YouDocs, 12-18-12: Untangling the Affordable Care Act


Q: I'm confused about the Affordable Care Act. Will I lose my health insurance from work? What are the benefits? -- Charlotte W., Indianapolis

A: We won't know all the benefits until 2014 -- if then -- when the law goes into full effect. But we'll try to answer your questions.

Your employer has always been and is still able to change coverage at will; but if you are covered now, you most likely will be insured in 2014. If your work-provided insurance ends, you'll be required to buy individual insurance, but you won't have to pay if you have religious objections or cannot afford it.

Here are some other benefits.

-- Insurance can't be canceled once you're sick! And kids with pre-existing conditions can't be denied coverage (as of 2014 that covers adults, too).

-- Kids can stay on their folks' plan until they're 26.

-- If your insurance provider spends less than 80 percent to 85 percent of your premium dollars on medical care, you'll get a rebate from the insurance company.

-- There's no cost for preventive services, like cholesterol tests and mammograms.

While we wait to see how it shakes out, one thing we know is prevention reduces health-care costs! Which brings us to Drs. Roizen and Oz: FOR KEEPS Health Care Policy.

1. Keep your waist circumference at 32.5 inches for women and 35 inches for men.

2. Keep your blood pressure at or below 115⁄76.

3. Keep LDL cholesterol under 100 mg/dL, and triglycerides at 100 or less.

4. Keep fasting blood sugar at 100 or less.

5. Keep immunizations up to date.

To achieve these goals and dodge heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes and dementia:

Stand up. Turn off the tube and get moving; aim for at least 30 minutes or more of daily activity. Lighten up. Fill your diet with 100 percent whole grains, fruits, veggies, fish and lean protein. Look up. Practice optimism, altruism and volunteerism.

Q: My cousin lives in Hoboken, N.J., and he's digging out after Sandy. How important is it for him to use a facemask to protect himself from the mold? -- Anna K, Easton, Pa.

A: You don't have to be swept away by Sandy to be concerned about the health risks that come along with standing water and soggy interiors. But your cousin (and anyone else who cleans out a flooded basement) should be on his toes after floodwaters recede. Water contaminated with raw sewage is a greater concern than mold in the short term. It can harbor infectious diseases and chemical hazards. Mold, which develops after the water-soaked interior festers for a while, can trigger severe allergic reactions and eye and skin irritation. It is especially dangerous for children and people with asthma or a weakened immune system.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention's suggestions for a safe cleanup are at /disasters/floods. The important points include:

-- Wear rubber boots, gloves, goggles and a mask (that's our addition -- especially important for mold).

-- Remove anything contaminated that can't be washed and disinfected: mattresses, carpeting, stuffed animals, pillows, books and other paper products.

-- Remove any contaminated or wet drywall.

-- Thoroughly clean every surface, appliance and all wood and metal furniture with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

-- Dry everything using fans, AC units and dehumidifiers.

Then, clean the cleaner! Wash hands with (disinfected) warm water and soap, or in a solution of 1⁄8 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

(Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at

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