putting something with your scent on it outside near where you think it got out. For cats, putting their litter box outside may be your best course of action. Even if the litter box has just been cleaned, your cat may still recognize the scent and come back to it.

Get Their Picture Out

Social media has become a great tool for reuniting lost pets with their owners. Post on community Facebook groups, and share it among your own network of friends to help spread the word organically.

Much like flyers (which you can also print and post in your area), your social post should include at least one photo of your pet, their name, gender, any identifying features, when and where they went missing, and your contact information.

Take a Walk

Most lost pets tend to stay close to home, so walking around your own neighborhood is a great place to begin your search. Try calling their name, and carry their food with you. According to the aforementioned study, searching the neighborhood was the most successful way to locate a lost dog (49%), and the second most successful way to reunite with a lost cat (30%).

Don’t become discouraged if your missing pet doesn’t immediately appear. A scared cat or dog may not move or even make a sound out of fear of predators, so it’s important to have patience and keep trying.

Check Local Shelters

When a stray animal is brought in to an animal shelter or city animal control, they are placed on a “stray hold”. These hold times vary by state so it’s best to know the laws regarding lost and found pets in your area. If your pet is left unclaimed after the stray hold period, it will be put up for adoption as long as it is in good health.

The Importance of Microchipping

The best way to avoid your pet getting lost is to do everything you can to prevent it. Still, accidents can happen.

Fortunately, pet owners now have affordable access to microchip technology. The concept may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but it is the equivalent of your pet wearing a tag and collar that can never come off.

The procedure only takes a minute and is often done during the pets spay or neuter procedure. During the surgery, a tiny microchip with your contact information is implanted anywhere from the neck to between the shoulder blades of the animal. The microchip is approximately the size of a grain of rice and shouldn’t cause your pet any discomfort.

If your pet ever goes missing and is later scanned for a microchip, your information will be made available to the veterinary office and an attempt will be made to contact you with the information from the chip. (So make sure that you keep your contact information with them up to date.)

A Lifetime Commitment

When adopting any animal, it’s important to understand that you are committing to keeping your new pet happy and healthy until the end of their days.

Pet ownership can be expensive, and an unexpected illness or injury to them can be a financial drain. To help offset these costs, the AMSA Health Insurance Marketplace has teamed up with one of the top pet insurance carriers in the country to offer discounts on coverage to members. To learn more, or to request a quote, please visit amsa.memberbenefits.com/pet-insurance/ today.

young boy scared with hands cupping his mouth

The Growing Need for Special Needs Dental Care

A trip to the dentist can be an extremely traumatic experience for children with developmental disabilities and special needs.

According to the CDC, recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six children aged 3 – 17 have one or more developmental disabilities. Additionally, many studies have noted that those who suffer with developmental disabilities also struggle with various stages of dental decay.

What You Can Do for Your Special Needs Child

Teaching your special needs child the fundamentals of dental hygiene can be hard — having a successful dental appointment can be even harder.

Once you find a dentist who can provide both the care and environment your child needs, there are steps you can take to minimize the stress your child feels by going to the dentist.

  1. Schedule familiarization appointments.

Scheduling your child’s appointment ahead of time can help them adjust to their new surroundings. This will allow them to become more accustomed to the lights, sounds, and smells associated with a trip to the dentist’s office.

During these visits you can also meet with the dentist and their staff to help your child become more comfortable and less scared or nervous.

  1. Tell stories leading up to the appointment.

Telling your child positive stories about visits to the dentist’s office in the weeks leading up to the appointment will help give them an idea of what to expect. It’s important that these stories emphasize a happy environment and not something associated with scary tools or pain.

  1. Come prepared.

Does your child have a favorite movie or TV show? Bring it along on a tablet or phone so they can watch while they’re in the dentist’s chair. The distraction will help to focus their attention on the screen and not what is going on in their mouth.

  1. Work with the office staff.

The staff at the dentist’s office is there to make sure your visit goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Before the appointment, call the dentist’s office to see if the appointments are running behind and if you can sign in a little later. This will help you to minimize the amount of time spent in the waiting room.

The Right Choice for Your Family

Finding a dentist who can provide specialized care for special needs children can be very difficult. Depending on the severity of your child’s developmental disability, general anesthesia may be the only way to provide treatment — something that not all dentists are qualified (or equipped) to provide.

When was the last time your child took a trip to the dentist? Our Comprehensive PPO dental plan option gives your family the freedom to visit any licensed dentist in the country — or take advantage of savings when you visit one of over 135,000 preferred dentists and 32,000 specialists nationwide. Make your family’s oral health a priority by visiting amsa.memberbenefits.com/dentalvision/ today.

Need dental insurance for 2020? Apply by January 31st to receive coverage beginning February 1st!

adult couple reviewing bills and open enrollment materials

4 Myths About the Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period

We’ve heard a lot of Open Enrollment myths over the years and want to set the record straight.

Myth #1 “There are fewer insurers to choose from.”

Many carriers who initially fled the federal exchange have returned and now offer plans alongside others who have entered the marketplace. This increase in the number of plans being offered has allowed many individuals and families to re-examine their needs and adjust their coverage amounts accordingly.

In addition to having access to the same carriers and plans listed on the federal exchange, the AMSA Health Insurance Marketplace can offer members even more options. To view the full range of available ACA-compliant health plans, please visit https://amsa.memberbenefits.com/.

Myth #2 “The premiums are too expensive.”

Now that the federal exchange marketplace has stabilized, there may be lower-cost options for ACA-compliant health plans than past Open Enrollment periods. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield has filed for a 2.03% decrease in premiums in Texas.

Even if your coverage needs remain the same, you may be able to find a lower premium being offered by a different insurer. We recommend always reviewing the health insurance options available to you during the annual Open Enrollment period.

Myth #3 “You’ll be penalized at tax time for not having insurance.”

In previous years, if an individual did not have health insurance for more than 2 months of the year and did not qualify for an exemption they would face a tax penalty of $695 or 2.5% of their taxable income (whichever amount was greater). As of January 1, 2019, the tax penalty known as the individual mandate has been repealed, though some states may still enforce penalties on individuals who don’t have health insurance.

Myth #4 “Applications are processed instantly.”

On average, our team will process an enrollment application within 24 business hours and submit it to the carrier. Once the application is with the carrier, their team will take over and require an additional 10-15 business days to process the application.

The carriers often get overwhelmed with applications during the Open Enrollment period, so we recommend enrollees submit their health insurance applications as early as possible.

Securing ACA-Complaint Coverage for 2020

This year, Open Enrollment runs from November 1 through December 15 with a coverage effective date of January 1, 2020. This is the one time of year where individuals and families can enroll in ACA-compliant health insurance plans.

Ready to start shopping? Visit https://amsa.memberbenefits.com/ to shop ACA-compliant health plans today.

Not sure where to start? Schedule an appointment with one of our licensed benefits counselors and let us walk you through finding the best health insurance fit for your needs.

happy family on couch browsing health insurance options on tablet

Getting the Most out of Open Enrollment

With 2020 Open Enrollment period in full swing, families across the country are reviewing their current insurance coverages and seeing what other options may be available to them. Below are a few tips to help you navigate the process.

  1. Learn the Language

Insurance jargon may be enough to make some people’s heads spin but learning just a few key terms could help you pick the best health coverage for you and your family. To make it easy, here are a few words we feel you should know:

  • ACA-compliant” refers to plans that follow all the guidelines and regulations in the Affordable Care Act. These plans are only available during the annual Open Enrollment period or through a Special enrollment period, if you have a qualifying event.
  • Non-ACA plans” also known as short term health plans do not adhere to all of the Affordable Care Act’s guidelines and regulations.
  • Deductible” the amount of money you must pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in
  • Premium” the amount you pay to your insurance company every month
  • In-network” refers to a provider that has a contract with your insurance provider
  • Out-of-network” refers to a provider that does not have a contract with your insurance provider
  1. Think of the Future

No one can predict the future, but you may be able to take an educated guess as to what the next 12 months could hold. Thinking about the coming year could help you determine how much coverage is right for you and your family. Have you had any health issues in the past year? Are you taking any medications? By examining your current health status and concerns you may be able to narrow down your health insurance plan options.

  1. Utilize Your Resources

Did you know as a benefit of your AMSA membership, you have access to our team of licensed Benefits Counselors? Our Benefits Counselors are experts in their field and are standing by to help you navigate the Open Enrollment process and find the best health insurance for you and your family’s needs.

We’ve been providing health insurance answers and guidance for over 30 years. Be sure to visit the AMSA Health Insurance Marketplace for access to appointment scheduling services, webinar replays, and other informational resources designed to help make the Open Enrollment process as quick and easy as possible.

  1. Know Your Deadlines

Like last year, the annual individual health insurance Open Enrollment period began on November 1 and will run until December 15. For those who enroll in one of these ACA-compliant plans, you can expect an effective date of January 1.

Non-ACA plans typically do not follow the ACA open enrollment period dates and are available in most states year-round.

Ready to make your decision? Visit https://amsa.memberbenefits.com/health-insurance/ today to secure ACA-compliant coverage for you and your family in 2020.

middle aged man in hospital bed contemplating the future

Meeting Financial Obligations After Disability: What’s Your Plan?

Approximately 37 million Americans are considered disabled; of those 37 million people, more than 50% are still in their working years (age 18-64), according to the Council for Disability Awareness. Unfortunately, many workers never even consider the fact that they could face a temporary or permanent disability, let alone plan for such a situation. What kind of a situation would you be in if you were to become disabled and unable to work?

Read More
professional african american holding jaw experiencing dental pain

5 Most Common Dental Problems And How To Avoid Them

According to American author William Arthur Ward, “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” Smiling is something we do instinctively as infants and something we carry with us all throughout our lives. Unfortunately for some, their smiles may not prove to be as warm and welcoming as they would hope. Problems such as gum disease, yellowed teeth, and chronic bad breath can have a negative impact when meeting new people and could be a sign of a deeper issue due to the close link between oral and overall health.

Many people learn the importance of oral hygiene at a young age. Those who don’t may face a variety of oral health problems down the road, some being scarier than others. So, what are some of the most common dental diseases?

  1. Bad Breath

While some cases of bad breath can be the result of eating foods like onions, garlic, or hard-boiled eggs, other cases may prove to be more serious. Bad breath, otherwise referred to as, Halitosis, may be something that even a good solid brushing won’t be able to fix. Halitosis can be a symptom of larger problems such as gum disease, infection, dry mouth, or even other seemingly unrelated issues like gastric reflux, diabetes, liver or kidney disease. In some instances, Halitosis may even require a trip to your doctor.

  1. Gum Disease

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are over 3 million cases of gum disease each year. And while gum disease, otherwise known as Periodontitis, may be common, that doesn’t make it any less serious. In fact, those with gum disease have a higher chance of developing diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and other ailments. In order to lessen your chances of developing gum disease, it is advised to practice good oral hygiene and schedule regular cleanings with your dentist, who may decide whether more preventative action is needed.

  1. Yellow Teeth

While not exactly a disease, yellow teeth can be a sign of poor oral hygiene and can, in some cases, indicate other dental issues that may be lurking just beneath the surface. Visiting the dentist once every six months for a thorough cleaning can help prevent yellowing teeth due to diet or lifestyle choices. In some severe cases, veneers may be recommended.

  1. Toothaches

A toothache should never be ignored. While some cases of a toothache may be related to minor inflammation, other cases could indicate the presence of gum disease, cavities, pulpitis, a broken tooth, or more. When confronted with a persistent toothache, the best course of action is to have a dentist find the underlying cause.

  1. Tooth Erosion

There are few substances within the human body that are stronger than our enamel. This is why everyone from our dentists to television commercials are constantly urging us to protect it — because once our enamel is gone, it cannot be brought back. The loss of enamel is referred to as tooth erosion. Soda, sugar, and some acidic foods can eat away at our enamel. In order to combat the chances of experiencing tooth erosion, brushing with a soft-bristled brush is suggested as well as reducing the number of acidic drinks consumed.

Taking Control of Your Oral Health

When was the last time you visited the dentist? Could you be at risk of developing one, or even all, of these potentially costly dental problems?

Members can secure dental and vision insurance coverage for the whole family. Visit https://amsa.memberbenefits.com/dentalvision/ to learn more about what our dental and vision insurance plans can do for you.

business man sitting at a cafe discussing his health options on his cell phone

I Missed Open Enrollment and Need Health Coverage — What Are My Options?

The next official ACA Open Enrollment period isn’t slated to begin until November 1, 2019. But depending on your circumstances, you may not have to wait that long to obtain coverage.

Qualifying Life Events and Special Enrollment Periods

Sometimes our circumstances change, and if they change due to specific events, you and your dependents may be able to secure health insurance through a Special Enrollment Period. When this occurs, it is called a Qualifying Life Event, otherwise referred to as a QLE.

There are several types of Qualifying Life Events that may grant you a Special Enrollment Period. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Loss of health coverage
    • Losing existing health coverage – including job-based, individual, and student plans
    • Losing eligibility for Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP
    • Turning 26 and losing coverage through a parent’s plan
  • Changes in household size
    • Getting married or divorced
    • Having a baby or adopting a child
    • Death in the family
  • Changes in residence
    • Moving to a different ZIP code or county
    • A student moving to or from the place they attend school
    • A seasonal worker moving to or from the place they both live and work
    • Moving to or from a shelter or other transitional housing
  • Other qualifying events
    • Changes in your income that affect the coverage you qualify for
    • Gaining membership in a federally recognized tribe, or status as an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporation shareholder
    • Becoming a U.S. citizen
    • Leaving incarceration (jail or prison)
    • AmeriCorps members starting or ending their service

Non-ACA Health Plans

Haven’t experienced a QLE but still need health coverage? A non-ACA health plan could be the answer. Also referred to as Short Term Medical Plans, recent legislative changes have loosened the restrictions surrounding these plans and have increased their appeal.

Previously, a Short-Term Medical plan could only provide coverage for up to 90 days. But due to recent regulatory changes, these plans can now be continued for up to a year.  Additionally, in some cases applicants may now renew their plan for up to three years.

Because Short-Term Medical Plans are considered non-ACA health plans, it is worth noting that they may not cover all that an ACA health plan would. For example, applicants could be denied coverage due to a pre-existing medical condition, maternity care may not be covered, and there could be an annual dollar limit on coverage. However, these plans are also typically less expensive than ACA plans and could be a good alternative for individuals seeking more affordable options.

Know Your Options

Do you think you may qualify for a Special Enrollment period? Are you interested in hearing more about non-ACA plans and if they may be the right fit for you? Our Benefits Counselors are always on hand to help answer your questions and guide you in the direction that will make the most sense for your unique needs.

Visit your association website to learn more about the Health Insurance offerings that may be available to you, or schedule an appointment with one of our licensed Benefits Counselors today.

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