# Tuesday, June 26, 2007
                 

Extreme Heat And Your Health

While most Canadians enjoy the hot summer weather, extreme heat can prove to be a problem for some. With global climate changes, certain parts of Canada are now experiencing prolonged heat waves. This, combined with exposure to smog, can cause adverse health effects in some people.

Being active outdoors is a great way to get exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, it is important to recognize the effects that extreme heat can cause in order to stay healthy. Your body must work harder in a heat wave in order to maintain it's normal core temperature. Smog can further complicate matters by making it harder to breathe normally. While some people may experience mild unpleasantness, others may be potentially suffer serious and/or life threatening illness.

A heat wave refers to three or more consecutive days with extremely high temperatures, usually combined with high humidity. It is also common for the temperature to remain high even during night time hours. This means that your body is constantly working overtime to keep cool. This pressure can aggravate pre-consisting conditions where the heart and lungs are already strained.

While most people may just experience discomfort in a heat wave, certain groups are more at risk. This includes:

• Seniors
• Infants and pre-school children
• Pregnant women
• Diabetics
• People with heart and/or respiratory disease
• People who play sports, exercise or do strenuous work outdoors for a prolonged period of time
• People who work outdoors, i.e. construction workers
• People who are currently taking anti-depressants, anti-parkinson's drugs, diuretics, sleep medications, anti-diarrhea pills and certain antihistamines
• People who are overweight

Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can cause symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. These include:

• Heat Cramps: painful spasms usually in the leg and stomach muscles. These are usually accompanied by heavy sweating. If you are experiencing this, move to a cooler place and lightly massage the affected muscles. Sip a half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes.
• Heat Exhaustion: even though sweating profusely, your skin is cool, pale, and/or flushed. Can be accompanied by a weak pulse rate, dizziness and/or fainting, vomiting, headache and exhaustion. People affected by heat exhaustion should immediately lay down in a cool place, and put on cool wet clothes. Slowly sip a glass of water every half an hour, unless nauseous. If vomiting occurs, seek medical attention immediately.
• Heat Stroke: also known as sun stroke. This occurs when body temperature is high, pulse is strong and rapid, and breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Heat stroke is incredibly dangerous, and can result in death. Symptoms include severe headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and the skin is red, hot and dry, with no sweating. If you suspect you or someone else may be suffering from heat stroke go to the hospital immediately.

It is a good idea to pay attention to daily local forecasts, in order to be aware of any heat and/or smog alerts for your region. If you are susceptible to extreme heat and/or smog, try to remain indoors on those days where extreme heat is predicted. If you do plan on being outdoors on incredibly hot days, try to do so either in the mornings or evenings, when the temperature is not as hot. Dress in loose clothes, and make sure you wear a hat, as well as sunglasses. Remember to hydrate often, and bring water with you wherever you go. If you do not have air conditioning, find out if your city or town has cooling centres, where you can escape the heat if the need arises. You can also go to a mall, public library, etc. Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and beverages that contain large amounts of sugar, and these can cause the body to lose more fluid. Drinking sports beverages is also important if you have been sweating, as sweating causes the body to lose salt and minerals.

Although you may not be unduly affected by the heat, make sure that those in your family such as the elderly, etc. are taken care of. For those with small children, it is important to remember that they may not be able to handle the heat as well as you. Plan activities that you can all enjoy while getting some exercise.

posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 11:54:09 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Saturday, June 16, 2007
                 
Visioncare for Seniors

As we get older, it is normal to experience change in our eyesight. With age often comes difficulty reading small print, increased sensitivity to sunlight, difficulty seeing colors and contrasts, and loss of depth perception. You may also have physical symptoms such as dry eyes, or watery eyes.

It is important to be aware of these changes, and to have your eyes examined regularly to detect any potential problems early on. With the proper care, most age-related vision loss can be corrected with glasses, medication and/or surgery.

For seniors experiencing more serious vision related conditions, vision aids and/or services and support can allow them to maintain their independence and allow them to remain living in their own homes.

Just some of the vision-related symptoms that seniors often experience include:

  • Squinting, greater sensitivity to light
  • Choosing bright objects over dull colored, because it's easier to see
  • Spilling food or drinks because you misjudge where it is
  • Difficulty copying from written text
  • Clumsiness due to not being able to see what you are doing, i.e. buttoning a shirt
  • Experiencing flashes of light or rapid movement from the corners of your eyes
  • Difficulty with night driving, as well as problems seeing street signs or traffic signs
  • Experiencing uncontrolled eye movements
  • Falling due to not being able to see objects in your path

In addition to normal vision changes due to aging, several diseases or conditions can also affect eyesight. Common illnesses include:

  • Glaucoma: occurs when pressure within the eye begins to destroy the nerve fibres in the retina. Early detection and treatment includes eye drops, medication and/or surgery. Because most people do not experience early symptoms, regular eye exams are imperative in order to prevent vision loss and/or blindness.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: diabetes can cause changes to the blood vessels, starving the retina of oxygen, causing cloudy vision, seeing spots, and blindness. People with diabetes need to make their eye specialist aware of their condition in order to prevent possible blindness. 
  • Cataracts: gradual clouding of the lens of the eye, which prevents light from successfully reaching the retina, making tasks such as driving or reading incredibly difficult and/or impossible. Can be successful treated with surgery.
  • Age-related macular degeneration: occurs when the macula is damaged or impaired due to aging. It can cause permanent loss of central vision. Early detection and laser surgery can vastly slow down vision loss.
  • Floaters: tiny spots that float across your field of vision. While this is normal, and can  be shifted out of your central vision by moving the eye around, it can also be symptomatic of a more serious eye disease. Obtain immediate treatment if there is a sudden change in the amount or type of spots, or if you experience light flashes.

As many seniors will experience some vision related problems at some time in their life, it is important to have coverage that will help cover these expenses. Most of these costs are covered through employee benefits, which normally cease after retirement. HealthQuotes.ca offers a FollowMe health plan, which requires no medical examination if applied for within 60 days of discontinued group insurance. This coverage can help defray the costs of vision related treatment, laser surgery, and/or glasses.

We also offer other guaranteed issue health insurance plans (i.e. no medical exam or questions) for those seniors who have medical issues but have not recently lost employee benefits.

Your vision is essential to your well-being, happiness, and continued independence, so make sure you have the visioncare coverage you need!
    

posted on Saturday, June 16, 2007 1:24:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Friday, May 18, 2007
                 

Canadian Mumps Outbreak

Ontario is the latest province to have reported cases of the mumps. 3 cases have  been reported in Toronto, with 6 other cases being reported in other parts of the province. Toronto health officials have issued a warning, due to the highly contagious nature of this disease. The outbreak originated in Nova Scotia, with over 200 people contracting the virus, which has also spread to New Brunswick, which has 40 reported cases. The cases in Toronto have been directly linked to a student from the Maritimes visiting the city without knowing he was carrying the disease, with 300 people reportedly being exposed to the virus.

This recent outbreak seems to have started with the student population in New Brunswick. 95% of the cases are attributed to university students. Due to the close living quarters, and social settings, i.e. classes, dining halls, etc. the virus has quickly spread. Any students traveling to or from New Brunswick need to aware of their health and any symptoms they might be exhibiting in order to stop the spread of mumps. While the mumps is typically not a serious illness, it can cause meningitis, hearing loss and inflammation of the testicles or ovaries, and inflammation of the pancreas. Pregnant women who contract the mumps are also at risk of miscarriage. For anyone who has a compromised immune system, the mumps can pose a potentially fatal health risk.

While Eastern Canada experienced a mumps outbreak in 2005-2006, Ontario has not been exposed to the mumps in recent years. Therefore, many people may not be aware of the symptoms, and how it is spread. The mumps is a highly contagious virus that is spread through saliva. It is spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, and also through the sharing of food, cigarettes and drinks or contact with any surface that has been contaminated with the virus. Therefore, it is important to not share these items, or any other items that would put you in contact with another person's saliva. The symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and pains, fatigue, loss of appetite and tenderness of the salivary glands. If you are experiencing these symptoms, and suspect you may have been exposed to the mumps virus, it is advised that you self-isolate yourself for a period of 9 days (other than to obtain medical care) in order to stop the spread of the virus.

It is assumed that people approximately of 40 years of age have a natural immunity to the virus. Depending on the province in which you reside, people between 12-17 have already had 2 doses of the mumps vaccine. It is important that you check with your health care provider to see whether or not your children have received both doses of the vaccine in order to prevent them from contracting the mumps virus. For the people that do not fall into these categories, consult with your physician to see if you have been vaccinated, and whether or not you should receive another. For the areas that are experiencing current outbreaks, you may be advised to receive another vaccination, especially students and people who work in the healthcare industry.

posted on Friday, May 18, 2007 11:57:43 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, May 9, 2007
                 

Immunization For Canadians

For most Canadians, vaccinations are something we receive as children, and then forget about. There’s a tendency to mistakenly assume that certain diseases are no longer a risk, as outbreaks rarely, if ever, have occurred in our lifetime. However, travelers can unknowingly bring these diseases into Canada when traveling to countries that have not yet eradicated these diseases. For those who have not been vaccinated, this means that they are at risk of becoming infected and becoming ill. Therefore, being current in your vaccination schedule is extremely important in order to maintain good health and to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

Immunization is not just for infants and children. Adults need to be aware of their current immunization status, as maintenance vaccinations are required for certain illnesses. People in certain occupations, such as health care, child care workers, etc. are at a higher risk of exposure. For adults traveling to foreign countries, they need to be aware of any required vaccinations as well as any current outbreaks of communicable diseases. For the elderly, being immunized against such illnesses as influenza and pneumonia are essential as these diseases can be fatal for those whose immune systems may be compromised.

It is important for Canadians to realize that many countries do not benefit from the high level of quality medical care that we take for granted. Certain diseases, such as cholera and typhoid are still a serious health concern in other parts of the world. Without being vaccinated for these diseases, travelers risk being exposed and contracting these diseases. Diseases such as Hepatitis A can be contracted through contaminated water and/or unsafe food handling. Countries that do not have adequate sanitation and clean water are especially high risk for Hepatitis A. As well, some countries may require proof of vaccinations before you are allowed entry.

When making your travel plans, it is important to research whether or not you will need to get specific vaccinations, and how long in advance they need to be done. Some vaccinations require a series of shots that are spaced out over several months. Consult with your physician before finalizing any travel plans in order to ensure that you have enough time to be properly vaccinated. If you do not have a family physician, you can find a Travel Health Clinic that can provide you with the necessary information.

It is recommended that Canadians traveling outside of the country have travel insurance. An accident or unexpected illness can cost thousands of dollars in unexpected medical expenses. As well as covering hospital and doctor bills, travel insurance covers such expenses as medical transportation back to Canada, trip cancellation and/or interruption, and baggage loss. HealthQuotes.ca also offers coverage for group travel, as well as adventure travel. Discuss your travel plans with a qualified agent and find the coverage that suits your specific needs.

posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2007 6:34:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, April 16, 2007
                 

Workplace Safety

How Stress At Work And Home Can Increase Accident Risk

Recent studies have shown that the rate of stress experienced by Canadians has greatly increased in the past 10 years. A major cause of this elevated stress stems from working longer hours while trying to also maintain a family. Many Canadians are either currently raising a family, or actively caring for elder family members, or both. With a large percent of families consisting of either single parents or with both parents working full time, demands on time, energy and concentration can be overwhelming.

A 2001 National Work-Life Conflict study showed that over half of the employees surveyed were either caring for children, the elderly, or a disabled person. 70% were active parents, 60% were caring for an elder, 13% were caring for a disabled person, and 13% were caring for both children and elders.  The survey also indicated that these employees are working longer hours with heavier workloads than those surveyed in 1991. Unpaid overtime rose substantially, as well as employees bringing extra work home. With the globalization of some companies, work-related travel has increased, as well as work hours in order to accommodate time zones. As well, one-third of employed Canadians do not take a vacation, or reduce their allotted vacation time by an average of 8 days, thereby not allowing themselves time for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Both of these factors greatly contribute to fatigue and stress, which in turn, elevate the risk of accidents. People who are fatigued and/or mentally focused on other tasks can create an unsafe environment, especially when driving or working in an environment where mental alertness is required. A study conducted by the University of North Carolina concluded that sleep-deprived drivers are comparable to drinking drivers in regards to the probability of being involved in a car accident.

As well as the higher risk of accidents, prolonged high levels of stress can be detrimental to one’s health. People who experience a high stress level for long periods of time are at risk for physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, increased levels of blood sugar and fatty acids, and increased stomach acids. These physical symptoms, if left untreated, can pose serious health risks.

This elevated likelihood of accidents on the road and in the workplace poses a risk for all. This increased risk also poses certain financial concerns. Many people would be unable to meet their financial obligations if they were suddenly injured and unable to work. Disability insurance may be one way to ensure that if you are ever unable to work due to injury or illness you will not be left without a monthly income. This coverage can be up to two-thirds of your current earnings, paid out monthly. Premiums are variable, depending on your occupation; for those in jobs considered dangerous, the premiums may be higher. Disability insurance is available either for short term or long term; discuss these options with an insurance broker to see which option is more suited for your needs.

posted on Monday, April 16, 2007 4:37:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, March 26, 2007
                 

How Dental Problems Can Affect Your Overall Health

Many Canadians overlook the importance that oral health plays in maintaining their health. However, dental problems are more than just a cosmetic problem. Cavities and gum disease, left untreated, can lead to more serious health issues, such as heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and in the case of pregnant women, underweight babies. Poor oral health has also been linked to sleeping problems. Children who suffer from certain oral problems are also at risk of behavior and developmental problems. If a person cannot chew their food properly, or has to avoid certain foods due to pain and discomfort, there is a risk of not getting the proper nutrition.

Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums. This can not only affect the teeth and gums, but the bone supporting the teeth. Plaque that is not removed by daily brushing and flossing can harden into tartar and contribute to gum infections. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease and strokes. Bacteria from plaque can travel from the mouth into the bloodstream, and has been linked to clogging of arteries, as well as damage to heart valves. It can also travel into the lungs, causing infections or aggravating existing lung conditions. People with diabetes are more at risk for contracting gum disease, which then puts them at greater risk for diabetic complications.

Women who are pregnant need to be vigilant about their oral health. Recent studies have indicated that gum disease in pregnant women raise the risk of premature babies with low birth weight, which in turn elevate the risk for later problems, including developmental complications, asthma, behavioral difficulties, and a higher risk of infant death.

If you are a smoker, you should be aware that smoking tobacco reduces blood flow to the gums. This means that your gums are not getting the oxygen and proper nutrients that they need to stay healthy. This increases your risk of bacterial infections. Smoking has also been linked to oral cancer. If you are a smoker, it is essential that you visit your dentist regularly.

Seniors are also high risk due to the fact that many are keeping their teeth longer. Seniors who still have their own teeth may have less access to dental services due to living on a fixed income, which may not make visiting their dentist regularly affordable. For those seniors residing in long-term care facilities, frailty, poor health and dependence on others make them especially vulnerable. Many minor dental problems may go unnoticed until they escalate and the senior is complaining of pain and discomfort. For those in poor health already, these infections may pose a serious health threat.

It is therefore recommended by Health Canada that Canadians visit their dentist regularly. Regular checkups and cleanings are the best way to prevent oral health problems, or stop minor problems from escalating into major health problems. For children, it is important to learn at an early age how to properly care for their teeth, and a dentist can spot potential problems that will affect them later in life.

Health Insurance Plans and Dental Coverage

For those who do not go to the dentist regularly because of the expense, dental coverage may be an affordable option. Coverage can be obtained with or without a medical questionnaire, depending on your needs.

HealthQuotes.ca offers FlexCare, which has provisions for DentalPlus. This comes with Core Benefits, and the option of either the Basic or Enhanced Plan. The Basic plan covers fillings, cleaning, scaling, examinations, polishing and certain extractions, with recall visits every 9 months. No medical questionnaire is needed, and acceptance is guaranteed. The Enhanced Plan is the same, with the added benefit of most extractions being covered, and recall visits every 6 months. The Enhanced Plan also has benefits that in the second year of coverage allow for oral surgery, periodontics and endodontics. Year three of your coverage allows for orthodontics, crowns, bridges and dentures.

FollowMe offers basic dental services, such as exams, cleanings, fillings, scaling, polishing, root planning, diagnostic and denture services. The Enhanced Plan offers endodontics and periodontics, and the Premiere Plan offers the same along with crowns, bridges, dentures and orthodontics.

You can compare Canadian personal health and dental insurance quotes online at your leisure, or speak to an experienced health insurance broker free of charge at 1-800-474-4474.
  
posted on Monday, March 26, 2007 6:18:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, March 19, 2007
                 

Ordering Prescriptions Online

How Saving A Few Dollars May Affect Your Health

Online pharmacies have become a popular way for Canadians to purchase their prescriptions. They offer fast, cheap delivery, and sometimes do not require a prescription from your health care provider, and instead offer a consultation with their own "specialist". While there are legitimate websites that offer prescription medications, some are not licensed for Canada, which means they do not follow our strict federal guidelines for approved usage. Canada has strict FDA guidelines to ensure that prescription drugs available for purchase here are of high quality and are safe and effective to use.

Websites that offer prescriptions from companies that do not originate in Canada may offer prescription drugs that are not approved for sale here. These shipments run the risk of being seized at the Canadian border, leaving the consumer to pay for a purchase they will not receive. It is important to remember that if you choose to buy your prescriptions online that you choose a Canadian based company that is licensed to sell pharmaceuticals and that meets the regulatory requirements in your province. All therapeutic drugs that are approved for sale in Canada have an eight digit Drug Identification Number (DIN). A DIN means that the drug has been assessed by Health Canada, and is considered safe and effective when used in the prescribed manner.

Ordering prescription drugs from a company that doesn't require a written prescription from your own doctor poses certain health risks. You cannot be properly diagnosed simply by filling out a questionnaire online. Therefore, you may be prescribed a drug that is ineffective and/or potentially harmful. The only way to ensure that you are being properly diagnosed and treated is to consult with your physician, who is aware of your medical history and health issues. Under no circumstances is it recommended to use prescription drugs without the consent of your doctor. Consumers should be aware of any website offering a "miracle cure" for such problems as weight loss, baldness, or sexual enhancement. Many of these "miracle cures" offer no legitimate treatment, and may be potentially harmful. Even if these treatments do not require a prescription, they may interact with your current medications, or have unhealthy side effects.

So why are some prescriptions more expensive in Canada than other countries? The price of a prescription may depend on whether a generic version of the drug is available for sale. As with most consumer products, generic brands can be substantially cheaper to purchase than name brand products. The availability of generic brand prescriptions depends on the licensing agreements that the pharmaceutical companies have with the country in which they are selling their product. Currently in Canada the exclusive selling rights for brand-name prescription drugs has been increased from 5 years to 8 years. Therefore, your prescription may be available in the generic version somewhere else before it is available here.

Canadians who do not have employee benefits may want to consider purchasing health insurance coverage that covers prescription drug costs. HealthQuotes.ca offers a wide variety of health insurance plans that include prescription benefits. FlexCare offers either a Core Plan or you can choose one or more Stand-Along packages. Core Plans can be upgraded with Stand-Alones as your needs change. Blue Choice has 80% reimbursement for all eligible prescription medications, with no annual or lifetime maximums.

If you have health conditions then consider guaranteed issue health insurance, which is not medically underwritten (e.g. does not have health questions or exam). FollowMe from Manulife Financial is a guaranteed issue conversion plan that is especially ideal for people who have recently lost their employee benefits coverage.
 

posted on Monday, March 19, 2007 2:40:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Thursday, March 8, 2007
                 

National Healthy Pregnancy Campaign

The Canadian Minister of Health, Tony Clement, has announced the launch of a 5 week campaign to raise awareness of health considerations for a healthy pregnancy. This 3 million dollar awareness campaign will focus around raising awareness in Canadian women about health issues regarding pregnancy.

The new Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy will offer Canadian expectant mothers the latest research and scientific guidance regarding health issues for delivering a healthy baby. This guide is offering information on behaviors that can have a negative impact on a pregnancy, as well as information regarding nutrition, emotional health and a pregnancy calendar.

If you are planning on starting a family, we recommend that you check your current health coverage to see whether or not it covers maternity issues and your new infant. As your family grows, so does your health insurance needs. FlexCare offers full coverage for expectant mothers, and newborns are automatically added to the same coverage, if the application is made within 30 days.

For more information on pregnancy and health issues, please visit http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
  

posted on Thursday, March 8, 2007 3:02:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Friday, February 23, 2007
                 

Travel Insurance: Married Outside Of Canada

Traveling to exotic locations to get married can be a fun option for some couples. The concept of combining a vacation with your wedding is a great way to reunite with family and friends to celebrate. With families and friends sometimes scattered across the country, or even continent, a vacation wedding offers a fun location for everyone to meet at.

Whether you are running off to Las Vegas to get married in the Little White Chapel, or are dreaming of a sunset wedding on an isolated beach, certain factors must be considered when choosing to get married abroad. Ensure that once you have selected the location of the wedding, you understand their requirements in order to apply for a marriage license. It is a good idea to send the traveling requirements list (i.e. documentation, passports) with your invitations so your guests know well in advance what they need to bring with them.

It is also advisable that you inform your guests of the need for travel insurance coverage. You can inquire if they have current coverage through their employer, and whether or not they will be covered for this trip. HealthQuotes.ca offers trip insurance that covers families and groups, which may be beneficial for this particular circumstance.

With proper planning, a vacation wedding will be the most memorable experience of your lifetime. Along with ensuring that you have the proper travel documents, ensure that you and your guests have the proper travel coverage in order to avoid any problems in your perfect day.
 

posted on Friday, February 23, 2007 4:18:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Tuesday, January 30, 2007
                 

Health Literacy

The Canadian Council on Learning has recently released an analysis which suggests that an alarming number of Canadians do not understand their health care instructions. They suggest that over 90% of Canadian seniors and 55% of working-age Canadians lack the literacy skills required to accurately read and follow prescription instructions, understand food nutrition labels or to give informed consent.

Failure to accurately read prescription instructions can lead to dosing errors, causing further health issues. For Canadians with diabetes, blood glucose scores may not be read properly, and therefore not be treated appropriately. This can further be aggravated by not understanding the nutrition labels on food which can determine whether that certain product is good for them, or is potentially harmful.

Seniors are statistically the population with the most complex health problems, with 9 out of 10 Canadian seniors currently taking at least one prescription drug. It is therefore vitally important that Canadians with elderly parents, relatives, or friends who have health issues to ensure that prescription instructions are understood and followed correctly.

Seniors may also not be aware of what their current health insurance policy covers when it comes to prescriptions and diabetic supplies, or whether they need to upgrade their coverage. For those who have elderly parents, relatives or friends that have medical issues, and who are not able to accurately read and assess their policy, we recommend that you read the policy with them, and ensure that they understand what their benefits cover. For those seniors who are now experiencing different health-care related costs, their policy may need to be changed in order to reflect these new changes.

If you suspect that an elderly person close to you may be experiencing problems understanding their current health coverage, please call us at 1-800-474-4474 to discuss these issues.
   

posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 3:55:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Wednesday, January 17, 2007
                 

Children's Fitness Tax Credit

The Children's Fitness Tax Credit came into effect January 1, 2007.  This tax credit hopefully will encourage parents to enroll their child(ren) in organized physical activities in order to combat the alarming child obesity statistics. By defraying the costs associated with children's organized sports and other activities, the Federal Government is hoping to offset the costs of registration and membership fees.

The tax credit is available up to $500 per child under the age of 16, in registration and membership fees for ongoing, supervised programs. Eligible programs must include a significant amount of physical activity which contributes to cardio-respiratory endurance, plus an additional physical component of: muscle strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and/or balance. For parents of a child who is eligible for the disability tax credit, a separate $500 will be available, with a minimum of $100 being spent on registration fees.

By offering this tax credit, the Canadian government hopes to influence a whole generation of children on the positive benefits of physical activity and healthy life styles. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are one of the leading causes of juvenile diabetes. By encouraging children to become physically active, hopefully the rate of juvenile diabetes will start to decline.

Recent studies have estimated that a person with diabetes can incur costs for medication and medical supplies of between $1000 and $15,000 a year. These costs are not covered by your provincial health care plan. For those parents who have a child with juvenile diabetes, purchasing health insurance coverage can be an effective way of defraying these costs. HealthQuotes offers a ComboPlus Starter Plan which does not require a medical examination and covers diabetic supplies.

If your child has been diagnosed with diabetes, and you would like more information, please visit http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/dc-ma/diabete-eng.php.
 

posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 7:08:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Wednesday, December 13, 2006
                 

GST Rebate Ending for Visitors to Canada

In September of 2006, the Government of Canada announced the elimination of the GST Visitor’s Rebate Program. Beginning April 1, 2007, all federal rebates under the Visitor’s Rebate Program will be eliminated. Rebates that will effectively end include those for visitors’ short-term accommodation, exported goods by non-resident consumers, and non-resident convention expenses.

The GST (Goods And Services Tax) rebate has been available for non-residents who purchase short-term accommodation and/or goods in Canada.  Under this rebate, visitors could claim a refund on goods they purchased in Canada, but took home with them for use primarily in their home country. It also included the GST paid on short-term accommodations, including hotels, hostels, campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, and motels.

The rebate will still apply to those who have purchased eligible goods and/or services before April 1, 2007. The rebate will be honored for those who have a specific signed agreement for goods that will be shipped outside of Canada, but are not shipped until after the cut-off date. The agreement must be signed before the cut-off date, and follow the eligibility rules. If you purchase eligible goods before April 1, 2007, but do not leave Canada until afterwards, you will still receive the rebate.

Non-residents will still be eligible for the GST rebate when their accommodations begin before April 1, 2007 and continue afterwards for a period no longer than 30 days. In order to receive reimbursement, you must stay in the same facility for the duration of your trip. The rebate will also apply to those travelers who have already booked and purchased their accommodations before April 1, 2007, but whose actual trip does not begin until after this date. This will apply to all non-resident travelers whose accommodation in the same facility begins before April 1, 2009. These requirements also apply to travelers who have purchased prepaid tour packages.

Travelers who have eligible GST rebate claims will have one year to file their application. For those who have written agreements before the cut-off date, but whose trip occurs afterwards, special transition measures will be implemented regarding eligible filing dates. This will also apply to those whose trip begins before the cut-off date, but continues afterwards.

For more information regarding eligibility requirements, please visit the Canadian Revenue Agency.

posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2006 7:58:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Wednesday, November 29, 2006
                 

Ontario Organ Donation


Organ donation is a topic that most Ontario residents think about briefly when renewing their driver’s licenses. It is however, becoming an increasingly controversial topic, with new legislation being proposed in order to increase the amount of donors. With medical technology constantly advancing, organ transplants are saving the lives of people who would otherwise be facing a very bleak future.


A private member’s bill has recently been introduced by New Democrat MPP Peter Kormos, with the intent of establishing new “presumed consent” rules. This new bill, if passed, would make organ donations automatic unless a patient had already refused permission.  Another bill, introduced by Conservative Frank Klees, wants to force every eligible Ontario citizen to respond yes, no, or undecided about their organ donation intentions. While both MPP’s have differing opinions on how to increase organ donations, both agree that changes need to occur in order to reach this goal. Currently, Ontarians can choose to sign an organ donation card, but this card is not legally binding. The choice to donate organs ultimately belongs to the deceased’s family.

Health Minister George Smitherman has stated that while he’s personally comfortable  with the concept of presumed consent, Ontario needs to further consult with the public before making any policy decisions. A team will be appointed to consult with the public and further study the issue.

A new law is already in place requiring 13 major Ontario hospitals to report to the Trillium Gift Of Life Network whenever someone dies in their facility, in order to find a donor match. This law has effectively increased the rate of organ donations in Ontario. With this rise in organ donations, some critics say that presumed consent may not be necessary.

It is important for every eligible person to carefully consider this matter, and make an informed decision on whether they would like to become an organ donor. For more information on organ donation, please visit http://www.giftoflife.on.ca/en/.

posted on Wednesday, November 29, 2006 11:55:33 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Tuesday, November 7, 2006
                 

Canadian Snowbirds and Travel Insurance

For some Canadians, spending the winter months in a warmer climate like Florida or Arizona is a much more pleasant idea than facing yet another cold Canadian winter. This living arrangement is especially attractive to retirees, who do not have to remain in Canada for the winter months due to employment obligations.

Due to recent American policies, all Canadians must have a valid passport in order to enter the United States effective January 2007 when arriving by air or sea. A second rule is also currently being proposed that will require a passport in order to enter the United States via land border crossings by January 2008. It is recommended that Canadians planning to spend the upcoming winter months in an American state this winter obtain a valid passport, and carry it with them at all times.

It is important to remember that your provincial health coverage will not cover your medical expenses in the United States. We strongly recommend that every Canadian who is planning to spend the winter outside of Canada purchase travel medical benefits in order to safeguard them from incurring costly medical bills. Even one trip to the emergency room for accident or illness can cost Canadians without coverage thousands of dollars in unexpected medical bills.

Check your employee benefits (if applicable) to see if you currently have travel medical coverage. It is important to remember to closely examine this policy to determine if your coverage through your benefits will be adequate for your needs. If you require additional coverage you can purchase top up insurance.

For those with no employee benefit coverage, determine what kind of coverage you will need. Travel medical plans can be purchased to accommodate single trip and multi trip coverage, depending on how much traveling you expect to do. There are a variety of plans offering coverage for:

  • Emergency Medical.
  • Trip Cancellation And Interruption.
  • Baggage Loss, Delay And Damage.
  • Flight And Travel Accidents.

Consult with an insurance broker to properly determine your travel insurance needs. When planning your trip, remember to talk with a broker to ensure that you have the proper coverage, and leave the worrying behind along with the snow.

You can visit the World Health Organization website, useful for checking international travel advisories before leaving Canada.

posted on Tuesday, November 7, 2006 8:27:34 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Thursday, October 26, 2006
                 

Canadian Men And Prostate Cancer


It is estimated that close to 21,000 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and over 4,000 men will die as a result of the disease. With early detection however, prostate cancer is treatable, and sometimes, even preventable. Prostate cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer among Canadian men. With these new statistics coming out, it is vitally important that men become knowledgeable about prostate cancer and what resources are available to them.

While there is no evidence of one single cause of prostate cancer, there are certain factors that seem to increase the risk of developing this disease. These factors include:

Age:
Men 65 and over seem to be more at risk of developing this disease
Family history of prostate cancer:
If other men in your family have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you are at higher risk.
Diet:
Men who consume a diet high in fat increase their risk level
Lifestyle:
Obesity and inactivity contribute to risk level of prostate cancer.
Ethnic Background:
Men of African ancestry tend to be more high risk of developing prostate cancer than those of Caucasian descent.

Men who fit one or more of these categories need to be aware that they are more likely than others to have or be at risk of having prostate cancer, and consult with their family physician about testing. It is generally recommended that men start getting tested at the age of 45.

If prostate cancer is detected early enough, there will be no symptoms. However, men suffering one or more of the following symptoms are strongly urged to talk to their family physician about testing:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at nighttime.
  • Difficulty starting to urinate.
  • Difficulty holding back urine.
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
  • Painful or burning sensations when urinating.
  • Difficulty in having an erection.
  • Experiencing pain when ejaculating.
  • Detecting the presence of blood in urine or semen.
  • Frequent pain and/or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs.

These symptoms can also be indicators of other health issues, so it is important to have a thorough work-up from your doctor to determine the origin of your symptoms.

For men who are unsure of what questions to ask their doctor, or how to interpret their test results, the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation offers this information. Some other websites offering valuable information on prostate cancer and testing are:

These websites offer information on testing procedures, prevention, alternative treatments and support groups for those who are currently battling this disease. Ask your physician as well for information and informational sources regarding your health.
 

posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006 6:04:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, October 10, 2006
                 

Flu Shots For Canadians

Once again, it is that time of year that Canadians are vulnerable to influenza. "Flu" season typically starts in November and ends in April. The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which causes a respiratory infection. Although the majority of Canadians recover from the flu, for some it can be potentially fatal. Pneumonia and other serious complications can set in, caused by influenza, causing serious medical problems.

Many Canadians are confused about what influenza actually is, and when they have it. Many times people misconstrue their symptoms of mild food poisoning as the stomach flu, which actually does not exist. The common cold can also be construed as the flu. Influenza typically has symptoms beginning with a headache, cough and chills, followed by a fever, runny nose and sneezing, and watery eyes. Loss of appetite is also common. Children may experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

There are certain populations that have been designated "high risk" and as such, are encouraged to receive yearly flu shots. This includes people who fall into one or  more of the following categories:

  • Infants 6-23 months.
  • Anyone with chronic heart and/or lung disease.
  • Anyone residing in nursing homes or chronic care facilities.
  • Anyone working in a health care related field with chronic exposure to the flu virus.
  • Anyone traveling to areas with a flu outbreak.
  • Anyone with diabetes, anemia, cancer, immune suppression, kidney disease or HIV
    Children on ASA therapy.

Those who should not get the flu shot:

  • Under 6 months of age.
  • Anyone who has a severe allergic reaction to eggs.
  • Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous flu shot.

The flu shot can have some minimal side effects, the most common being soreness at the injection site. Fever, fatigue, and muscle aches are also common. These side effects are temporary, usually only lasting 1-2 days.

Consult your family physician about whether the flu shot is an option for you. For those who do not have a family physician, and wish to receive the flu shot, consult http://www.gov.on.ca for resources in your area.

It is important to remember that those showing symptoms of the flu need to avoid infecting others, especially those who are very young or very old who may become seriously ill if infected. If you suspect that you may be becoming ill, avoid anyone who falls into the high risk category. During flu season wash your hands frequently as a means of reducing your chances of catching the virus.
 

posted on Tuesday, October 10, 2006 4:39:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, September 26, 2006
                 

Paramedicals and Health Plans

Today, people have a wide array of health care choices. With new technological and research advances, there are a wider variety of prescription drugs and treatments available for most health problems. Unlike some previous healthcare choices , new drug therapy can be very effective with fewer side effects. This, combined with other forms of therapy, can be highly effective for people suffering from pain caused by back and foot problems. 

For many health problems relating to back and foot pain, your doctor may recommend that you seek treatment from a chiropractor, chiropodist, massage therapist, podiatrist, acupuncturist, or naturopath (depending on the nature of your injury). These treatments, combined with drug therapy, can help promote healing and drastically reduce healing time. There are many effective prescription drugs that can help reduce the swelling and the pain, while treatment from a relevant health care practitioner can help resolve the underlying health issue. 

Check to see if your current health insurance plan covers these forms of treatments. For those who want to create their own unique health care coverage, we offer a "Stand-Alone" option, which is available via the Flexcare Core Plan. The Flexcare Basic Plan allows the consumer to choose coverage for such treatment options such as:

  • Chiropractor
  • Chiropodist
  • Osteopath
  • Naturopath
  • Podiatrist
  • Registered Massage Therapist
  • Acupuncturist

A medical questionnaire is required, and there is a 20 visit maximum per discipline per year limit. For those consumers who wish to purchase more comprehensive add-on coverage, Flexcare Enhanced Plan is also available.

Talk to your family physician about the new courses of treatment available, and whether they would be beneficial to you. Your doctor can usually recommend a specialist. For those who are seeking a physician see the College Of Physicians And Surgeons web site.

posted on Tuesday, September 26, 2006 4:10:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Thursday, September 7, 2006
                 

Canadian Dispensing Fees

In Ontario the dispensing fees you pay the pharmacist are posted for you to see, and you may have noticed that those fees are not the same everywhere.

Here are some of the costs that pharmacies use to determine the dispensing fee:

  • Supplier costs.
  • Providing drug counseling.
  • Providing information to physicians and suppliers.
  • Record keeping.
  • Stocking of prescription drugs.

Some expenses are not directly prescription drug related but are business expenses, which are also taken into account when calculating and setting the dispensing fees. For example, the rent paid for the office spaces, the salaries of employees, etc.

So what options are open to the consumer? Shop around! Even within such major chains as Shoppers Drug Mart or Rexall Drugs, dispensing fees still vary. In Ontario the dispensing fees can range from $2.00 to $15.00 or more.

For persons with high and frequent use of prescription drugs there is also the option of using mail order pharmacies, who generally have lower fees.

There are also health plans out there that will pay reasonable and customary dispensing fees in full. An example of this is Manulife's Flexcare ComboPlus (Enhanced) plan.
 

posted on Thursday, September 7, 2006 2:50:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, August 23, 2006
                 

Child Obesity and Health

Recent Canadian surveys are showing an alarming rate in the increase in child obesity. It has been estimated that over 500,000 Canadian children are obese or grossly overweight. Although medical factors can be to blame, lifestyle choices are also a common cause. Children are now spending more time playing video games and on the computer rather than participating in physical activities. As well, with time demands and financial concerns, nutrition seems to sometimes fall by the wayside.

The impact of child obesity can be a life-long obstacle that your child will be forced to overcome. Obese children tend to develop into obese adults. The health risks associated with obesity are alarming; these children are high-risk candidates for early disability, as well as premature deaths. Obesity also contributes to a decreased quality of life, as health issues may prevent the individual from pursuing their goals.

Childhood obesity can also affect your child's future insurance rates. As health status determines your health insurance, as well as life insurance rates, your child's health is important. Weight related health issues could potentially affect your premiums as much as smoking does. It is important to remember that while your Provincial healthcare assumes most health-care costs, they do NOT cover all costs.

For more information on childhood obesity, visit the Childhood Obesity Network at http://www.obesitynetwork.ca.

It is important for Canadians to be aware of their health, and to take positive steps in ensuring that the next generation of Canadians have the tools necessary to be as healthy and successful as we hope for them to be.
   

posted on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 3:10:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, August 1, 2006
                 

Severe Illness and Insurance

Critical Illness insurance is designed to alleviate financial stress when a person becomes severely ill and unable to continue working. Recuperating from a critical illness is stressful enough, without having to worry about paying the bills.

Canadian citizens should be cognizant of the fact that government health plans and employee benefit plans are limited. These plans only cover medical and hospital care. Disability insurance, while also an important plan, only pays a monthly benefit when a person is unable to work. Critical Illness insurance differs in that it pays out a lump sum even if you are able to go back to work. For most critical illness benefits, you must survive your illness for a set period of time (usually 30 days) in order to receive benefits.

Your critical illness benefits are flexible in what you choose to spend the money on. During your time of need, you will receive a lump sum of money in order to spend as you see fit. With critical illness benefits, you no longer have to worry about paying the mortgage, credit cards, and monthly household expenses. You can budget for how long you will be unable to work, and spend your money accordingly.

Critical Illness insurance often covers the following conditions (this depends on the carrier and plan):

  • Cancer.
  • Heart Attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Kidney Failure.
  • Major Organ Transplant.
  • Dismemberment.
  • Blindness.
  • Deafness.
  • Loss Of Speech.
  • Major Burns.
  • HIV.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Parkinson’s Disease.

However, there are two important points to note about "traditional" Critical Illness insurance:

  1. It is only available to healthy Canadians, who do not have a family history of any of the listed illnesses. For a "virtual" guaranteed issue product see below.
     
  2. CI insurance can have high premiums (for an affordable alternative you might consider Manulife Financial's Flexcare plan that has a Catastrophic option, described below).

As an alternative for people who need guaranteed issue critical illness insurance we offer Ontario citizens the Ontario Blue Cross Critical Illness Assistance benefit, which is part of the Blue Vision Express Plan. This benefit has the following features:

  • Amount of coverage varies, from $5,000 to $15,000.
  • Covers adaptation costs to your vehicles, principal residences, etc.
  • Covers travel expenses incurred when receiving care or follow-up.
  • Costs for household help and/or childcare.

As an affordable alternative there is the Manulife Flexcare plan has a Catastrophic option, which is offered as an Add-On or as a Stand-Alone product. This coverage provides the following benefits:

  • Unlimited, complete coverage for name brand and generic prescription drugs.
  • Additional coverage for Homecare, Durable Medical Equipment (wheelchairs, syringes for diabetics, etc.) as well as Prosthetic Appliances. 
  • There is a maximum of $100,000 (lifetime).
  • Unlimited Chiropractor/Physiotherapist coverage for one year following an accident that required a hospital stay of a minimum of 24 hours.

Note that the Flexcare Catastrophic option does require a medical questionnaire be filled out.
  

posted on Tuesday, August 1, 2006 5:59:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
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