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Enroll Today for 2017 Coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace

The Health Insurance Marketplace is now open for enrollment. If you need to renew your current plan or need new coverage for 2017, now’s the time to take action.

2017 Health Insurance Enrollment Timeline

  • Nov. 1, 2016: Open Enrollment Begins
  • Dec. 15, 2016: Deadline to Enroll in or Change Plans for Coverage Starting Jan. 1, 2017
  • Jan. 31, 2017: Open Enrollment Ends

How to Take Action

If You’re Currently Uninsured

Are you currently uninsured or have you recently lost your health insurance? You may be eligible to apply for commercial health insurance or you may be eligible for Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, BadgerCare Plus.

Most people under age 65 are now required to get health insurance through their employer, through Medicaid or through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

If you do not have insurance, you can find out if you are eligible to enroll in a health insurance plan for the remainder of 2016 by visiting the Health Insurance Marketplace online or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

Learn if you are eligible to participate in BadgerCare Plus here.

If You Want to Enroll in a Plan for 2017

Plans and estimated prices for 2017 coverage are available for review and enrollment on healthcare.gov.

If You Already Have Coverage through the Marketplace

If you have a 2016 plan, get ready to keep or change it for 2017. To help you get ready to apply for or renew your health insurance, download this checklist (PDF).

Learn More

To find detailed information about the Health Insurance Marketplace, including a list of the plans that we participate in, frequently asked questions, and more, visit our Health Insurance Marketplace web page.

7 Reasons Why You Really Do Need a Primary Care Doctor

primary care provider

You’re young (Ok, young-ish) and healthy and have a thousand things to do. So why would you want to complicate your already hectic life with one more thing like finding a primary care doctor and making an appointment?

Believe it or not, research shows that people who have a primary care doctor actually live longer. They are less likely to die from cancer, heart disease, stroke and many other illnesses. The reason is simple: over time, you and your doctor form a relationship. You get to know each other, which leads to better medical care by catching small health problems before they become serious.

Here are six other benefits to building a relationship with a primary care physician:

  1. One-Stop Shopping. A primary care doctor knows how to deal with everything from helping you through a bout with the flu to back pain and digestion issues, to uncovering serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease. They can treat almost anything. If not, they’ll get you to a doctor who can.
  2. Someone Who Knows All About You. Over time, your doctor will get to know you as person, not just your body. You’ll build trust and be able to talk about anything that’s bothering you physically, emotionally and spiritually. That’s important as problems in any of these areas can impact your overall health.
  3. Coordination of Care. Your primary care doctor is the point person who helps you navigate the healthcare jungle. He or she:
    1. helps you find the best specialist if you need one.
    2. knows about all of the medicines and supplements you’re taking and look for possible interactions.
    3. orders the right tests and other diagnostics you need at each stage of your life.
    4. answers any questions you have regarding your care, no matter where you receive it, so you are clear on all of the details
    5. and much more.
  4. Keeps You Healthy. Your primary care doctor isn’t just interested in you when you’re sick. He or she wants to partner with you on a wellness and prevention plan too. Consider your primary care doctor your best source for information on things like weight management, smoking cessation, help with alcohol and drug use, and managing stress and anxiety.
  5. Routine Screenings. Your PCP will do or arrange for screenings such as mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and more. It’s important to note that many serious illnesses are found during routine physicals. We’re talking the top three silent diseases that have no symptoms: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes. When these illnesses are left untreated they can have severe consequences. Also, many early stage cancers have no symptoms. Detecting cancer early gives you an edge for successful treatment and cure.
  6. Time Savings. If you establish yourself with a primary care doctor, it’s easier to get in for an appointment. We offer same or next day appointments for our patients who need to see us right away – helping you to avoid an urgent care visit and higher charge.

So, have we convinced you? Having a primary care physician you trust is one the most important things you can do for a lifetime of good health. Call NurseDirect at 1-800-362-9900 to find a primary care physician near you.

Smokers: Smoking Isn’t Just Dangerous for You

secondhand smoke

When you smoke, it affects those around you, even after you’ve put out your cigarette.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 69 chemicals come off of a burning cigarette. This is called sidestream smoke. Sidestream smoke is the smoke from the lit end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar. Sidestream smoke has a higher concentration of cancer causing agents and is more toxic.

Sidestream (or Second-Hand) Smoke

Sidestream smoke is what you’re inhaling when you’re around someone who smokes. It’s referred to as second-hand smoke and it can be just as dangerous for the nonsmoker. Second-hand smoke can cause cancer, such as lung cancer, and it may be linked to other diseases like heart disease, lymphoma, leukemia, brain tumors, asthma and respiratory diseases.

Third-Hand Smoke

The danger of smoking doesn’t stop there. Third-hand smoke isn’t talked about as often but is more prevalent in our physical environment. Third-hand smoke is the nicotine and other chemicals that can be left on a variety of indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke. These chemicals mix with other toxic household pollutants and can cause cancer.

Third-hand smoke clings to hair, skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, vehicles and other surfaces. When you touch these surfaces, you’re also coming into contact with the hazardous residue left behind from smoking.

Quit Smoking Support

If you’re a smoker, your smoking doesn’t just affect you. Consider quitting for you and for those you love. Here are resources to help:

  • Primary Care Provider – The best way to overcome the physical and psychological addiction to nicotine that makes it difficult for smokers to quit is to talk to your primary care provider. Many resources and programs are available to help improve your chances of quitting successfully.
  • Smoking Cessation Classes & Support Groups – Classes and support groups are available to give you the tools you need to successfully quit and becoming totally tobacco free.
  • Wisconsin Quit Line – A free resources, the 24/7 Quit Line is sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Smoking Is Worse for Women’s Hearts

Smiling woman snapping cigarette in half

Smoking adds an even greater heart disease risk to women than it does to men. Women smokers suffer a greater risk of heart disease than do men, by 25 percent (Huxley and Woodward, 2011).

Women smokers run this greater risk even though they smoke fewer cigarettes on average than male smokers do. Either gender-related sensitivity to toxins or gender differences in smoking behaviors, or both, put women at more risk.

Other research showing greater risks to female non-smokers from second hand smoke (Bolego, 2002) seems to tip the scale in the direction of blaming yet-unidentified differences in male and female physiology.

The Million Women Study conducted in the United Kingdom (Pirie, 2012) showed that even women who consider themselves just “social smokers,” and not regular, pack-a-day users, run substantial risk nevertheless. Even smoking just a few cigarettes a day doubled the risk of heart disease death above that of women who had never smoked.

The same study showed that the earlier a woman started smoking in her life, and the more years she smoked, the greater the excess heart disease risk she ran compared to that of a man. For every year that a woman continued smoking, her risk of developing a heart condition increased at a 2 percent higher rate than that of same-aged men. That’s 2 percent extra risk, added each and every year a woman smokes, beyond the already high risk run by men who smoke.

Thankfully, this massive study underscored the fact that stopping smoking works extraordinarily well at reversing these deadly trends. When women stop all use of tobacco by age 30, they go on to normal life expectancies, avoiding essentially all of the excess mortality that smoking causes. If they do not quit until age 40, they still can avoid more than 90 percent of the excess death risk. But with each passing year beyond that, some risk remains.

Quitting at any point in one’s life helps, and it never becomes too late to achieve benefits from quitting. But beyond 40, women who smoked seemed to come near a “tipping point,” after which some risk will remain the rest of their life. Still, these residual risks pale in comparison to the risk of continued smoking (for example, a 20 percent increased lifetime heart disease risk if a woman quits at age 40 compared to a 200 percent increased risk if she continues).

Once addicted, “knowing better” does not automatically lead to “doing better.” Speak the truth to your daughters, nieces, and any young women in your lives. Let them know that despite tobacco’s false advertising targeting women, this habit places an unfair burden of disease and death on women.


References: 1. Huxley RR, Woodward M, “Cigarette Smoking Is A Risk Factor For Coronary Heart Disease In Women Compared With Men” Lancet 2011 October 8; 378 (9799):1297-305. 2. Pirie K, Peto R, “The 21st Century Hazards Of Smoking And Benefits Of Stopping: A Prospective Study Of 1 Million Women In The United Kingdom,” Lancet 2012 October 26 (12) 61720-6. 3. Huxley RR, Woodward M, “Full Hazards of Smoking and Benefits of Stopping for Women,” (commentary) Lancet 2012 October 27.4. Bolego C, Poli A, Paoletti R. Smoking and gender,” Cardiovascular Research. 2002;53(3):568-576.

Coping with Holiday Depression

depressed woman

The holidays are a time of year when we celebrate all that is hopeful and cheerful. But it can also be a sad or lonely period for those who have experienced loss among family or friends, or a stressful period for those who host or have financial problems.

Factors that can contribute to holiday depression include:

  • Associating the holidays with unresolved family issues or a painful childhood
  • Facing the loss of a loved one with whom you have shared the holidays
  • Having unrealistic expectations of family and friends, and trying to be a “perfect” host
  • Having an expectation that you “should” feel good
  • Being away from family and friends; feeling isolated
  • Reflecting on losses or disappointments over the past year
  • Coping with changes in family obligations, particularly after a recent marriage or divorce
  • Drinking more alcohol, which is often more readily available during the holidays

Some negative emotions around the holiday are normal and should be expected. In fact, it is often good to reflect upon the year past and re-envision new or slightly different paths in moving forward. Normal negative emotions are generally short-term and don’t interfere with functioning.

Rest assured that there are ways to cope with the downsides of the holidays.

Reframing the Holidays

  • Find support. People facing difficult family situations should set aside time to spend with their friends. Spend time with people who care about you.
  • Be around others. Those who feel isolated or alone should take advantage of resources in their community or volunteer their time at a local charity. When we’re focused on others, we get out of our own heads and are present for others.
  • Reflect on the past. Honor and remember loved ones who have passed away.
  • Remember what’s important. Spend some time focusing on family, religious beliefs or traditions.
  • Try something new. Take a vacation with a family member or friend.
  • If you are religious, take time to reflect on the spiritual significance of the holidays.
  • Try to appreciate the good things you have now instead of focusing on the past.
  • Stay active. Get out. Go for a walk. Window shop.

Get help if you need it. Anyone who feels pervasively or severely depressed during the holidays should consider talking to a mental health professional. Our professional therapists and psychiatrists can help.


Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.