Living Well

FSA Friday - 5/4/18 - Celebrate Cinco de Mayo the healthy way

The headline says "5/4" but we bet more of you are going to celebrate tomorrow, when most of the country will put down their responsibilities and raise a glass to the Mexican Army's difficult victory over the French Empire on May 5, 1862.

(Rumor has it, there might also be some heavy partying.)

No matter what you have for going on this weekend, your FSA can help you ensure your celebration starts safe and stays safe. It might even help you enjoy May 6 as much as the previous day! In this week's FSA Friday, we put aside the news headlines to give you a few tips for enjoying a comfortable, relaxing, FSA-eligible Cinco de Mayo weekend.

Stay cool

It seems like just a few weeks ago, most of the country was still facing the possibility of snowfall. Today, the northeast United States is, once again, preparing for summer-like temperatures, clear skies, and perfect barbecue weather.

But it's been a long winter, and much of the country has been stuck indoors. So, it's probably best to avoid too much sunshine on the first warm weekend since September. Whenever possible, sit down in the shade, don't overexert yourself, and have that sunscreen ready. However, if you find yourself getting a little too much sun, we're happy to report that cold packs and other forms of cold therapy are FSA-eligible.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using these products to treat sunburns soon after you come out of the sun to fight the itching and burning from sunburns, as well as reduce any unwanted swelling and blisters.

(We like using them to just cool off, since they're drier and longer-lasting than damp towels or ice bags.)

Stay hydrated (inside and out)

I don't think we need to remind you how important it is to drink plenty of water (and no, beer, sangria and Coke Zero do not count toward your daily water requirements). Whenever you're outdoors and the temperature rises, you'll need to keep the water flowing, regardless of whatever else you're doing, eating or drinking.

In warmer weather, your skin needs some extra hydration, too. Even if you don't get a full-on sunburn, there's always the possibility your skin will crack and peel. Medicated moisturizers that are fortified with aloe vera are FSA-eligible with a prescription! Applying twice a day after being outdoors can help fight off gentle burns, and prevent your skin from drying out.

Ditch the itch

You aren't the only one looking forward to that outdoor fiesta. Bugs have been dormant all winter, and have likely planned their first summer meal at the same time as yours. But you can put the brakes on the buffet by using FSA-eligible sunscreen with bug repellent before stepping into the yard.

Should a few insects fight through the bug spray, it's a good idea to treat bites right away using hydrocortisone cream, which should immediately treat inflammation, redness and swelling before they happen.

[PRO TIP - Hydrocortisone is also fantastic for reducing sunburn swelling and burning. Have it in your bag, no matter where your weekend takes you.]

Don't be too proud

Okay, after a day full of food, drink, sun, bugs and sprays, you might not feel quite like yourself once the sun sets on Cinco de Mayo. But, rather than try to ignore the pain, allow yourself to enjoy a little relief while you wind down the weekend. Over-the-counter pain relief like ibuprofen and aspirin (along with a lot more water consumption) should help take the edge off the previous day's celebration. And they're FSA-eligible with a prescription, so use our Prescription Process to make it even easier!

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Consumer-driven health plan popularity increasing

Consumer-Driven Health Plan (CDHPs) popularity is growing. According to new research by Aon Hewitt in its 2013 Health Care Survey, CDHPs are the second most popular plan offered by employers, and more employers plan to offer them to their employees in the future. Aon found that CDHPs are second behind preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and could beat PPOs in popularity in the coming five years.

As their name suggests, CDHPs give employees more flexibility and power in handling their health care. Consumer-driven health care combines a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA) to pay for routine health care expenses. Plan contributions are pre-tax and can either be funded by the employer, employee or both. Unused balances roll over year-to-year in an HSA so that employees can use them toward future expenses.

Aon surveyed around 800 large and mid-size U.S. employers.

Some key findings from their survey:

  • 56% of employers currently offer CDHPs
  • 30% are considering offering CDHPs in the next 3-5 years
  • 10% of employers offer CDHPs as the only plan option
  • 44% are considering offering CDHPs exclusively in the next 3-5 years.

CDHPs also contributed to lower costs for employers in 2012, with employers reporting a “2 percentage point lower cost trend" (4%) as compared to other plans such as PPOs (6%), HMOs (7%) and Exclusive Provider Networks (6%).

"With many of the operational details of health care reform yet to be implemented, employers are confronting the realities of compliance and the significant challenges they face in controlling future health care costs," said Maureen Fay, senior vice president at Aon Hewitt. "Employers are increasingly embracing plan designs that are cost-effective, promote consumer choice and accountability, and encourage employees to be more deliberate in how they spend their health care dollars."

Taking Control Of Health

Employers are encouraging CDHP enrollment by making these plans a default plan option, or even subsidizing premiums at a higher level than for other plans (44%). CDHP enrollment also revealed that consumers are satisfied with these plans and plan to re-enroll. Aon found 97% percent of employees enrolled in a CDHP for more than two years plan to re-enroll. Aside from a general high satisfaction, consumers also felt they made more “informed health decisions," as 66% of those enrolled said they made “positive behavior changes related to their health." Among these positive behavior changes were increased routine preventative care (28% of respondents reported this) and 19% researched health costs more often.

"Effective consumer-driven health plans are designed to help change employee behaviors by encouraging employees to make better informed health care decisions and to take ownership for actively managing their health through prevention and lifestyle choices," said Jim Winkler, chief innovation officer for Health & Benefits at Aon Hewitt. "Incentives also play a critical role in motivating employees to change behavior. Initially, extrinsic incentives help engage employees in focusing on behavior change. Over time, as healthy behavior patterns start to stick and employees feel good about the results they have achieved, employers can shift their focus more toward intrinsic motivators."

By giving consumers more control over their health care, the hope is that that might increase their understanding of available coverage, too. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 51% of Americans feel they don't have enough information about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They're interested in hearing about costs associated with the law as well as looking for a simple summary of how the law works and how it might affect them. Kaiser also reported that people think coverage of the law has been overly politicized rather than giving enough practical details about the law.

We'll keep you posted on more health care reform news right here on the FSAstore.com blog.