Open Enrollment for Health Insurance and Medicare Is Happening Now

Guest post by Maria Pippidis, Extension Educator, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Are you spending too much on health insurance? It’s time to do a health insurance check up! 

Open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace (November 1, 2022, through January 15, 2023) for those under age 65 and Medicare (October 15 through December 7) for those over 65 is happening now. Even if you have health insurance already, comparison shopping can help you save money and get better coverage. It is important to compare not only the premium costs but also other out of pocket costs like deductibles, copayments and coinsurance in relation to how often you use health care services. There are also options for dental insurance. Think back about how you have used health care services in the past to help you do an estimate of how much these other out of pocket costs might affect the choice of plans you consider.

Remember, for health insurance marketplace plans, prevention services like annual check ups with your primary care provider or gynecologist are covered at no charge.

For those under age 65, use the healthcare.gov website to see options for you and your family or for covering employees if you are a small business. Depending on your income and the state you live in you will have a variety of health insurance policy options and tax credits or tax subsidies. Here are some examples for a family of 4 with 2 children under 18 years of age in Delaware:

  • If your income is below $38,295/year you may qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicaid. 
  • An income range between $38,295 and $69,375/year will provide coverage with tax credits on premiums and reduced deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.
  • An income range between $69375 and $111,000 will provide coverage with reduced premiums.

This is just an example and the income ranges will be based on your family size and your state. By going to the website and adding your specific information, you’ll get a better sense of the costs and coverage. I personally have seen farm operators save thousands of dollars by exploring the marketplace for health insurance options. Even if you have off farm employment covering your whole family, it might be worth exploring the healthcare marketplace options for those not working off farm and your children.

You can explore options online or you can get help by talking to a health insurance navigator. The healthcare marketplace website in your state will provide information about who are certified providers that can assist you in better understanding your options. These individuals have been trained to provide information about the plans. Note that some insurance brokers have been certified as well; these individuals can inform you about the marketplace plans and other plans for insurance organizations which they represent. There are also navigators/assistors who work with non-profit, government or health care organizations who are certified.

For those who are 65 and older, use the medicare.gov website to see which Medicare Advantage Plans or Medicare Supplemental (Medigap) plans are available in your area. You can comparison shop these plans very easily on the website. My advice is to ignore the TV commercials and the junk mail regarding Medicare plans. Rather use your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. You can find your local contact by visiting this website https://www.shiphelp.org/ and searching by your state. This program can assist you by setting up a free counseling session with a trained volunteer at a convenient site near you. Their goal is to empower people with Medicare to better understand their options and enable them to make the best health insurance decisions for themselves. The counselors can help you better understand your options to help you make the best decision for you related to Medicare, Medicaid, Medigap (Medicare supplement insurance), Medicare Part D, long-term care insurance and other types of health insurance. There is no charge for the service.  

Though it takes a bit of time, invest in yourself  because no matter what age you are, reviewing your health insurance coverage is one of the best ways to stay financially and physically healthy in the coming year.

Walks Through the Neighborhood

Walktober is just around the corner; Governor Hogan’s month-long celebration of Maryland’s official exercise — walking.

When I was a kid, my mom used to take me on walks through our neighborhood, to the library, the ice cream shop, or the public pool, and sometimes just around the block. As a parent, I wanted to recreate that experience for my own kids.

When they were little, it was easy to get them to go for walks with me, but as they’ve grown, the call of electronics is like a siren song to my pubescent boys. So I’ve tried to get a little creative in encouraging them to go for walks with me. Wanting something that involved their phones, I found Pokemon GO, a game app based on the popular television shows and movies.

The point of the game is to walk around and catch the Pokemon characters on your phone as you encounter them, battle opponents at virtual gyms, and collect items necessary for in-game play. The best part is that kids must walk around to play the game; some goals can only be accomplished by walking certain distances.

So while I’m cognizant of how much screen time my kids are getting, sharing these walks where we hunt down Pokemon and battle rivals together is quality time I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Pokemon GO, developed by Niantic, is downloadable on iPhone and Android. The app is free, although it does offer in-app purchases, not necessary for game play. To learn more about Pokemon Go, go to https://pokemongolive.com/en/. To learn more about how to participate in Walktober, go to https://extension.umd.edu/resource/walktober.

Just Keep Swimming (Safely)

In the heat of summer, there is nothing more refreshing than heading to a pool, beach, or some other cool place for a swim. As a kid, I loved going to my grandmother’s house to play in the pool with my cousins. We would hold diving contests, play games of “Sharks and Minnows,” and enjoy the occasional popsicle as well. My husband and I recently moved into our new house, which has a pool, and it has brought back many of these fun memories. But, it also got me thinking about making sure that people enjoy my pool safely. So, today I thought I would offer some tips around making sure we can all be safe and have fun at the pool!

Having fun in the sun means being prepared for everything the sun brings with it! The warmth from the sun can turn dangerous without the right protection. There are a variety of options you can consider, although the most popular and common one is probably sunscreen. The most important thing when using sunscreen is to make sure you are following instructions for the sunscreen you are using. It will tell you how to apply it and how often you’ll need to reapply to make sure it is protecting you and your family.

But you should also consider sun protection options like protective clothing, umbrellas, or going inside. If you have children who make the putting on sunscreen a difficult process, protective clothing might be a great option. My husband recently bought two shirts that protect against the sun and he found it much easier than trying to remember to reapply after swimming. Although it isn’t always an option, if you are able, going inside during the hottest part of the day can also be very helpful. Anything to avoid a sunburn, right?

Children sitting by the pool. Images by rawpixel.com.

Another important aspect of staying safe at the pool is following any posted rules or clearly explaining your family’s own pool rules. For example, many pools have a no running rule, which can be difficult for kids to understand. Talking about this rule ahead of time might help. You could even do a science experiment to show kids different surfaces and how they change when they are wet. Having kids participate and understand what it means for something to be slippery and dangerous might help them understand why that rule applies at the pool. Discussing rules like this ahead of time can be a good way to make sure everyone is on the same page. For example, you might have a rule that your kids can only be in certain parts of the pool. You can talk to young kids ahead of time and explain how the depth can change in some pools and that it isn’t safe for them to be in deeper areas. Explaining why the rule exists might make the kids more likely to follow it.

As a parent, there are many other things you can do to ensure pool safety. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has a website dedicated to sharing this information. You can go to https://www.poolsafely.gov/parents/ to check it out. It shares information about making sure kids have appropriate supervision, teaching kids to swim, and installing protective barriers and other equipment. Be sure to check out the information and resources on the website to see if there is anything that will be helpful for you and your family.

Enjoy some safe and fun pool time this summer!

What Is Therapy?

Have you ever found yourself struggling to complete tasks on the farm, coping with grief/loss/illness, managing anxiety around unpredictable weather events, or even maintaining relationships with family members? You may, at times, have tried managing these struggles
by yourself, and that can be extremely exhausting. If you feel like you need a boost in your overall well-being and mental health, then psychotherapy may be a great option for you. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a method of helping people with mental illness and emotional challenges (psychiatry.org, 2022). With some time, psychotherapy can help people eliminate or control troubling thoughts/feelings/behaviors so that they can function better and manage the stressors that life brings.

Research shows that about 75% of people who enter psychotherapy see benefits and an increase in their overall well-being and mental health (apa.org, 2022). Going to therapy can be a huge leap and involves a lot of courage, but the benefits are so worth it.

While most therapy can come in the forms of individual sessions, couple and family therapy is also an option. If you are having relationship difficulties with your partner, experiencing stress when trying to parent your children, or just want an overall healthier family, these options may be the best for you. In couple and family therapy, you may be in the room with your partner and the therapist, or even your family and the therapist. Your therapeutic journey can be unique to
you has the potential to be curated towards your needs.

What to expect from therapy?

Prior to entering the therapy space, you will most likely complete an intake which oftentimes involves demographic information as well as questions around your mental health. Once you complete an intake, you will set up your first appointment. After gaining the courage to enter the therapy space for your first session, the work begins. In the first session, the therapist will get to know you, and you will get to know your therapist. You will have the opportunity to share your life story, as well as the current challenges you are faced with in your life. If things are not working in the therapy space, or if you are not comfortable talking about certain topics, feel free to let your therapist know. They are there to help you and want you to be as comfortable as possible.

Steps to set up your first appointment

  1. Go to https://go.umd.edu/farmtherapy to complete an intake for 6 free therapy
    sessions. This intake is a google form that asks you for demographic questions, as well
    as questions about your mental health. Make sure to list on the end some dates and
    times you are available to talk with someone on our team to set up your first
    appointment. All of your information on the intake will remain confidential and will
    be deleted once you are paired with a therapist. If you have any questions regarding
    your intake, feel free to email mdfrsan@umd.edu.
  2. Once you have completed the intake, one of our team members will contact you on a
    date and time you had listed, and verify the information listed on your intake.
    Depending on your session preference (virtual or in-person), our team will pair you
    with a therapy clinic closest to you.
  3. Once you are paired with a therapy clinic, our team will reach out to them, and with
    your consent, will give them your information so they can contact you.
  4. Once in contact with the therapy clinic, they will assist you in setting up your first
    appointment, and the appointment will most likely happen on a weekly basis. After
    the 6 free sessions are up, you may continue sessions but at a price set by the provider
    and your insurance if you are insured. The provider will assist you in this process so
    therapy will not become a financial burden.

This blog submitted by Nick Warnick, FCS intern.

Fun Ways to Hydrate

I’ll be honest, my kids do not like drinking water. It’s always a challenge to keep them hydrated in the summertime and I’ve had to be a little creative in finding flavored waters and alternatives that don’t have a lot of sugar. So because today is National Hydration Day, I’m sharing a few ways I’ve learned to keep my children (and myself!) hydrated.

Watermelon Pops

Ingredients

  • 3 cups watermelon, washed, chopped, seeds removed
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed
  • Freezer Pop Molds

Directions

  1. Blend watermelon, lime juice and sugar in a blender until smooth.
  2. Divide blueberries among freezer pop molds.
  3. Pour watermelon mixture in each pop mold. Leave a little room at the top.
  4. Insert the sticks and freeze until firm, about 6 hours. Dip the molds briefly in warm water before serving.

Fizzy & Fruity Water

Ingredients

  • 2 ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup of orange juice
  • 3/4 cup sparkling water

Directions

  1. Put two ice cubes into one serving cup.
  2. Add orange juice.
  3. Add sparkling water.
  4. Stir and enjoy.

My tricks come from the University of Maryland SNAP-Ed Eat Smart program, which provides full recipes and a blog. Follow them for more kid-friendly recipes!

Small Business Owners and Mental Health

As an agricultural small business owner, I struggle with being on top of my business and employee needs. My family and I own the 7-acre Turkey Point Vineyard and the Tasting Room/Gift Shop retail space in the local town of North East, Maryland. So on top of being a county agent, a working mother and wife, I also own a small farm and I operate a retail business off the farm. My immediate family is a farming family, where all of us have employment off the farm, and my two employees are older retired females that have their own individual needs.

Turkey Point Vineyards

Running a farm, you experience many variables over time due to changes in regulations, weather, technology, and product demand. With the present economic pressures of labor shortages, supply shortages, wage increases, and price hikes, life on the farm has gotten even harder. Everyone experiences stress, but when stress overwhelms you, it can make you physically ill. 

Farm and farm family stress is more accurately a form of distress, which is brought on by pressures experienced by members of the farming population, farming systems, and farming as a business.  Extraordinary stresses experienced by farming families can threaten the future of their farm. In addition, as a small business owner, research has proven that small business owners have reported experiencing common symptoms of poor mental health at least a few times a year on average, and the COVID-19 crisis appears to have exacerbated the problem.

How does one navigate these stressors?

How individuals, families and businesses handle stress demands and changes, will determine the outcome and the impact in the near future.  In some cases, many will change their business, its product or processes, or even their family functioning. No matter what change occurs on the farm or in the business, the concept of resilience is the ability to recover from, or adjust to, change with its accompanying stress.

I once heard the saying that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do about it! When stress gets to be too much for me, I remember this saying and I try to live by this motto. The motto helps to keep me sane.

For more information on farm stress and how the University of Maryland Extension is working to assist farm families in managing mental health, check out our Farm Stress Management page.

This blog contributed by special guest blogger Doris Behnke, principle agent associate in Cecil County.

Resilience — Rooted in the Land

Farming is more than a job—it’s an identity that adds meaning to life. It is often a calling.

Farming is a frequently a multigenerational enterprise on land passed down through the generations. Farming adds a weight of responsibility and pressure to meet expectations of previous generations and not fail the next — to not lose the family’s cultural heritage. This drive to survive and thrive can be both a source of stress and a source of resilience.

Farming ranks in the top 10 most stressful occupations in the U.S. Farm and farm family stress, more accurately, distress, is brought on by pressures within individuals and families, farming systems and the farm as a business.

If you are in the business of farming, or working with someone who is, you know that along with the ordinary stress of life, farming has added sources of stress. Extreme weather, changing markets and commodity prices, episodes of animal and plant diseases and other events all bring added pressures and threats.

So how is it that you and your family can face multiple stressors and keep on farming? Research says it’s by being resilient.

I farm because it’s in my blood. You get done planting a field and you turn around and the sun’s setting over the pattern of the crops that you’ve just planted, and it’s a pretty rewarding experience to see all the hard work pan out and know that you’re helping to feed families throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Mike Harrison of Woodbine, Md.

Resilience

Resilience is an asset that enables you adapt to meet challenges and changes of the times. According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. Resilience means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.”

Most farmers and farm families are optimistic. They draw on their values to get them through challenges. When life’s events are really hard, deeply held values become the motivation to draw on resilience to bounce back or bounce forward after recovering from the initial set back.

So ask yourself:

  • Do you draw on resilience resources like managerial skills, self-control, self-compassion, optimism and hardiness to prevent and deal with stress?
  • Have you drawn on the value of hardiness to get through?
  • Do you recall other challenges and how you, your family and past generations were able to get by?
  • Are you motivated to succeed for the next generation?

How critical is the value of resilience, of adapting to conditions to survive and thrive? It’s imperative and for farmers, driven by generational heritage. Multi-generational farms exist because farmers adapted to change. In the past three years, Maryland farmers, and other farmers, have experienced multiple challenges.

Those who are best able to adapt quickly are those most likely to withstand tests of their ability to survive and thrive. They are those who are resilient are most likely to succeed because they get great satisfaction from what they do. Farming is in their blood. They draw on resilience from being are rooted to the land.

Find resilience-building resources:

Farm Stress Management – University of Maryland Extension

Managing Farm and Farm Family Challenges Resiliently: A Worksheet to Explore Resilient Thinking and DoingUniversity of Maryland Extension and University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

The Road to Resilience American Psychological Association


This blog was written by special guest blogger Bonnie Braun, Professor Emerita, Extension Family Health Policy specialist and professor in the Department of Family Science in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland.