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We’ve known about the catastrophic health affects cigarettes have on our bodies for years, and with older generations passing well before their time due to decades of smoking, even more attention is being paid to Big Tobacco. 

 

U.S. regulators have now officially mandated that cigarette makers add graphic warning labels to their packages, the most significant change to warning labels in 25 years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Images of a man smoking through a hole in his neck and other scare-tactic graphics will occupy the entire top half of the pack of cigarettes, with messages like, “Smoking can kill you.” 

The mandate will go into effect in October 2012. But where there’s a billion dollar industry, there’s litigation. In 2009, Big Tobacco sued the FDA, arguing that the “graphic-labeling rule and other marketing provisions in the federal tobacco law violate tobacco companies’ constitutional rights to free speech,” WSJ reports. Although the judge ruled mostly in the FDA’s favor, the mixed verdict invited appeals from both sides. 

Spokesmen for domestic and international cigarette makers are predictably planning to fight back, mostly citing the goal of the images to evoke negative mental reactions instead of providing objective, factual health information. Regulators “project the U.S. will have 213,000 fewer smokers in the first year after the new labels are introduced,” WSJ reports. 

As the battle between free speech (in this case, deceptive marketing) and government health concerns rages on, we remain hopeful spectators that the number of smokers will decrease in the future, by whatever means possible. 

Whether or not you’re a smoker, regular physicals are the best plan for maintaining optimal health. Having quality individual health insurance can help to ease the financial burden of doctor visits during challenging economical times. MHG Insurance Brokers also offers group health insurance, life insurance, disability income protection and even commercial insurance. For more information, contact us at the location nearest you.

FDA Mandates New Graphic Labels on Cigarette Packages

In a victory for the Obama administration, the 6th U.S. Circuit of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, “upheld a key provision in the health care reform law that will require most U.S. residents to enroll in a qualified plan or pay a fine,” this past Wednesday, reports Business Insurance

 

Experts expect the issue to be examined by the Supreme Court either later this year or next year, around the time when President Barack Obama will seek re-election. The proposed provision, which aims to extend coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans, will require U.S. residents to enroll in a health insurance plan beginning in 2014 or face a fine. 

Opposition is implied, as Republicans have sought to have the law repealed in Congress, state legislatures and federal courts. In addition, two federal judges have ruled the law unconstitutional and The Thomas More Law Center in Michigan previously argued that Congress could not regulate how U.S. residents pay for health care or insurance. However, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that the law was legal and the group repealed. 

The implications of the insurance mandate spell trouble for health insurers, hospitals, drugmakers and device companies. As government explores different avenues in which to improve the current health care crisis, millions of Americans continue to search for affordable health care services.

MHG Insurance Brokers employs passionate and knowledgeable insurance experts who provide sound advice on the most appropriate health insurance plan for individuals and families according to their unique financial situation.  Contact us today at the location nearest you for more information.

U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Health Care Reform Mandate

Buying individual healthcare insurance can be a stressful experience for anyone who has always been covered by their employer’s group plan. The following is a guideline that you can use to find the best insurance plan to cover yourself and your family. 

 

The 3 areas to focus on are 1) Affordability 2) Quality of coverage and 3) Strength of the insurance carrier. 

Company- Your health insurance carrier should be stable and have a good record of paying claims. 

Coverage – The health coverage must meet your needs. It should cover doctors, hospitals, labs plus drugs. It should also have physicians and hospitals in their networks that are near your home or place of work. 

Price – Your health plan must be priced competitively relative to the benefits provided. 

The basic process to use is to: 

Determine which individual or family medical companies are worthy of being considered. 

Determine which insurance plans offered by those companies offer proper coverage for you. 

Determine which insurance plans have the lowest overall cost relative to the health insurance coverages provided. 

A private insurance provider should have good financial ratings and be in good standing with your state’s insurance department. You may also want to do a search for complaints. Every insurance company has some complaints just by virtue of the volume of clients they have. However, a red flag should go up in your mind when there are too many complaints. This is especially true when the insurance company in question is small. 

One more issue to look at is how much they pay in benefits as a percentage of the premium they take in. 

Benefits – What does your medical plan cover? There are two aspects of coverage.1) Is the treatments that are paid for by the plan? 2) Is the network’s list of doctors that the insurance policy includes. 

Covered Healthcare Procedures: Your policy should cover you well and the hospital and should have a good lifetime maximum benefit.You should read through your insurance plan’s outline of coverage or official brochure to see how doctors, hospitals and prescriptions are covered. Most, if not all, insurance plans will have a list of treatments and services that are not covered. Most of the excluded or limited items in this section are reasonable and are included in the plans of most carriers. Plans typically will not cover plastic surgery, for example. There are are often exclusions that you may discover in one company’s plan but not in another plan. 

Coverage for preexisting conditions is one example of this. Most plans will not cover the costs of a normal pregnancy. The ones that do will usually be more expensive when compared to otherwise similar plans that do not cover pregnancy. The exclusions and limitations section of your policy or its outline of coverage should be read carefully before you make your decision. 

Insurance Networks: Knowing which physicians and hospitals are in your medical insurance carrier’s network is an issue to address. You might be able to find a list of doctors who accept a given insurance plan by calling your insurance broker.

Price – Finding the best affordable health care coverage. It’s easy to compare personal health insurance costs, but it is much harder to be certain you’re getting good value for your money. Selecting which policy is best for you; Not until you have crossed the plans on your list that have bad coverage and/or a lousy list of doctors should you start comparing the prices of the plans. 

The best health insurance coverage, may not be the best plan for you. Make sure that any plan you purchase will cover your health care needs well and fits your budget. Many continue to search for affordable health care services.

MHG Insurance Brokers employs passionate and knowledgeable insurance experts who provide sound advice on the most appropriatehealth insurance plan for individuals and families according to their unique financial situation. Let MHG Insurance Brokers help you find the best individual or group health insurance policy for you, your family and/or your business. Contact us today to find out more about group and individual health insurance

Guide to Understanding and Buying Individual Health Insurance

Healthcare reform continues to make headlines, as new mandates make their way to the Supreme Court. Although the Affordable Care Act became law on March 23rd of 2010, it is still waiting to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the Obama administration said that the review is slated to happen either late this year or early in 2012, just in time to influence voters in the next presidential election. 

 

The Justice Department has announced that it is petitioning the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the requirement for American adults to obtain health insurance starting in 2014 is unconstitutional. Various appeals panels have issued contradictory rulings on the mandate, while two threw out lawsuits brought by the attorney general of Virginia and a group of New Jersey doctors on procedural grounds. 

The most controversial mandate has the 11th Circuit and the public alike concerned: “If the federal government has the power to require the public to buy coverage from private insurers, where does its power over the citizenry end?” asked Jon Healey for the LA Times. Luckily for “Obamacare” supporters, there are several answers to this question; however, “The bad news is that none of them is likely to make the law more palatable to the public.” 

Since everyone is an existing consumer of healthcare and the Supreme Court recognizes it as a form of interstate commerce that Congress can regulate, it is clear that critics of the measure are taking it out of context. “The individual mandate simply regulates how people pay for what they buy.” Essentially, this means that people who get sick must cover their costs, instead of forcing someone else to pay the tab. 

In addition, the mandate requires insurers to offer coverage to everyone, regardless of any pre-existing conditions. “If you can't bar insurers from discriminating against those with preexisting conditions, millions of Americans won't be able to buy coverage.” If citizens are not required to carry insurance, most will wait until they get sick to secure coverage, “triggering a vicious cycle of cost increases.” 

The final answer lies with the perceived power of the federal government. Historically, lawmakers have made conservative decisions regarding healthcare due to fear of voter backlash. The problem can be boiled down to the divisive subject of how big the government should be, and how much power it should be permitted to exercise – “That's why the administration needs to come up with not just a good legal answer to the question about the limits of government power, but also an answer that makes sense on Main Street.” 

As we wait and see what happens with healthcare reform, MHG Insurance Brokers is here to keep you informed and up to date on any new developments.  As an insurance broker, MHG provides health insurance plans to meet the needs of individuals and groups from all financial backgrounds. MHG also offers yacht crew insurance, international medical insurance, disability insurance ,long term care, life insurance and business insurance. Our staff applies years of industry knowledge to find the best plan for each individual client, and is always a phone call or email away to answer any questions. For more information, contact MHG today.

Healthcare Reform: Will Fight Over “Obamacare” Come to an End?

The only constant in life is change. You’ve heard it and are intimately familiar with the dynamic quality of life. Whether you’re starting a family, going on a trip to a foreign country or moving to a new city, life’s milestones can also put you at risk of being underinsured. 

 

Although insurance can be confusing and overwhelming, it’s important not to dismiss the responsibility of understanding your coverage and when and why you need it. Instead of tackling this task on your own, the best way to ensure that your insurance coverage is keeping up with the events in your life is through periodic reviews with your insurance provider. Adequate coverage is essential to your financial security, and without it, you could be unwittingly putting your hard-earned money at risk. 

MHG clients are fortunate to have access to knowledgeable insurance representatives to help translate the convoluted to comprehensible, helping to make sure that the things that matter most are protected. Our reps offer round-the-clock support – whether you’re curious about the benefits of life insurance, are wondering whether or not you need commercial insurance or need to understand your health insurance co-pay policy, MHG is always just a phone call or email away. 

All MHG clients receive this free service from our experienced, credentialed professionals. We are committed to helping you map out your financial future as a full-service insurance provider

Remember, MHG’s 24/7 service comes free of charge, but the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you took the time and action to protect your family and belongings is invaluable. MHG Insurance Brokers has set up phone numbers around the world for your convenience. We welcome you to call us any time to learn more.  

The Right Amount of Coverage for Every Stage of Life

You need to plan for everything, not just the fun portion of your vacation. For many, the idea of a cruise may be the ultimate in luxury. Like any trip though, things can go wrong, so travel insurance is a sensible precaution. 

 

When you travel abroad, you are unlikely to be entitled to the same medical coverage as in the United States. Even with a European Health Insurance Card, you will typically only be entitled to the same care as the locals receive. If your cruise takes you outside of the EU, you may have to prove that you can pay for required medical treatment in advance of receiving it.  

One of the main benefits of cruise insurance and travel insurance in general, is that it can often provide you coverage for emergency medical expenses which may include transfers to hospital and even repatriation, if so advised by the medical staff. You may also appreciate travel insurance that can provide financial help if: 

• you lose your travelers checks or money you had on hand for your trip

• your baggage is lost or stolen

• you have to cancel or cut short your cruise because of the death or illness of a family member

• compensation for travel delays or missed connections

• circumstances happen just before you are due to set off on your cruise and decide that, in the circumstances, canceling you cruise is the only option. 

It may make sense to check the small print to ensure that you understand what your cover includes, as not all will offer the same policy features and benefits. Knowing that you have taken all the precautions you can to ensure the success of your cruise by taking out travel insurance may mean that you can concentrate on looking forward to, rather than worrying about, your upcoming trip. 

MHG Insurance Brokers employs passionate and knowledgeable insurance experts who provide sound advice on the most appropriate health insurance plan for individuals and families according to their unique financial situation. LetMHG Insurance Brokers help you find the best individual or group health insurance policy for you, your family and/or your business. Contact us today to find out more about group and individual health insurance.

Before You Set Sail On Your Cruise...

Getting vaccinated may be the last thing on your mind when heading off on vacation, but it’s important — whether you are traveling to an exotic destination or not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory recently, pointing out that the United States is currently experiencing the highest number of  measles cases in over 15 years, many of which were acquired overseas. 

 

As of June, 156 confirmed cases of measles had been reported to the center this year; 136 of them involved unvaccinated Americans who had recently traveled abroad, unvaccinated visitors to the United States and people who didn’t travel but may have caught the disease from those who did. The advisory, which encourages travelers planning trips abroad to make sure they have had the M.M.R. (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine before they leave, illustrates that it isn’t just far-flung places that are a source of concern — outbreaks are occurring in places like France, Britain, Spain and Switzerland. 

Those who run travel clinics are very used to seeing people going to developing countries or tropical countries getting the relevant shots. But nobody thinks about it when they go to Europe. The thinking is similar for other popular destinations, including Mexico and parts of Central America. There’s not a perception that you need to go and get a bunch of shots if you’re going to Cancun. But in fact, you should consider being vaccinated for certain food- and water-borne diseases like Hepatitis A— one of the most common vaccine-preventable infections acquired during travel — which is prevalent in Mexico and other destinations in Latin America. International travel was the most frequently identified risk factor for hepatitis A among United States cases for which exposure information was collected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As in previous years, most of those travel-related cases (85 percent) were associated with travel to Mexico, Central America or South America. 

Though many people recover from hepatitis A within a few weeks, in some cases the symptoms — fatigue, nausea, diarrhea and jaundice can last two months or longer. As a general rule, travelers should be up to date on routine immunizations no matter where they are going and what they are doing.  As for measles, the highly contagious disease has always been a risk for travelers in the developing world, experts say. But the increase in cases in the United States and large outbreaks occurring in Europe are recent issues, stemming in part from fears of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children because they believe immunizations cause illnesses, particularly autism, even though studies have found no reputable evidence to support such a claim. 

Before any international travel, infants 6 months through 11 months of age should have at least one dose of measles vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children 12 months or older should have two doses separated by at least 28 days — whether traveling or not. And adults should review their vaccination records to ensure they’re up to date. But be sure to consult a travel medicine expert, ideally four to six weeks before your trip, for a complete assessment. 

A good doctor who specializes in travel medicine will go through your entire itinerary carefully, and consider everything from the regions you will be visiting , your travel style, and the time of year, which can influence exposure to mosquitoes, to determine if the recommended vaccines or prevention measures are really necessary for your vacation. Many countries require an “international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis” signed by a medical provider for the yellow fever vaccine from travelers coming from an infected area. To be sure, travel vaccines aren’t cheap. But as long as you aren’t paying for unnecessary immunizations, the shots are worth it. 

Bottom line, vaccines are  just as important as your insurance policy. MHG Insurance Brokers employs passionate and knowledgeable insurance experts who provide sound advice on the most appropriate health insurance plan for individuals and families according to their unique financial situation. Let MHG Insurance Brokers help you find the best individual or group health insurance policy for you, your family and/or your business. Contact us today to find out more about group and individual health insurance.

Planning a Vacation? Be Sure To Plan Your Vaccinations Along With Travel Insurance

The summer season is officially underway, and whether you live in sunny South Florida or not, things are starting to heat up all over the globe. Warmer weather means more time spent in outdoor activities, as well as swimming and poolside lounging. Although we all generally welcome a bronzy summer glow, the consequences of spending too much time in the sun have been well documented. 

 

Sunscreen products have recently undergone FDA scrutiny after 30 years of overstated claims to consumers. So what do these new regulations entail? We’ll explain below, along with some publicized criticism by prominent health advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The Food and Drug Administration has deliberated for decades with intentions "to help eliminate misleading claims about sun protection factors, water resistance, and cancer and wrinkle prevention," as CBS News reported on Tuesday. 

While the FDA's actions have helped to limit misleading claims made by sunscreen companies, EWG representatives note that the new rules include a weak standard for protection from UVA rays. Currently, the term “SPF” applied solely to a product’s ability to block UVB rays, the main cause of sunburns; but UVA rays contribute to skin cancer and premature aging. 

The new rules will establish a standard for over-the-counter sunscreens that will determine which products can be labeled as “Broad Spectrum,” or, those that provide protection against both UVB and UVA radiation. The CBS article references Dr. David Andrews, a senior scientist with the Washington, D.C.-based group, as saying, "FDA's action offers some noticeable improvements for consumers, such as limiting misleading claims. However, it is clear that FDA caved to industry and weakened its safety standards." 

For more information on the new regulations, as well as feedback from the EWG, read Fast Company’s detailed article here. Summer weather invites us to enjoy the great outdoors with warm weather and lazy days in the sun, but it’s always important to wear sunscreen, and to be well informed about new regulations that shine a light on long-standing misleading claims. 

Skin cancer is an ever growing concern, with melanoma rates growing by nearly half from 1992 to 2004 in the U.S. alone. If you have any suspicions, it is important to schedule an appointment with your physician. Having quality health insurance is more important than ever before in the current economical landscape. 

Let MHG Insurance Brokers help you find the best individual or group health insurance policy for you, your family and/or your business. Contact us today at the location nearest you to find out more about group and individual health insurance today.

Health Watchdog Group Shines Harsh Light on New FDA Sunscreen Regulations