Eye on YHI Newsletter – March 2023

Published by Your Health Idaho on

In this edition we discuss the Family Glitch and whether you’ve been affected, the dangers of sitting, important tax information, it’s not too late to sign up for vision insurance, the teen mental health crisis, Your Health Idaho celebrating 10 years, the end of the Public Health Emergency and what it means for you, and the powers of positive thinking!

We’re Celebrating!
On March 28, Your Health Idaho celebrated 10 years as Idaho’s state-based health insurance marketplace. In that decade, we’ve  grown from four employees to 70, provided access to affordable health insurance to 373,642 Idahoans, provided $2.9 billion in Advance Premium Tax Credits to help you lower your monthly premiums, and saved Idahoans almost $43 million in assessment fees. It’s been our pleasure serving Idahoans across the state and helping you find affordable, comprehensive health insurance coverage. We look forward to many more years to come!

The End of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Effective May 11, 2023, the administration has declared an end to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Below is a brief outline of what this means for you:

  • Most forms of private health insurance must continue to cover COVID-19 vaccines furnished by an in-network health care provider. Consumers may need to pay part of the cost if an out-of-network provider is used.
  • Mandatory coverage for over-the-counter and laboratory-based COVID-19 tests will end. If private insurance chooses to cover these services, there may be cost sharing or prior authorization required.
  • Coverage for treatment of COVID-19 will not change.

Please work with your insurance carrier and your provider to determine the cost for COVID-related services you may need.

Are You Affected by the Family Glitch?
Has your family been unable to afford your employer’s family health plan? It’s probably due to a “Glitch” in the law that calculated employer-based health plan affordability and prevented them from qualifying for a tax credit that would make insurance affordable through Your Health Idaho.

For years, under the Family Glitch, families could only qualify for Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTC) through Your Health Idaho if the cost of their employer-based coverage was unaffordable based on a threshold set by the IRS. Now the Glitch has been fixed.

  • Based on the rule, the affordability determination was based only on the employee cost for their portion of the insurance for themselves. The additional cost for family members was not included in the calculation; and the cost of a family plan is almost always far more expensive than employee-only coverage.
  • These families of employees fell into the Glitch: they would either go uninsured or have to pay for unaffordable employer-based coverage.

Now the Glitch has been fixed. There’s a new rule that states that eligibility for tax credits must take into account the cost of employee coverage and the cost of family coverage independently.

  • Beginning with 2023 health coverage, employees will be able to qualify for a tax credit through Your Health Idaho if their portion of the premium for their job-based health coverage exceeds 9.12% of their annual household income.
  • Now, adding family coverage will also be taken into account as a separate calculation of whether the total cost of the job-based health coverage for the family plan exceeds 9.12% of annual household income

If you’d like more information about the Family Glitch and whether you might qualify for a tax credit, visit our web page, Your Health Idaho and the Family Glitch.

Doing a Double-Take?
Did you opt out of vision insurance during Open Enrollment but now you’re starting to squint when you read, lean in to see your computer screen, or you’re experiencing dry eyes? Don’t worry, you can opt in to vision insurance through Your Health Idaho at any time during the year! You don’t need to have a Qualifying Life Event or a Special Enrollment Period.

Any health plans you have for your children through Your Health Idaho automatically include vision coverage. But most adult health plans don’t include vision benefits. That’s why Your Health Idaho offers vision coverage to Idahoans in partnership with VSP. There are two plans to choose from and hundreds of eye care providers across the state.

To learn more about VSP plans and benefits, call 800-410-1857 or visit the  VSP website.

Have a Seat…or Don’t
You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. They say it’s terrible for your health. But there’s good news. A new study has found that something as simple as a light, five-minute walk every half-hour will reduce the harmful effects of being sedentary all day. Specifically, a five-minute walk reduced blood sugar spikes after eating by almost 60 percent and reduced blood pressure by five points compared to sitting all day. In addition, it reduced feelings of fatigue, and improved mood and energy.

Along with short, frequent walks, a long daily walk could add years to your life.

Throughout industrialized countries, and with the COVID-19 pandemic and remote work, many adults are now spending the majority of their days sitting. It’s become a 21st century public health problem. These new findings give employers notice that may seem counterintuitive, but taking regular walking breaks can actually help workers be more productive than working without stopping.

The authors of the study say they realize there are people who may not be able to walk at regular intervals, like truck or taxi drivers; so they’re now testing more than 25 different strategies for overcoming the effects of sitting all day. They hope to give people different options that offer them the strategies that work best for them and their lifestyles.

In the meantime, every one of the health insurance policies offered through Your Health Idaho covers health and wellness services. Reach out to your carrier to find out what wellness programs they and your employer already offer (including at-your-desk exercise ideas). And keep this mantra in mind: sit less, move more!

Tax Time
Here are a few things to know if you haven’t done your taxes yet – the due date to file your federal and state tax returns and pay any balance due is Tuesday, April 18, 2023. If you can’t file by then, be sure to request an extension and pay any taxes owed by the April due date. If you request an extension on your 2022 tax return you’ll have until October 16, 2023, to file. If you’re expecting a refund, you electronically file, and you request your refund in a direct deposit, the IRS says you could get your refund in as little as 21 days.

IMPORTANT: If you received an Advance Premium Tax Credit in 2022 to help lower your health insurance premiums, you will have received a Form 1095-A from us. Use the information in this form to fill out Form 8962 which you are required to file with your income taxes. If you have any questions, please get in touch with our Customer Support Center at 855-944-3246 or your tax advisor.

How to Help Teen Girls’ Mental Health Struggles – Six Research-Based Strategies for Parents, Teachers and Friends

This article is adapted from the original, published February 23, 2023, by Elizabeth Englander, Professor of Psychology, and Meghan K. McCoy, Adjunct Faculty in Psychology, Bridgewater State University.

It’s a well-established fact that children’s and teens’ mental health took a hit during the pandemic. But teen girls in particular are suffering in unprecedented ways.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, in 2021, 57% of high school girls reported experiencing “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year,” up from 36% in 2011. That’s nearly twice as high as the 29% of boys who reported having those feelings in 2021. What’s worse, 30% of the girls reported seriously considering suicide and 13% attempted suicide one or more times in 2021.

A number of key factors have converged to create this mental health crisis in teen girls.

A Perfect Storm of Factors
Previous CDC research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected girls. And in a 2021 study our team conducted with 240 teens, 70% of girls said that they “very much” missed seeing people during the pandemic, compared with only 28% of boys reporting that sentiment.

A second factor, social media, can be a wonderful source of support but also, at times, a crushing blow to the self-esteem and psychological well-being of girls.

Finally, young people are struggling with issues like climate change and social upheaval that aren’t just abstractions and teens are neither indifferent to nor unaware of these political realities.

So how can parents, teachers and friends help girls through this crisis? Here are six strategies that research shows can work:

  1. More emphasis on social support
    Social and emotional connectivity between humans is one of the most potent weapons we have against stress and sadness. Support from parents and friends can help lessen the link between extreme adolescent anxiety and suicidal thoughts. In one study of teens, social support was linked to greater resilience – such as being better able to withstand certain types of social cruelty like bullying.
  2. Supporting one another instead of competing
    Research has found that social media encourages competition between girls, particularly around their physical appearance. Teaching girls at young ages to be cheerleaders for one another – and modeling that behavior as grownups – can help ease the sense of competition that today’s teens are facing.
  3. Showcasing achievements
    Adults can play a key role in encouraging girls to value qualities other than appearance, such as their artistic, scientific, or athletic abilities or intelligence. Childhood can be a canvas for children to discover where their talents lie, which can be a source of great satisfaction in life.
  4. Empowering women
    Teaching the history of women’s movements and other steps toward equality, such as the women’s right to vote, is key to empowering girls to value themselves and the roles they play in society. Women played central roles during World War II, led social movements, and fought for people’s rights. They have been renowned scientists, writers, artists and experts in virtually every profession you can name.
  5. An honest look at social media
    Social media represents a unique form of human interaction that has taken on an outsize role in the lives of teens. This is magnified for teenage girls, for whom every social media interaction may feel consequential and potentially cataclysmic. Adults can help girls by discussing with them how social media influences their feelings, their self-perceptions, and even their body image.
  6. Teaching kids to recognize their feelings
    Learning to recognize and label feelings doesn’t come easily for many people. But kids can learn to help themselves when they’re experiencing anxiety or depression. They can learn to appreciate how hugging their dog, playing a board game, or talking with their parent(s) can help reduce anxiety.

It’s worth noting that everything discussed here can also be helpful for boys, who are by no means immune to mental health problems. It’s important too, to remember that every health policy offered through Your Health Idaho covers mental health services. So if you know a teen girl or boy you think needs help, call your carrier or your health care provider to find out how you can get help.

Important: If it’s an emergency, don’t wait! Dial 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline right here in Idaho for 24/7 service. It’s a toll-free, confidential hotline for anyone in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

The Power of Positive Thinking
Researchers over more than 100 years have consistently found that having a positive outlook on aging has a positive impact on living a long life! A team from Brigham Young University wanted to study whether staying optimistic about aging could be beneficial to your health. They looked at results from 148 studies dating back to 1900 that investigated whether good social relationships have a positive impact on living a long life. What they found from the almost 309,000 participants was that a satisfying social life was as beneficial for long-term survival as quitting smoking and may be even more crucial than exercise and overcoming obesity.

In an article in National Geographic, the researchers suggested that social connections may create “stress buffering,” that helps us cope with hardships in our lives which, in turn,  eases the flow of stress-induced hormones that weaken our immune systems and increase susceptibility to infections, heart disease, and stroke.

Another researcher from Yale University, has published numerous studies demonstrating that what we think of old age has a powerful influence on how well, or how badly, we do as we age.

She found that young adults who had positive notions about old age – equating it with wisdom, for  instance – were more likely to be in good health decades later, performing tasks like shoveling snow and walking, than their peers. She also found positive perceptions offered protection against cognitive decline. Perhaps most interesting, she discovered that people with the brightest outlooks on aging lived an average seven and a half years longer than those with the gloomiest outlooks. These are the people who tend to eat well, exercise, take prescribed medications, and they have lower levels of the hormone cortisol that causes stress.

What she personally took away from her work was the notion that aging isn’t a disease to be cured but that the science of longevity offers prospects for discoveries that will benefit us all as we age.

Contact your insurance carrier or your provider to see what wellness programs, mental health, and preventive screenings they offer to make sure you stay healthy and positive!

Categories: Blog