Obamacare Insurer Participation Declines 24% in 2017.

The number of health insurers participating in the ‘Affordable’ Care Act exchanges has declined by 24 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.


In 2016, there were 287 insurers who offered insurance on the Obamacare exchanges and in 2017 that number dropped to 218. There were 34 states that saw the number of insurers decline, 15 states have the same amount of insurers from 2016 to 2017 and only one state added an insurer in 2017.

Five states, ALABAMA, ALASKA, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH CAROLINA, and WYOMING, have only one insurer operating on the exchanges, leaving consumers with little choice.    

In one-third of counties in the United States, about one in five enrollees, or 21 percent, have access to only one insurer operating on the exchanges. This is a significant increase from the 2 percent of enrollees in 7 percent of counties that had access to only one insurer last year.

“In 2017, insurance company losses led to a number of high profile exits from the market,” the study explains. “In 2017, 58% of enrollees (living in about 30% of counties) had a choice of three or more insurers, compared to 85% of enrollees (living in about 63% of counties) in 2016.”

As larger commercial insurers such as Aetna and United Healthcare have dropped out of Obamacare, many areas will only have regional insurers to choose from, said Ed Haislmaier, an expert in health care policy at the Heritage Foundation.


“The reality is that the individual market even pre-Obamacare was a very small part of their business,” said Haislmaier. “So those companies have basically dropped out and what that leaves are a couple of companies with broader footprints but not more than about 10 or 12 states.”

“What you’re down to is basically in most cases your dominant Blue Cross plan and then depending on the size and location you may have regional players and by regional it could mean either across two or more states or just within a state,” he said.       

Haislmaier and the Heritage Foundation, who originally created the methodology for this type of study earlier this year, said that the ‘Affordable’ Care Act has left consumers with less competition and choice than ever before.

“One of the stated aims of the ‘Affordable’ Care Act was to increase competition among health insurance companies,” said Haislmaier.

“That goal has not been realized, and by several different measures the ACA’s exchanges offer less competition and choice in 2017 than ever before. Now in the fourth year of operation, the exchanges continue to be far less competitive than the individual health insurance market was before the ACA’s implementation.”

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said that Congress needs to repeal and reform Obamacare without delay. 

“The Obamacare death spiral is continuing,” she said. “As rates rise, healthy people drop out and the share of sick people rise, causing further increases in rates. Since these rates are capped then the insurance business becomes less profitable and companies leave the business.”   


Transgender Teen Wins DMV Lawsuit

Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in South Carolina will now be allowed to take license photos that reflect their everyday appearance, following a settlement announced this morning in a lawsuit filed by transgender teen Chase Culpepper.

The seventeen year old filed the federal lawsuit last September, accusing the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles of sex discrimination and violating her free speech. In the spring of 2014, she arrived at the DMV office in Anderson, S.C. wearing mascara and eye shadow, ready to take her driver’s license photo. She says department officials promptly told her she had to remove the cosmetics before taking the photo because they were a “disguise.” Culpepper, who now identifies as a transgender young woman but used male pronouns at the time, says she often wore makeup and women’s clothing.

Under the terms of the settlement, the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles agreed to change its policy to allow people seeking drivers’ licenses to be photographed as they regularly present themselves, even if their appearance does not match the officials’ expectations of how the applicant should look. The department also promised to send Culpepper a written apology and train its employees in how to treat transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in professional settings. The changes to policy are scheduled to go into effect in May.

The Importance of Trace Minerals Part I (Boron)

Boron is a little known yet essential trace mineral found in food and the environment.  A trace mineral is any mineral that the body requires in small amounts to support numerous functions. It is also available in supplemental form for treatment of specific conditions.  It can be found in abundance in many foods like apples, oranges, red grapes, pears, plums, kiwis, dates, avocado, soybeans and nuts.  Chickpeas, hazel nuts, currants, peanut butter, red kidney beans, tomato, lentils, olive, onion, potato wine, and beer are also notable sources of Boron.  It is required for proper growth and functioning of our body.  Deficiencies are rare because it is found in an abundance of foods.

Boron is helpful in the prevention of arthritis as well as a very effective treatment.  In fact, it gives significant improvement to more than 90 percent of the patients who are given treatments that include ingestion of boron. This is brought about by the effective calcium instillation in the bones and cartilage. Bones weaken and become porous as people age. Boron can help inhibit bone deterioration efficiently.  It can also reduce the allergic reactions caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

Boron has also been found to be effective in cancer therapy since it can capture the agents used for this type of therapy and develop powerful enzyme inhibitors.  It can also be used as an antibody that can identify useful saccharides in the body.  It also helps in estrogen production which is especially helpful to women in the menopausal stage.  It brings back an intense sex drive by increasing levels of natural body hormones, prevents postmenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and postmenopausal related osteoporosis.  It can even substitute for hormone replacement therapy.

Studies have shown that boron has a positive effect on important brain functions such as enhancing various cognitive skills including visual perception, concentration, short memory, eye to hand coordination, fine motor skills and logic.  It helps maintain proper cell membrane functions and stabilizes hormone reception as well.  If you suffer from depression, mental fatigue or memory loss, boron may be beneficial.  While there are many causes of these symptoms, adequate levels of boron are required for healthy mental function.

It has been found to be significantly useful in alleviating symptoms brought on by congestive heart failure as well.  CHF that is typically marked by poor functioning of the heart causes breathing problems, fluid retention in the legs, weight gain and decrease in appetite. Intake of boron through diet or in supplemental form can play a crucial role to improve these symptoms.

It is also important for maintaining healthy bones.  The bone building capacities of boron are often overshadowed by calcium.   Boron works in unison with calcium to strengthen the bones and plays a very important role in minimizing the risks of osteoporosis and arthritis.  Boron helps in the metabolism of minerals that are involved in bone development such as calcium, magnesium and copper

It can also improve circulation of the blood and aids in the removal of toxins and cholesterol from the body.  While it doesn’t get the attention of other mineral’s because it’s needed in small amounts, it’s still essential for healthy body function.

Family Fall Traditions

Fall is here and with it comes cooler temps and the changing colors of the leaves.  It’s a great time of year to introduce your children to seasonal fun they can look forward to every Fall season.  Here are a few family friendly fall activities you can make a tradition with your family.

~Visit your state park or reservation and hike the walking trails.  Pack a picnic lunch and have a fun and educational adventure.   As you explore the trails you can teach your child about nature and why the leaves change.  They can learn and burn off some energy while getting exercise with the family.  Teaching your children to enjoy exercise and learning at a young age can set the stage for healthy and productive habits they form in the future.

~Visit a local apple orchard if there is one in your area and pick your own apples. Many local farms offer special events for children that include hayrides, horse rides, and more.  Once you leave the farm, you can continue the fun by finding recipes to make with your apples.  Making some homemade applesauce or a fresh apple pie keeps the fun going and provides an extra special treat for your family.

~Head to your local pumpkin patch and pick out a few pumpkins.  Many farms have special events for kids with corn mazes, pony rides, petting zoos and other fall festivities.  You can teach your kids how pumpkins grow and then take them home to decorate for fall.

~Scavenger Hunts can be great outdoor fun for kids.  Make a list of things to find like pine cones or yellow leaves and head to the park or back-yard.  Share in the excitement as they find each item and discuss what you could do with these things (like make a craft project).

~Planning a Fall themed craft project at home can be a lot of fun.  Have the kids help rake the leaves in search for the “perfect” ones for their projects.  They’ll get exercise, learn how to be a helper and then get to make a fun craft with their find.  A five minute internet search will provide you with ideas and afterwards you can have fun decorating the house with the new decorations together.

~October is National Cookie Month and the only thing children like more than eating cookies is making them!  This can become a wonderful family tradition and you can choose a different cookie recipe to make each year or a special one that you only make this time of year.

~Camping out whether it’s in your backyard or in the living room, can be a fun event for the whole family.  Shut off the TV’s or ipads, grab some flashlights and take turns telling spooky stories.  Kids have wonderful imaginations so it’s great to see what they come up with and encourage them to be creative.

~Have a bonfire or light up the fire pit.  You can make s’mores or roast some hotdogs on sticks while enjoying some family time outside.

Parents are tasked with the tough job of helping to encourage and shape people into who they will become as adults.  Spending family time with your kids will help them have self-confidence as well as strengthen the family bond.  Whether you are on a budget or not, it doesn’t matter what you make together, what matters is the time spent together and the memories made.

Exploring Vascular Diseases Part II (Aneurysms)

Vascular disease is any condition that affects the circulatory system and ranges from diseases of your arteries, veins, and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation.  With every beat of our hearts, oxygen rich blood is pumped through blood vessels called the circulatory system to every part of the body.  Arteries carry blood away from the heart to the rest of our body while veins return it.  When any part of the circulatory system is weakened by disease, there is a loss or shortage of blood flow to various parts of the body which can lead to anything from pain in the legs to aneurysms or loss of limbs.  Seventy percent of all amputations are not due to diabetes or trauma but because of some form of vascular disease.  We’re going to explore the numerous conditions that fall under the category of vascular diseases, the effects, and causes and how to avoid or treat them.

An aneurysm can occur in the blood vessels of the heart (aortic) or the brain (cerebral) and is an abnormal bulge in the wall of a blood vessel.  They usually develop at branching points of arteries and are caused by constant pressure from blood flow. They often enlarge slowly and become weaker as they grow, just as a balloon becomes weaker as it stretches.  There are two types of aortic aneurysms; a thoracic aortic aneurysm (part of aorta in the chest) and an abdominal aortic aneurysm.  Aortic aneurysms most commonly occur in the aorta -the main blood vessel is leaving the heart.  Small aneurysms lead to an increased risk for atherosclerotic plaque (fat and calcium deposits) at the site of the aneurysm, an increase in the aneurysm size which will cause it to painfully press on other organs, a blood clot may form at the site and dislodge leading to stroke or heart attack and an aneurysm rupture; because the artery wall thins and is fragile at the site of an aneurysm and may burst under stress which can also be life threatening.  They may run in families, but people are rarely born with a predisposition for aneurysms.  They usually develop after the age of forty.

It is difficult to detect an aneurysm early since smaller aneurysms usually don’t have symptoms and smaller ones don’t generally pose a threat.  When an aneurysm grows and ruptures- it can become fatal.  Aortic aneurysms are more common in men and those over the age of 65.  They were the primary cause of 10,597 deaths in 2009.  Aortic aneurysms often cause no symptoms at all but if present, symptoms are a tearing pain in chest, abdomen, and/or middle of the back between the shoulder blades.  Thoracic aneurysms may cause shortness of breath, hoarseness, cough (due to pressure on the lungs and airways), and difficulty swallowing (pressure on the esophagus).  Rupture of an aneurysm can cause loss of consciousness, stroke, shock, or a heart attack.

Risk factors for aortic aneurysms include atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), high blood pressure, stress, excessive weight, local injury to the artery, smoking, aging and untreated syphilis.  Some congenital abnormalities can cause aortic aneurysms such as Marfan syndrome or bicuspid aortic valves which are present at birth and can cause weakness of the artery walls.

An estimated 6 million (1 in 50) people in the United States have an unruptured brain aneurysm.  The annual rate of rupture is approximately 8 – 10 per 100,000 people or about 30,000 people in the United States.  There is a brain aneurysm rupturing every 18 minutes in the U.S.   Brain aneurysms are more common in women.  Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 40% of cases.  Of those who survive, about 66% suffer some permanent neurological deficit.

A brain aneurysm is usually located along the major arteries deep within brain structures.  Some aneurysms are due to infections, drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine that damage the brain’s blood vessels, or direct brain trauma from an accident.  They may be associated with other types of blood vessel disorders, such as fibromuscular dysplasia, cerebral arteritis or arterial dissection, but these are very unusual. As an aneurysm enlarges, it can produce headaches or localized pain. As it grows larger, it may produce pressure on the normal brain tissue or adjacent nerves.  This pressure can cause difficulty with vision, numbness or weakness of an arm or leg, difficulty with memory or speech and seizures.

Risk factors of developing a brain aneurysm include older age, high blood pressure, smoking, arteriosclerosis, drug abuse, particularly the use of cocaine or methamphetamines, stress, head injury, heavy alcohol consumption, certain blood infections and lower estrogen levels after menopause.

As with most diseases of the human body, eliminating risk factors will cut your chances of such diseases developing.  While you can’t control all risk factors for an aneurysm; lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, avoiding drug and heavy alcohol use and controlling high blood pressure will cut your risk.

Other ways to help prevent an aneurysm include maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise.  Many foods contain vitamins and minerals that help keep us healthy and control stress.  Choose a diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and non-meat protein sources. Avoid excess fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. Eat smaller portions and consider eating several smaller meals throughout the day, rather than two or three big ones.  Maintaining good cardio health and doing some light strength training to maintain a healthy body weight.  Exercising at least 30 minutes every day will help you avoid an aneurysm or prevent one from rupturing.  Regular exercise is also a great stress reliever.

If you experience any symptoms of an aneurysm, seek medical care immediately.  If you have a family history of aneurysms, discuss regular screening with your doctor.

Dangers Of Vitamin Or Mineral Overdose Part I

Most people don’t realize there’s no real advantage to taking more than the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals and many don’t recognize there may be disadvantages. While the general theme of our blogs are about eating healthy and the vitamin and mineral content of specific foods, sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad for our health. Routinely getting an overload of vitamins and minerals can hurt you. It is very hard to overdo it from diet alone and rare when combining a healthy diet with a standard multivitamin but is not uncommon if you combine the one or both with other supplements. Let’s explore what is too much of some vitamins and minerals and why.

Vitamin C cannot be stored in our bodies so it’s rare to overdo it on this one but getting more than 2000 mg a day can be harmful. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is 60 mg but too much on a regular basis can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, heartburn, headache, insomnia and kidney stones.

Iron can be stored and when consistently getting too much, it builds up in our organs causing severe medical conditions. The RDA for iron varies somewhat depending on age and whether you are pregnant but for most its 18 mg. Getting over 45 mg a day is very harmful to your health and can even cause death unless you suffer from anemia. The side effects come in stages and begin with irritability, lethargy, explosive abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting, which can sometimes contain blood. Late stage side effects consist of seizures, a decrease in blood sugar levels, fever and liver damage. Symptoms of liver damage can include bleeding and jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and white portion of the eyes. Too much iron may also cause scaring in the stomach and intestines, which can lead to a blockage in the digestive tract. Death usually occurs because of a buildup of iron in the heart, liver and endocrine glands, such as the pancreas.

Zinc is not stored in the body and the RDA for adults is between 8-11 mg. Too much can cause digestive upset, including diarrhea and abdominal pain. Very large doses of zinc — 225 milligrams in a single dose can also cause you to vomit. Too much zinc also interferes with your body’s ability to absorb copper from your diet and some antibiotic medications. If you take zinc supplements in the form of nasal spray, you might experience other side effects. High doses of nasal zinc can affect the nerves in your nose, causing anosmia — a loss of your sense of smell.

Vitamin A can be stored in the body making it easier to overdo it when you have some in reserves for when your body needs it. The RDA is between 700-900 micrograms or 2,300-3,000 IU. When too much is taken you can become sick and skin yellowing can occur. Children are more sensitive to an overdose and too much taken while pregnant can cause severe birth defects.

Selenium is stored in the body and the RDA is 55 micrograms. It is not recommended to take more than 200 micrograms daily. An overdose of selenium may cause bad breath, fever, nausea, and liver, kidney and heart problems. It also greatly increases your risk of skin cancer and diabetes. At high enough levels, selenium could cause death.

While a healthy, balanced diet and daily multivitamin is recommended, it’s important to know the risks of taking vitamin and mi

Health Benefits of Raspberries

Berries of all kinds are a great and healthy snack that boasts amazing healthy benefits. Rasberries, a smaller and sometimes overlooked part of the berry family-offer their sweet taste and are antioxidant powerhouses.

The antioxidants in raspberries help protect us against free radical damage which causes cancer and other age related diseases. The human body naturally produces free radicals and the antioxidants to counteract their damaging effects. In most cases, free radicals far outnumber the naturally occurring antioxidants. A continual supply of external sources of antioxidants is necessary in order to maintain the balance and obtain the maximum benefits of antioxidants. Antioxidants benefit the body by neutralizing and removing the free radicals from the bloodstream.
They also contain high amounts of phytonutrients which help control the dangers of excessive inflammation. By helping to scavenge free radical molecules and regulating the activity of enzymes that could trigger unwanted inflammation, the phytonutrients in raspberries help lower our risk of chronic diseases that are associated with chronic oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. These chronic diseases include obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerosis.

Raspberries are also rich in dietary fiber. Fiber helps control blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol, helps with weight management, keeps our digestive system running smoothly, promotes a healthy cardiovascular system, lowers our stroke risk and keeps skin healthy.

The vitamin A in raspberries helps lower stroke risk and is key for good vision, a healthy immune system, cell growth, healthy skin, maintaining strong bones and healthy mucous membranes. It also plays a direct role in performing physiological functions and helps in the development of the central nervous system. It is also needed in the formation of sperm cells and the regulation of hemoglobin production in the embryo.

The vitamin e in raspberries helps speed up wound healing, maintaining healthy skin, maintaining a healthy immune system, thinning the blood and helps prevent eye disorders such as cataracts, neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.

They also contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells.

Iron helps with carrying life-giving oxygen to human blood cells. Magnesium is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, helps with transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.

Now you know that these amazing little berries pack a healthful punch in such a small package. With the amount of vitamins and nutrients they provide-they are worth adding to everyone’s regular diet!