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Stay safe during UV Safety Month

July is UV safety awareness monthDuring these hot months, many are excited to enjoy quality time at the pool, a family hike on your favorite trail, a trip to the beach and other outdoor activities. While soaking up some vitamin D can be beneficial, too much sun can be harmful. July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month.

What is UV-A and UV-B?

The energy given off by the sun is broken down into 2 categories: UV-A and UV-B. Exposure to both UV-A and UV-B rays can cause skin cancer, which is the most common cancer within the United States.

How can you stay safe in the sun?

Damage from UV rays can develop over time. It is crucial to start sun protection practices early in your life. There are many ways you can protect yourself and your family from harmful UV radiation:

  • Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Stay in shaded areas during midday hours.
  • Grab a hat to wear that covers your head, ears, neck, and face.
  •  Wear sunglasses that protect from both UVA and UVB rays.

Treat your sunburn

According to the Mayo Clinic, a sunburn is a thermal burn that makes skin red and painful, and may be hot to the touch. It usually appears within a few hours after too much exposure to UV light, but may take days to fade.

To get some relief, follow these tips to treat your sunburn:

  • Apply a cold compress to the sunburnt area.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever for discomfort and inflammation.
  • Use aloe vera or similar cooling ointment to get rid of the heat on the skin.
  • Avoid more sun exposure until you feel comfortable again.
  • Dink plenty of water and avoid beverages such as alcohol that could dehydrate you.
  • If the sunburn is severe and shows any signs of infection, seek medical care.
Blog

Enjoy some fun in the sun in Maryland!

people dining in BaltimoreFrom canceled fireworks to limits on gatherings and the loss of loved ones, last summer was a bummer. This summer, mask-wearing requirements are lifted, and we can rejoin our friends and family. It’s important to remember to get your COVID-19 vaccine before going out and about. Take a look at what events and experiences you can have this summer, right here in Maryland.

Virtual options

If you are not ready to go out just yet, virtual fun is still available. Check out some local tourist spots, museums, historic landmarks and much more.

Enjoy some water fun!

Ocean City
Are you looking to have your toes in the sand? Ocean City is the perfect family getaway where you can enjoy the boardwalk, golfing, kite flying, great food and more. Start planning your next beach vacation and don’t forget your sunscreen!

White Marlin Open
It’s time to go fishing! The White Marlin Open will take place Aug. 2-6, 2021. This event is a deep-sea fishing tournament held annually in Ocean City, Md. The tournament awards prize money for catches of white marlin, blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphin and shark. The 2020 event drew 433 boats, and paid out $6.8 million dollars in prize money. Come watch the fish weigh-ins at Harbour Island Marina.

Grab a bite to eat

We all scream for ice cream!
If you are looking for a sweet treat this season, check out the Ice Cream Lovers' Guide to Maryland. Enjoy everything from your classic chocolate and vanilla to something out of the box, such as tiramisu or key lime.

International Food & Craft Festival
Visit the International food and craft festival on Sunday, Aug.1, 2021, in Silver Spring, Md. It’s a full celebration of the nations! From great food, to crafts and music, this festival is guaranteed fun.

Jam out!

Tides & Tunes Summer Concert Series
If you are looking for some great music and a good time, check out the Tides & Tunes Summer Concert Series. Located in Annapolis, this series offers 10 weeks of popular music from rock to folk and blues, with the magnificent backdrop of the Chesapeake Bay. Concerts are free; however, donations are accepted. Drinks are available for purchase. No outside alcohol allowed.

Friday Night Music Fest
Enjoy some Friday night fun in Hagerstown at the Friday Night Music Fest! Bring chairs or blankets, and enjoy the outdoors. You can also listen to FM radio in your car. Musicians are from the area and local groups benefit from each concert. Cost for general admission is $3.

Blog

Marylanders, stay safe and healthy this summer!

father and child in poolIt is officially summer! While Marylanders are excited to enjoy outdoor activities such as swimming and cookouts, it is important to remember to stay safe and healthy. To make the most of the season, here are some tips to keep in mind while enjoying the outdoors.

Get vaccinated

To fully participate in all the summer fun, it’s important to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The vaccine is free and available for Marylanders ages 12 and up. So schedule your appointment today!

Stay cool 

If the body becomes overheated, it can have a hard time cooling itself down. Heat-related illnesses can happen to anyone at any age. To make sure you do not suffer a heat-related illness, it is important to:

  • Wear lightweight clothing.
  • Drink water.
  • Eat small meals.
  • Take breaks in between activities.

Watch out for ticks!

In the warmer months, getting an illness from ticks is more common. In Maryland, ticks can spread Lyme disease and several other diseases. If you are bitten by a tick, follow these steps for simple removal:

  • Use tweezers or a tick removal kit to grasp the head of the tick. Do not grab the body, as this could result in the tick’s blood being accidentally injected into the skin.
  • Firmly grasp the tick and pull up in a straight motion. Do not twist or wiggle the tick.
  • Once the tick has been removed, dispose of it in a drain, toilet or trash can.
  • Clean the tick bite with soap and water.
  • Monitor the bite site over the next few weeks. If a red bullseye develops or you experience flu-like symptoms such as fatigue or muscle aches, contact your doctor or a medical professional.

Keep an eye on the pool

When the sun is beaming down, swimming pools can be the perfect place to stay cool and enjoy family fun. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. To ensure safety by a lake or pool, it is important to:

  • Never leave your child unattended by water.
  • Know how to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
  • Teach your child how to swim.
  • Keep a first-aid kit handy.
  • Install barriers and covers around your pool.

Are you going to eat that?

Everyone loves a good cookout! There are a few ways you can protect your family and friends this summer from food-related ilnnesses:

  • Limit exposure to outdoor temperatures. Perishable foods should not be left outside for more than two hours, and only one hour if the temperature is at or above 90°F. Keep your food at or below 40°F, in coolers or containers with a cold source, such as ice or frozen gel packs. This includes any leftovers from the grill, cold salads and even cut fruits and vegetables. Leftovers should be refrigerated or placed back in the cooler within 2 hours of being placed outside (1 hour if temperatures are at or above 90°F).
  • Avoid spreading bacteria. Do not use the same utensils and plates for raw and cooked meats.
  • Clean surfaces outside and inside often.
  • Keep food in a cooler with ice or freezer packs.
  • Pack raw foods in plastic bags to avoid cross-contamination with other food.
Blog

Use your insurance coverage during Men’s Health Month

Doctor helping a patient Celebrate Men’s Health Month in June by getting the most out of your health coverage. This program drives awareness around health issues that men may develop, like heart disease and prostate cancer. Guys, here are some important things to consider when it comes to using your health coverage.

Visit your primary care doctor
Regular check-ups can prevent or detect many health conditions. Set up your annual appointment with your health provider. All health insurance plans through Maryland Health Connection cover primary care visits.

Screenings
Screenings and preventive care are covered at no cost to you, even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible.

Mental health treatment
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, four times as many men than women commit suicide. Mental health treatment is covered under all health insurance plans. If you think you need help, please talk to someone to receive proper treatment.

Important screenings for men that are covered by Maryland Health Connection health plans are blood pressure, HIV, cholesterol, cancer (colorectal and more), Type 2 diabetes, and tobacco use screenings. Immunizations including hepatitis A and B, shingles, flu shots, measles, mumps, meningococcal,tetanus, and others.

Start using your coverage today!

Blog

Women's health: It’s covered for you

women smilingLadies, when was the last time you made sure your health was a top priority? With everyday responsibilities and activities, it’s easy to forget the last time you visited your primary care doctor, had a colonoscopy, or got a mammogram. To help you stay on top of your health, here are some recommendations to make the most of your coverage.

Know what your health plan covers

Health plans cover many benefits that are important to women, including doctor visits, prescriptions, mental health care, and pregnancy and newborn care.

Plans cover many preventive services for women without charging a copayment or coinsurance, even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible.

These include:

  • Screenings for sexually transmitted infections
  • Breast cancer screenings for women over 40
  • Domestic and interpersonal violence counseling
  • Help to quit smoking
  • Well-woman visits
  • Breastfeeding comprehensive support and counseling from trained providers, and access to breastfeeding supplies for pregnant and nursing women
  • Birth control, education and counseling

 

If you don’t have health coverage, you can enroll now

Browse plans and get an estimate at MarylandHealthConnection.gov or download the free mobile app to compare coverage and costs before you enroll.

When you apply through Maryland Health Connection, you will estimate your household income to see if you can get help paying for health coverage. You may qualify for financial help to make health coverage more affordable.

With the American Rescue Plan, there are now new, bigger savings. You could be eligible for health plans for as little as a few dollars a month.

If you’re pregnant or have children,you can earn more than other adults and still qualify for Medicaid. You can apply for Medicaid at any point during your pregnancy.

Hundreds of trained experts are available throughout Maryland to help you apply and enroll. Find help near you.

Blog

This April understand your coverage options during STD/STI Awareness Month

According to research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2018 there were nearly 2.5 million cases of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) reported. Baltimore city has the highest STD rate in the country, jumping five spots from last year’s report. During this STD/Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) awareness month, Marylanders should understand why it’s important to schedule consistent STD/STI screenings with your doctor.

What is the difference between an STD and STI?

If an individual is infected, but the infection has not fully developed into a disease, they have an STI. Having an infection is what occurs before developing an STD. Several STIs and STDs do not have any symptoms. This is why having a screening is crucial to know if you are infected. While an STD can develop from an STI, not every STI becomes an STD.

What are common STDs and STIs?

To understand your signs and symptoms, here are some common STDs and STIs to take a look at:

How do you prevent and treat an STD?

Have a conversation with your partner

Clear communication is key to preventing STDs. Have a conversation about how to practice safe sex and why it’s essential to get tested. It is also important to talk about the structure of your relationship and if you are seeking a monogamous relationship or not.

Go to your doctor

Several STDs do not show any signs or symptoms. If you are sexually active, ask your doctor during your yearly physical if getting tested is right for you. With your Maryland Health Connection plan, preventive screenings are covered.

Get treated

If you test positive for an STD, ask your doctor t for treatment. STDs left untreated can cause complications such as abdominal/pelvic pain, issues becoming pregnant, or an increased risk of developing HIV.

Blog

March is National Kidney Month

National Kidney Month is the perfect time to make sure you're taking care of your kidneys. Did you know 2 in 5 adults with chronic kidney disease do not know they have it? Follow these healthy lifestyle tips and take control of your kidney health.

kidney month

Check in regularly with your doctor

By scheduling annual check ups and staying connected with your doctor, you can help maintain your overall health. Several doctors are offering telehealth appointments via phone or computer, so you don’t have to worry about coming into the office during the COVID-19 restrictions. To find a doctor in your area, check out our Find a Doctor tool.

Reduce processed foods

These foods contain a lot of sodium, unhealthy fats and even phosphorus. Many people who have kidney disease need to limit phosphorus in their diets. Research has shown that high phosphorus intake from processed foods may be harmful to kidneys. Try foods that are  low in phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Some options include cabbage, cauliflower, blueberries and bell peppers.

Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine

Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities and get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. By exercising, you build up your muscle and endurance. This helps your kidneys function at peak levels. Some physical activities to try are: taking a walk, riding a bike, doing yoga, gardening, and swimming.

Get tested and stay healthy!

It’s important that you have any of of the following conditions, to talk to your doctor about getting tested for kidney disease:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • a family history of kidney failure

Regular testing is your best chance for identifying kidney disease.  Early treatment is most effective and can help prevent additional health problems. Kidney disease is more commonly associated with people who have a family history or those who are over the age of 60.

All plans through Maryland Health Connection, cover doctor visits and  preventive screenings. If you do not have health insurance, enroll today at MarylandHealthConnection.gov.

Blog

Get ready for tax time!

Tax season is upon us! Are you all set to file? If you were enrolled in a private health plan through Maryland Health Connection at any time this year, there are important steps you need to take. Take a look at what you should do when you file your federal taxes.

alarm clock

If you are enrolled in a qualified health plan…

  1. Locate your Form 1095-A in your online account. We also mailed the forms on Jan. 31.
  2. Make sure the information is correct.
  3. Use this form to complete your Form 8962.
  4. If your Form 1095-A Part III is empty or incomplete, if you applied to receive a tax credit through Maryland Health Connection and you believe your Form 1095-A Part III is incorrect, or if you had a change in your household during the plan year that you did not report to Maryland Health Connection, use this worksheet.

If you have Medicaid or MCHP (Maryland Children’s Health Program)...

  1. Locate your Form 1095-B in your online account beginning in mid-February.
  2. Make sure the information is correct.
  3. Save it with your tax documents.
  4. If you file taxes, you do not need to send this form to the IRS when filing your taxes.

What is the Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Program?

The Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program was created so Marylanders have access to quality and affordable health insurance. The program allows uninsured consumers to sign up for health insurance.

Check a box on your tax return if you would like the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the state agency that runs Maryland Health Connection, to see if you are eligible for free or low-cost coverage. Visit our Easy Enrollment page to learn how the program works.

You may be able to get free help filing taxes. To learn more, visit IRS.gov.

Blog

Coronavirus emergency extends special enrollment period

As part of the state’s overall response to the coronavirus, and in an effort to prioritize health and safety, Maryland Health Connection opened a new special enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders.

What you need to know

When will your coverage begin?

The coronavirus emergency special enrollment period is effective immediately and ends Sunday, Aug. 15. Here are the dates coverage will begin, depending on what day you enrolled in a health plan:

  • Enroll Feb. 16–March 15, coverage starts March 1
  • Enroll March 16–April 15, coverage starts April 1
  • Enroll April 16–May 15, coverage starts May 1
  • Enroll May 16-June 15, coverage starts June 1
  • Enroll June 16-July 15, coverage starts July 1
  • Enroll July 16-Aug. 15, coverage starts Aug. 1

How do I enroll?

To enroll, visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov or download the free “Enroll MHC” mobile app. When enrolling, you should request or select “Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period.”

Trained navigators and brokers can help you enroll by phone

This enrollment period is for new enrollments of uninsured Marylanders who are eligible, not an opportunity for currently enrolled consumers to change plans.

Can I get help enrolling?

Free consumer assistance is available by calling 855-642-8572 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Deaf and hard of hearing use Relay. Help is available in more than 200 languages. 

We encourage you to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) for all health-related coronavirus questions. 

What do I need to apply?

  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers (or document numbers for legal immigrants)
  • Proof of citizenship or immigration status
  • Tax returns for previous years
  • Employer and income info (pay stubs, W-2 forms)
  • Policy numbers for any current health insurance
  • Information about any job-related coverage you or someone in your household is eligible for

Is Coronavirus covered under a Maryland Health Connection plan or Medicaid? 

Yes. Health insurance companies are required to waive cost-sharing, including lab fees, co-payments, coinsurance, and deductibles for any visit to test for coronavirus at a doctor’s office, urgent care center, or emergency room.

Can I qualify for the Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period even if I’m not sick?

Yes. All eligible, uninsured Marylanders may qualify for this emergency special enrollment period.

Blog

How to navigate the colder months in the midst of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we will inevitably be faced with more days of boredom, restlessness, frustration, and burnout. While the future looks promising as the vaccine is distributed, the winter season will be tough to navigate with shorter days and low temperatures. Here are some tips to stay safe and healthy this winter. 

Reduce your risk of getting sick

In addition to wearing a mask, washing your hands, and social distancing, it is important to:

  • Avoid large gatherings and public areas, except for essential places, like grocery stores.
  • Disinfect surfaces like tables, door knobs, counters and other areas in your home, as well as gas pump handles and shopping carts.
  • Take vitamins and other supplements approved by your doctor to recharge your immune system.

According to a study on the spread of COVID-19 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in winter, “the risk goes up, but you can still dramatically reduce your risk by good personal behavior,” says Cory Merow, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut.

Schedule your day

It is important to schedule your day to both maximize your time and promote good habits for mental and physical health. Create a daily routine that includes a set time to wake up in the morning, complete tasks (work and chores), engage in self-care activities, and go to bed. Remember to include plenty of time to get ready, stay connected with friends and family, eat meals, exercise, and take breaks.

Practice good sleep habits

Getting a proper night’s sleep is more important than ever as our bodies work to stay healthy. Sleep may strengthen our immune system, boost our mood, and improve our overall mental health. Here are some ways to improve sleep habits:

  • Wake up/go to bed at the same time each day.
  • Only use your bed for sleep.
  • Spend time in the sunlight.
  • Power electronics off an hour before bedtime.

Stay Active

As routines are interrupted by the pandemic and the temperature outside gets colder, it can be hard to find the motivation to exercise. However, regular activity is essential for both mental and physical health. By incorporating movement into your lifestyle, you can improve your mood, your sleep habits, and your immune function. While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity five days a week, any exercise may help you stay healthy. Try these activities to get you moving:

  • Practice yoga.
  • Walk or jog.
  • Dance.
  • Jump rope.
  • Climb stairs.
  • Play with your kids.

Find ways to be social

It is important to maintain connections with others while staying safe and social distancing during this pandemic. Some ideas include:

  • Connect with friends and family through phone calls, social media, text, or video chat.
  • Join a virtual interest group in your community.
  • Invite a friend for a socially distanced walk.
  • Have family game and movie nights with people in your household.

We hope these tips will help make the start of 2021 a little more bearable as we get through the winter together.

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