Thursday, October 31, 2013

Video Explains Essential Marketplace Health Benefits

If you buy health insurance through the marketplace, your plan will cover what are called “essential health benefits.”

“They really are what I would call ‘essential,’ ” explains TMA Board of Trustee Chair Carlos, “Hey, Doc” Cardenas, MD. Watch the video to hear Dr. Cardenas explain each of the benefit categories.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ten Essential Health Benefits Covered in the New Marketplace Health Plans

We know health reform is big and confusing. Some parts of the law started in 2010. Other parts are rolling out over the next several years. Texas physicians and the Texas Medical Association have carefully studied the law to help you understand what the changes mean to your health care. 

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to roll out, Me&My Doctor’s “Hey Doc” series will answer your frequently-asked questions, as well as some you might not have thought to ask. 

Check out part 10 in this series.

Q. What is covered by this insurance?

A. All plans in the marketplace have to offer what’s called “essential health benefits.” This is a basic package covering 10 different categories:

  1. Doctor visits;
  2. Hospital visits;
  3. Prescription drugs;
  4. Lab tests;
  5. Emergency room visits;
  6. Care when you are pregnant and when you have your baby;
  7. Care for children;
  8. Preventive services that help you stay healthy, like shots and screenings;
  9. Mental health care like counseling; and
  10. Treatments that help you recover from injuries.

Some plans might cover more than that, but that’s the minimum. You can also find dental coverage in the marketplace, either included in a plan you buy, or separately.
Marketplace plans also must cover what are called “preexisting health conditions.” This means even if you are already sick or pregnant, insurance companies can’t turn you away or charge you more for your insurance because of that.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Non-Vaccinaters Hurt Their Own Kids. And Yours.

By Roy Benaroch, MD

This article was originally published on The Pediatric Insider.

It goes without saying that unvaccinated kids get more vaccine-preventable illnesses. For instance a 2010 study from Kaiser Permanente showed that children who hadn’t received pertussis vaccine were 23 times more likely than vaccinated children to get pertussis.

But there’s another consequence of not getting vaccines. It hurts your child, sure. But it also can hurt other people in your community.

Vaccines are not perfect. Not everyone who receives a vaccine gets 100% protection; and some people in a community are too young to be vaccinated, or have health conditions that prevent vaccination. Those that aren’t immune depend on what’s called “herd immunity” for protection. If just about everyone else is immune, then the diseases don’t circulate, and even those who are not immune are unlikely to come in contact with the disease.

This kind of protection—the herd effect—only works if just about everyone is immune. As soon as the herd fails to maintain a high percentage of immunity, more disease circulates, and more people get sick. Not only do those who chose not to vaccinate get vaccinated get sick, but also those who couldn’t get vaccinated, or those in whom the vaccine didn’t work.

This was just illustrated in a study reported this month in Pediatrics, looking at non-medical vaccine exemptions in California. Researchers looked at geographic areas where there were clusters to non-vaccinated families, and compared that to geographic areas with clusters of pertussis cases—and as expected, the two overlapped. If you live in an area with a higher proportion of non-vaccinated people, you’ve got a higher risk of picking up pertussis. This risk is increase even if you and your own family are vaccinated.

Though the vast majority of children nationwide receive their vaccines, a small number of vocal pro-disease, anti-vaccine propagandists has managed to scare many parents into becoming hesitant about vaccinations. And the diseases are coming back. Don’t fall for it. Protect your kids, protect yourself, protect your community. Get those vaccines, on time and on schedule.

Roy Benaroch is a pediatrician who blogs at The Pediatric Insider. He is also the author of Solving Health and Behavioral Problems from Birth through Preschool: A Parent’s Guide and A Guide to Getting the Best Health Care for Your Child.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hey, Doc: How Many Plans Can I Pick From? Can I Keep My Current Plan?

We know health reform is big and confusing. Some parts of the law started in 2010. Other parts are rolling out over the next several years. Texas physicians and the Texas Medical Association have carefully studied the law to help you understand what the changes mean to your health care.

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to roll out, Me&My Doctor’s “Hey Doc” series will answer your frequently-asked questions, as well as some you might not have thought to ask.

Check out part nine in this series.


Q. How do I pick a plan? How many plans can I pick from?

A. To pick a plan, visit Healthcare.gov where you’ll fill out an application to see a list of insurance companies and plans participating in your area. Your choices will depend mostly on where you live and the type of plan you want. Keep in mind that one insurance company might sell a bunch of different plans with different levels of coverage and prices. Once you enter a few pieces of information, like your family size and where you live, you can see and compare different plans and price estimates in your area. You won't get a final quote until you actually fill out an application.

So far in Texas, there are about a dozen different insurance companies participating in the marketplace, and they are selling roughly 100 different plans across the state. Again, your choices will depend mostly on where you live. Some areas of the state, especially rural areas, might have fewer insurance options than others.


That might seem like a lot of information to go through. But there are some things you can do ahead of time to figure out what kind of insurance you need. (See “How can I get ready to sign up?” from “Hey, Doc.”) Healthcare.gov and BeCoveredTexas.org also have some helpful checklists.

Q. Can I keep the plan I have now? 

A. Most likely, yes. You can keep the plan you have now as long as it meets the new rules under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If you have your own insurance or a job-based plan that existed before the health reform law was passed in 2010, it is possible that nothing needs to change. Check with your insurance company or employer to find out. (See “If I have insurance through my work or my spouse or my parents, do I have to give that up and buy insurance through the marketplace?” from “Hey Doc.”)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Video: What Kind of Choice Do I Have in the Marketplace?

When it comes to picking a health insurance company in the new marketplace, “You may have a lot of choices … or you may have only one choice … which really isn’t a choice at all,” says TMA Board of Trustee Chair Carlos, “Hey, Doc” Cardenas, MD.

“In most rural counties in Texas, you will only be able to pick from plans offered by one — or maybe two — insurance companies,” says Dr. Cardenas. Watch TMA’s newest video to find how many choices you have. “Hey, Doc” video.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Hey, Doc: Who Can Sell Me Insurance Through the Marketplace?

We know health reform is big and confusing. Some parts of the law started in 2010. Other parts are rolling out over the next several years. Texas physicians and the Texas Medical Association have carefully studied the law to help you understand what the changes mean to your health care. 

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to roll out, Me&My Doctor’s “Hey Doc” series will answer your frequently-asked questions, as well as some you might not have thought to ask.  

Check out part eight in this series.

Q. Who can sell me insurance through the marketplace? 

A. In Texas, you can get to the health insurance marketplace through Healthcare.gov, and that’s where you can find out if you can get help paying for your insurance. To sell insurance in the marketplace, insurance companies must first get the government’s seal of approval on their plans to become what’s called a “qualified health plan.” That means they agree to follow the marketplace rules, like providing a specific level of benefits, limiting the amount you have to spend out of your own pocket, and having networks with enough doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers. You can see a list of approved health plans in Texas at Healthcare.gov, where you can buy your insurance directly. You can also get help with enrollment from a certified navigator or counselor, or a licensed insurance agent or broker approved by the government.

Remember, there is no charge to use Healthcare.gov or enroll in health plans through the marketplace. Federal and state authorities have warned about scams using phony websites, charges, and emails or phone calls, so know what you are buying and from whom you are buying it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Physicians Get Immunized at TMA’s Fall Conference

TMA physician Evan Pivalizza, MD, prepares to get vaccinated
against the flu at last year’s TMA Fall Conference. 

“We have seen serious outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in Texas this year,” said Dallas physician Wendy Chung, MD, chair of the Texas Medical Association’s Committee on Infectious Diseases.  “Pertussis rates have been increasing nationally, and Texas is on par in 2013 to report the highest number of pertussis cases in 50 years. Additionally, a large outbreak of 21 cases of measles occurring in Texas this year included an infection in one health care worker. And during the past 2012-13 influenza season, the greatest number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported from Texas.” 

Physicians say vaccinations are critically important. This Saturday, TMA will host an on-site clinic to provide influenza, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis), and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccinations for physicians and their staff and family. By getting an annual flu vaccine and updating all recommended vaccines, physicians protect themselves and their patients, says Dr. Chung.  “Our roles as immunization advocates are essential in educating and persuading our patients and medical staff about the importance of vaccinations.”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hey, Doc: Does the Insurance Mandate Mean I Have to Buy Insurance Through the Marketplace?

We know health reform is big and confusing. Some parts of the law started in 2010. Other parts are rolling out over the next several years. Texas physicians and the Texas Medical Association have carefully studied the law to help you understand what the changes mean to your health care. 

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to roll out, Me&My Doctor’s “Hey Doc” series will answer your frequently-asked questions, as well as some you might not have thought to ask.  

Check out part seven in this series.

Q. If I have insurance through my work or my spouse or my parents, do I have to give that up and buy insurance through the marketplace?

A. Not necessarily. Generally, if you already have health insurance, you satisfy the ACA’s requirement to have coverage. But there are a few things you may want to look into:

  • Check with your employer to make sure it will continue providing coverage in 2014 and beyond.
  • Check the status of your current plan to make sure it meets the new minimum requirements under the ACA. If you have your own insurance or a job-based plan that existed before the health reform law was enacted in 2010, it may be grandfathered in and nothing needs to change. Check with your insurance company or employer to find out.
  • Children under the age of 26 can stay on their parents’ plan.
  • f you already have coverage, you can still look at your options in the marketplace, but you may not qualify for financial assistance.

Q. Does the individual mandate mean I have to buy health insurance through the marketplace?

A. No. The individual mandate means you will have to have some form of health insurance, unless you qualify for an exemption. (See “Who must enroll? What if I don’t?”) But the marketplace is just one option for purchasing it on your own. Insurers do not have to participate in the marketplace, so you still can buy health plans the same way you do today, directly from health insurers, or through your employer if offered. You also can still get public insurance, if you qualify, directly from Medicaid, Medicare, or other government agencies.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Video: What Will Happen If I Don't Buy Insurance on the Marketplace?

Most Americans will need to have health insurance by Jan. 1, explains TMA Board of Trustees Chair, Carlos “Hey Doc” Cardenas, MD. If you don’t, “You won’t get hit by lightning, you won’t go to jail, but you will have to pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service at the end of the tax year.” Just how much is that penalty? Watch the “Hey Doc” video to find out.



Check out the “Hey Doc” video series. It answers many important questions about the Affordable Care Act’s new health insurance requirement that went into effect Oct. 1, 2013.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hey, Doc: Who Must Enroll in the Marketplace? What if I Don't?

We know health reform is big and confusing. Some parts of the law started in 2010. Other parts are rolling out over the next several years. Texas physicians and the Texas Medical Association have carefully studied the law to help you understand what the changes mean to your health care. 

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to roll out, Me&My Doctor’s “Hey Doc” series will answer your frequently-asked questions, as well as some you might not have thought to ask.  

Check out part six in this series.

Q. Who must enroll? What if I don’t?

A. The individual mandate of the ACA requires most people to have some form of health insurance coverage as of January 2014, or pay a penalty. If you have coverage through one or more of these sources, you will satisfy the mandate:

  • Government-sponsored insurance (such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, TRICARE, the veterans’ health program);
  • Employer-sponsored coverage;
  • Insurance bought on your own in or outside of the marketplace; or
  • A grandfathered health plan in existence before the health reform law (March 23, 2010).

If you do not have coverage, the marketplace is a new place to shop for health insurance in addition to the traditional private insurance market. It also can help you determine if you are eligible for financial assistance toward your insurance costs or if you are eligible for a state government health program.

Additionally, the ACA exempts certain uninsured people from having to pay the penalty. Generally, you may qualify for an exemption if:

  • Coverage is unaffordable based on your household income;
  • You don’t earn enough income to have to file a tax return;
  • You are uninsured for less than three months in a row; 
  • You are in one of the following groups: incarcerated individuals, undocumented immigrants, American Indians and Alaskan natives, participants of a health care sharing ministry, or members of a recognized religious sect opposed to having health insurance; or
  • You experience certain hardships preventing you from obtaining coverage.

If you don’t qualify for one of the exemptions, and you don’t have insurance coverage next year, you will have to pay a penalty. In 2014, fines begin at $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater. The penalties then increase in 2015, and in 2016 they will be as much as $695 per adult and $347 per child, or 2.5 percent of family income, whichever is greater.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Eligibility for the Health Care Marketplace Explained

Wondering if you or a family member qualify to enroll in the online marketplace for health insurance? Check out the Texas Medical Association’s fourth “Hey, Doc” video, where Carlos, “‘Hey, Doc’” Cardenas, MD, explains who is ― and who is not ― eligible to shop for plans through healthcare.gov.

Whether or not you get covered through the health insurance marketplace, Medicaid, Medicare, your employer, or through some other way, “Remember, everyone has to have insurance by Jan. 1,” says Dr. Cardenas.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hey, Doc: Who Can Enroll in the Marketplace?

We know health reform is big and confusing. Some parts of the law started in 2010. Other parts are rolling out over the next several years. Texas physicians and the Texas Medical Association have carefully studied the law to help you understand what the changes mean to your health care. 

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to roll out, Me&My Doctor’s “Hey Doc” series will answer your frequently-asked questions, as well as some you might not have thought to ask. 

Check out part five in this series.

Q. Who can enroll?

A. The marketplace was designed for individuals who are buying their own insurance and who cannot get affordable coverage through their job or other sources. Small businesses also will be able to buy coverage for their employees through the marketplace. To be eligible to buy insurance in the marketplace, you must:

  • Live in the marketplace service area (generally a state);
  • Be a citizen or national of the United States or be lawfully present; and
  • Not be in jail.

If you are uninsured, the marketplace is an online place for you to shop for plans and to see if you are eligible for tax credits toward your monthly premiums or other costs. If you have coverage through your employer, your parents’ plan (up to age 26), or on your own but want to switch, you also can shop in the marketplace. Even if you are already sick with a preexisting condition, insurers cannot deny you coverage or charge you more because of your condition.
But not everyone will need to enroll. You may already be covered by a government insurance program like Medicare or Medicaid, or you might be happy with the plan you have, in which case you don’t have to buy anything new if you don’t want to.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

How Will the Government Shutdown Affect Health Care?

Since Congress failed to agree on whether or not to defund, alter, or delay the Affordable Care Act, and in so doing failed to pass legislation to fund the federal government, the government shut down as of Oct. 1. This means that under programs tied to annual spending bills, those federal services deemed “nonessential” are suspended until Congress passes a budget and the president signs it. Services that have their own funding provisions, such as the Affordable Care Act, are not affected.  So how will this affect health care organizations in the United States?

  • Half the staff (52 percent) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are furloughed, meaning they have been sent home without pay until further notice. “Essential” employees include those who run the Suicide Prevention Hotline, while employees who investigate Medicare and Medicaid fraud abuse have been sent home.
  • The National Institutes of Health, which conducts health-related research, will be unable to accept new patients for clinical trials. Academic medical centers and teaching hospitals also will feel the brunt of the shutdown.
  • Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics remain open but are unable to process new education and rehabilitation benefits or hold hearings for claims appeals.
  • Medicare patients will continue to receive their benefits, and states will continue to receive federal Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program money, since these funds were determined by earlier legislation.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has placed its seasonal flu program on hold and has a “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations,” an agency memo revealed. Flu vaccine supply and distribution will not be affected by the shutdown.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency has shut down almost entirely.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is “unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities,” according to an HHS memo. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to inspect meat.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will stop workplace inspections unless an “imminent danger situation” has been reported.
  • The Women, Infants, and Children program, which provides nutrition, nutrition education, and health care referrals for nearly 950,000 low income Texas women and children, will receive no new federal funds. However Texas has emergency funds to keep this program running for the immediate future.
  • The Affordable Care Act will continue to roll out as planned. In fact, enrollment in the ACA’s online marketplace began Tuesday, the first day of the government shutdown.

Friday, October 4, 2013

What I Hope is Not My Final Decision!

By Tom Jennings, MD
Dallas Ophthalmologist 

The day before I had just finished running, and my heart was pumping really hard. I thought to myself that I couldn’t have any heart disease because if I did I would certainly be getting chest pain now!

I was driving to pick up something from the hardware store, and I went into the wrong turn lane. I got really mad at myself (something I since decided not to do … see below) and developed chest pain. I had chest pain like this before, but after belching the pain would disappear. Despite belching and taking antacids, the pain was crushing, persisted for the next hour, and got a lot worse (8-9 out of 10 on the pain scale). It was really deep in my chest and seemed to move slowly upward. Esophageal spasm, I thought, that must be it. I bought what I needed from the hardware store and went to buy some more antacids. I went to clinic, sat down, drank some water, and popped the antacids. The pain was radiating into my jaw. One of the residents told me I looked bad and suggested I go to the emergency room (ER). I agreed. He drove me. We stopped off at the drugstore to get some baby aspirin. I went up to the desk at the ER and immediately they took me to get an electrocardiogram. It looked normal. The pain was beginning to subside.

I waited for an hour before I was brought into a room. The emergency physician told me he was concerned about the chest pain radiating to the jaw. This was a very strong sign the pain was cardiac in origin. I was given a nitroglycerin to put under my tongue to help widen my blood vessels. The remaining pain discontinued over the course of a minute.

I still didn’t think I had a heart attack. I was 57 years old with no strong family history of heart disease. I was in pretty good shape, exercised every day, ate healthy, and took vitamins. I never smoked or took drugs. My blood pressure was always normal. I was something of a Type-A personality … I get angry at myself when things don’t go well. My lipid levels (the levels of fatty acids and cholesterol in the blood) were normal.

My lab results were normal. I was ready to go home. Fortunately one of the physician assistants convinced me to stay and have more labs drawn. These labs came back to reveal I did have a cardiac event. An angiogram (a kind of x-ray for blood vessels) and possible angioplasty (a procedure to widen arteries) were scheduled for the next day.

Later that evening the cardiologist came and discussed my case and impending angiogram. I reluctantly agreed to have the procedure though I still did not think I had any significant cardiovascular disease. He felt that I probably had had a very small heart attack. I think he was just being nice.

That night I discussed with my daughter what she should do if I died. It’s odd, I really didn’t expect to die. I was a pretty matter of fact.

The next day while I was waiting for the angiogram, I was more concerned that the procedure would knock a plaque off an artery and I would have a stroke. The thought of not being able to speak and being disabled frightened me. I thought of all the patients I knew who smoked and placed themselves at risk for a stroke. Confronted with the immediate potential of a stroke, I was even more perplexed by their choices.

After the angiogram, I learned I had a 99 percent blockage in the second branch of my left anterior descending artery. The cardiologist placed a stent to open it up.

After the angiogram, I went to the cardiac intensive care unit (ICU), where an internist reviewed my record. She was surprised I had had a heart attack. My lipid levels drawn in the ER were normal even though I was having a heart attack, which often raises them. The internist placed me on medication.

I generally wallow in self-pity, but after realizing I have coronary artery disease, I wasn’t depressed, bitter, or envious of those who smoked or never exercised, though theoretically these people are more likely to have a heart attack than me. I felt lucky that my heart was basically undamaged from the heart attack. I resolved to do everything I could to prevent another heart attack from happening again. I felt that if I hadn’t been doing those things before my heart attack, I probably would be dead. The first thing I resolved to do was not to get so angry at things and stop cursing … a manifestation of my anger.  Somehow going into the wrong turn lane seemed pretty trivial.

I decided to stop eating saturated fat completely. I was disappointed that the hospital food, even though I was placed on a low-fat diet, contained a lot of fat. I also resolved to walk or run daily. I would continue my vitamins and start drinking a serving of grape juice every day. I don’t drink alcohol, and I understood this is an equivalent alternative.

Once home, I examined the contents labels on my food for saturated fat. If I found it contained some saturated fat, I donated it to the food shelter. The thought of eating food with saturated fat, a hamburger for example, something I used to love, no longer appealed to me.  

I started walking every day and was quickly walking from one mile to one and a half miles each day.

When I went to my cardiologist, he told me to keep doing what I did before my heart attack ― only do more. He told me it is possible with a low-fat diet and medication to dissolve plaques.

With my cardiologist’s OK, I started running and after about four weeks was up to about one and a half to two miles. I run about six days per week.

I was concerned about taking the medications. Before I had never completed a course of antibiotics. I knew I would have to change. I decided to put a daily alert for my medications, vitamins, and grape juice in my iPhone calendar. One day I forgot whether I took my evening medications. I bought a pill holder with the days of the week on it so this would not happen again.

Ten weeks after my heart attack, my health improved. It seems the exercise, dietary change, and medications helped.

What are the lessons that I have learned?

  • I learned that I should think of cardiac pain when I have chest pain.
  • Getting angry at myself only hurts me.
  • I decided that if I am going to have another heart attack or a stroke, I didn’t want to look back and regret not doing more.

I hope you find my experience helpful.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Four Important Marketplace Dates You Need to Remember

In the third installment of TMA’s “Hey, Doc” video series, Carlos "'Hey, Doc'" Cardenas, MD, explains how to sign up for insurance in the marketplace and lists four dates to keep in mind. You might know by now that yesterday was the first day to sign up for insurance through the marketplace, but consumers also should remember Dec. 15, Jan. 1, and March 31. Watch the video below to learn what each of these dates mean.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Protect Yourself and Others Against Influenza: Get a Flu Shot

By Lisa K. Cornelius, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases Medical Officer
Texas Department of State Health Services
Consultant, TMA Committee on Infectious Diseases

Editor’s Note: As fall begins, influenza (flu) season follows close behind. The Texas Legislature passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Tan Parker (R-Denton) declaring Oct. 1 Influenza Awareness Day. Texas physicians urge their patients to get vaccinated now against this potentially serious, even fatal illness.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services recommends flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older, especially persons who are at increased risk for severe complications from influenza, including:

  • Children 6 to 59 months old;
  • Adults 50 years and older;
  • Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary (including asthma) or cardiovascular (except isolated high blood pressure), kidney, liver, brain, blood, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes);
  • Individuals with suppressed immune systems (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV infection);
  • Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season;
  • Children and adolescents (aged 6 months to 18 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye’s syndrome after an influenza virus infection;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives; and+
  • People who are morbidly obese (a body mass index of at least 40).

Vaccination of individuals who live with or care for people at higher risk for influenza-related complications is also important. These people include:

  • Health care personnel;
  • Household contacts (including children) and caregivers of children less than 5years old and adults 50 years and older; and
  • Household contacts (including children) and caregivers of people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.

This year more options are available for people seeking flu vaccination. They are:

  • New vaccine formulations that now can protect people from three to four different flu viruses; 
  • High-dose vaccine for those 65 years and older;
  • Intradermal vaccine with a small needle; and
  • Egg-free recombinant vaccine for people 18-49 years old.  

Read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, people might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or possibly their nose. The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. But good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. Follow these recommendations from the CDC:

1. Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

2. Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

3. Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Practice other good health habits.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
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