April 2013 - Susman
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Good article on Healthcare from CNN Webpage

(CNN) – Applications for health insurance coverage under President Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare law will go from 21 pages to three, according to a White House official, who said the change was part of an effort to simplify the implementation of Obamacare.

“The President wants the Administration to be as flexible and nimble as possible in implementing the ACA law,” the White House official said, referring to the law’s official name, the Affordable Care Act. “It is a complex undertaking, and it is particularly important to the success of the law that enrollment into the Markteplaces be as user friendly as possible.”

Starting this fall, the some 15 million Americans who buy health insurance on the individual market will be able to shop for and enroll in health insurance through state-based exchanges, with coverage taking effect in January. By 2016, some 24 million people will get insurance through the exchanges, while another 12 million will continue to get individual coverage outside of them, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

A draft application to receive insurance on the exchanges topped out at 21 pages, the White House official said, which prompted criticism that it was overly complicated.

“Obviously, the drafting of the Marketplace application is just one small piece of ACA implementation,” the official continued. “But we hope that people concerned with implementation will view this corrective action as a positive step and a demonstration of our interest in taking whatever actions we can to make the law work well for all.”

The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 with loud opposition from Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to repeal the measure in Congress. The centerpiece of the law, an individual requirement to obtain health care insurance, was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2012.

Stay warm during severe cold weather

Stay warm during severe cold weather

Extreme cold can cause a number of health problems. Hypothermia and frostbite are just two of the health effects induced by cold weather.

Hypothermia occurs when a person’s core body temperature is lower than 95°F. The condition is considered mild if a person’s core temperature is between 90 and 95°F. Victims of mild hypothermia may show symptoms including uncontrollable shivering, loss of dexterity, pale and cool skin, and incoherence.

Severe hypothermia occurs when a person’s core body temperature falls below 90°F. At this temperature shivering stops and the victim’s blood pressure, heart rate and respiration begin dropping. Symptoms of severe hypothermia include slurred speech, confusion, shallow breathing, unusual behavior and a slow, irregular heartbeat. In extreme cases, the victim appears dead.

Treat mild hypothermia by moving the victim to a warm, dry environment. Prevent further heat loss by covering the victim’s head and neck. Provide extra clothes or blankets. Give the victim warm liquids (no caffeine or alcohol) and high-energy foods. Consult a physician as soon as possible.

Severe hypothermia demands immediate medical attention. Apply mild heat (comfortable to the elbow) to the victim’s head, neck, chest, armpits and groin. Attempt to keep the victim conscious. As much as possible, prevent them from moving. Movement circulates cold blood back to the heart and can cause further damage.

Frostbite is frozen and sometimes dead tissue caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, usually below freezing. The extremities of the body (ears, nose, fingers, hands, toes, and feet) are most often affected because the body reduces blood flow to them in an effort to maintain its core temperature.

Frostbite usually causes the skin to look pale or blue. In extreme cases, the skin may turn black. The skin will generally feel cold and numb, and may be either stiff or rubbery. Severe cases of frostbite may form blisters.

Contrary to common belief, one should NEVER rub areas affected with frostbite. Rubbing actually increases the tissue damage. Move the victim to a warm, dry area. Place the affected area into warm water (100 to 104°F) until it becomes red, not until feeling returns. Consult a physician as soon as possible.

If you must be outside in cold weather, dress in layers including a hat, gloves and insulated boots. The inner layer of clothing should transfer moisture away from the skin, the middle layer should provide insulation and warmth while the outer layer prevents wind, rain and snow from getting in . Air between the layers also will provide additional warmth.

Keeping dry in cold weather is crucial to avoiding hypothermia. If a person does get wet, quickly move the individual to a warm, dry area. Remove the wet clothing and cover the individual with dry clothes or blankets.

Avoid smoking and stimulants, such as caffeine and alcohol. Smoking decreases circulation to the extremities. Caffeine stimulates the heart and may cause it to circulate cold blood. Although alcohol may make a person feel warm, it actually causes the body to lose heat.

Nutrition is a critical part of combating hypothermia. Your body needs food to burn to sustain core temperature. Eat a well balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates. The dry air in cold conditions also can cause dehydration. It is important to rehydrate regularly.

Tips for unoccupied or vacant homes and properties

Tips for unoccupied or vacant homes and properties

When properties are left vacant or are unoccupied, steps should be taken to prevent or mitigate losses due to heating system, electrical system, water damage, vandalism or other causes.

Heating system/Electrical

  1. The heating system should be cleaned and inspected by a contractor to help ensure it is working properly, especially through the winter months, to reduce potential damage from fire and freezing.
  2. If LP gas, propane gas or oil heat is used, ensure the fuel levels in the tank are checked periodically to prevent running out of fuel.
  3. If the home is not to be heated, have the fuel turned off at the main shut-off valve to reduce the malfunction/ explosion potential. The valve should be checked to ensure it is working properly.
  4. The home should be checked regularly (at least once a week) to ensure the heating system is operating properly.
  5. Be sure the electric power is not shut off since this will shut down the heating system. If electrical service to the home is to remain on, inspect main electrical panel, wiring and outlets; and repair or replace any defective or deficient items.
  6. Chimneys should be inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned to ensure that they are free from obstructions such as nesting birds. Install chimney guard screen-caps to help prevent any infestation.

Water damage

  1. If the heating system is to be turned off completely, have the plumbing system drained (or properly winterized) to prevent freezing damage.
  2. If hot water heating system and/or water pipes will not be drained, have a water flow sensor and low temperature sensor installed and hooked into a centrally monitored alarm system; and keep thermostat at a consistent temperature throughout the winter months.
  3. If water will not be turned off, shut off dishwasher and washing machine hoses to prevent serious water damage losses. Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so the water supply will be less likely to freeze. Follow manufacturer’s instructions closely if heat tape is used on piping to prevent fires. Open cabinet doors to allow heat from the room to get into concealed spaces. Drain and shut off outdoor water faucets to prevent vandalism and freezing damage.
  4. If a separate hot water heater is present, inspect for leaks. If in an earthquake area, confirm it is retrofitted (e.g., strapped to the adjacent wall).
  5. Check weather-stripping, insulation, and exterior doors and windows to ensure no major deficiencies are present. Water and insects can enter through these openings.
  6. Inspect roof for any evidence of damage, leaks, missing or worn shingles/ridges; and replace or repair damaged, worn or missing shingles to help prevent wind, water damage or damage resulting from water backup of ice that forms around the edges.
  7. Inspect for ice dams on the roof that can prevent melting snow from draining off the roof, which in turn can back up and cause interior water damage.
  8. Inspect attic and basement for any evidence of water damage or mold. Fix all leaks, keep appliances clean, and increase ventilation to prevent the growth of molds and bacteria and reduce potential for invasion from unwanted insects or rodents.
  9. Gutters and downspouts should be checked and cleaned, if necessary. Clogged gutters can result in basement flooding when the snow melts in northern climates and/or water damage to interior walls in any climate as the water is no longer channeled properly. Check the downspouts and extensions to make sure water is diverted away from the house and does not pond next to the foundation.

Vandalism

  1. Notify the police department that the property will be vacant, and provide emergency notification phone numbers.
  2. Clear snow from driveways, sidewalks, hatch covers and dryer vent openings to reduce slip-and-fall liability losses, reduce the potential for the home becoming a target for vandals by appearing to be unoccupied or vacant, and prevent melting snow from leaking into the home and causing damage.
  3. In temperate climates, make sure lawn is mowed and maintained regularly (e.g., free of debris or garbage).
  4. Promptly repair any significant hazards (e.g., missing or broken railing or steps, broken windows, etc.) to increase the appearance the home is regularly occupied.
  5. Have mail and newspapers forwarded to appropriate address or picked up on a regular basis. Even if all mail is stopped, the home should be checked at least weekly to ensure unread mail, flyers, leaflets, etc., do not build up and add to the vacant/unoccupied appearance of the property.
  6. Secure external doors and windows with high-quality deadbolt locks, security-type hinges, and sturdy door frames that cannot be spread apart. Slide locks or other equivalent security locks should be installed on sliding glass doors or French doors.
  7. Install variable light timers to increase the appearance the home is regularly occupied, and ensure the lights do not turn on and off at the same time every day.

Miscellaneous

  1. Remove dead trees or overhanging large tree limbs from the property that could cause damage.
  2. In higher wind-exposed or coastal areas, install storm shutters (or other mitigation measures, such as 5/8” marine plywood) to secure windows ahead of a potentially damaging storm. Anchor fuel tanks and other storage tanks.
  3. Install smoke detectors on at least every floor (preferably tied into a centrally monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will automatically be notified in case of an alarm), and confirm that the sensors and system are tested regularly. Install carbon monoxide detectors and test them monthly, especially if the home will be shown to prospective buyers periodically.
  4. Have the home tested for radon and lead. If the level of either is unacceptable, take appropriate steps to correct the problem (e.g., install a radon reduction system, encapsulate lead paint, etc.).

Winterize your home and property

Winterize your home and property

Ice, snow and wind can have devastating consequences on your home. The time to winterize is when the leaves begin to turn and not when the snow begins to fall.

Homeowners should take the following precautions:

  • Maintain gutters

    Remove leaves, acorns, sticks and other debris from gutters so melting snow and ice can flow freely. You may also consider installing gutter guards. Available in most hardware and home stores, gutter guards are screens that prevent debris from entering the gutter and direct the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.

  • Trim trees and remove dead branches

    Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break, damaging your home or car or injuring someone walking on your property.

  • Check insulation

    Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. The water re-freezes causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in a collapsed roof, and can contribute to ice damming. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing.

  • Maintain pipes

    Wrap pipes with heating tape and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages that frequently have exposed pipes. Also, check for cracks and leaks. Have minor pipe damage fixed immediately to prevent much costlier repairs in the future.

  • Keep the house warm

    The temperature in your house should be at least 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the pipes from freezing.

  • Check heating systems

    The proper use and maintenance of furnaces, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves can prevent fire and smoke damage. Have furnaces, boilers and chimneys serviced at least once a year. Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly and consider installing a carbon monoxide detector.

  • Maintain steps and handrails

    Broken stairs and banisters can become dangerous when covered with snow and ice. Make repairs now to prevent someone from falling and seriously being injured.

  • Get to know your plumbing

    Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent the pipes from bursting.

  • Hire a licensed contractor

    Have a professional survey your home for any structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired immediately so further damage will not occur during the winter. Also, find out about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump-pumps and other methods can prevent damage to your home and belongings.

  • Plan for being away

    If you are not going to be in your home this winter for an extended period of time, have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting. Also, have someone check on your home on a regular basis. If there is a problem, it can be fixed quickly, thus lessening any damage. Activity at your home will also reduce the likelihood that it will be burglarized.

    Damage to homes caused by flooding is usually excluded from most standard homeowner policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program ( http://www.fema.gov/business/nfip ). Ask your insurance professional about flood insurance, as well as specific advice about winter-proofing your home.

A winter storm is bearing down. Are you ready?

A winter storm is bearing down.
Are you ready?

Bitter temperatures, howling winds and icy precipitation can easily turn a pretty winter snowfall into a dangerous event.

With a storm now on your doorstep, here are a few things you can do to stay safe and warm while the storm
passes through.

Check your supplies. Make sure you have a snow shovel and ice melt to keep walkways clear and safe. Check that you have sufficient heating fuel for your home and fuel for your generator, if you have one. If you will be using a fireplace or wood-burning stove, you should have a good supply of dry, seasoned wood. Have warm clothing and blankets on hand and stock non-perishable food items and necessary medications to last you and your family several days.

Get ready for a power outage. Turn your heat up now and close off any rooms that are not in use. Check pipe insulation and allow water to run at a trickle to prevent pipes from freezing. Charge your battery-powered electronic and communications devices. A battery-powered radio can help keep you aware of changing weather conditions. Get out your flashlights, batteries, first aid kit and other emergency supplies.

Stay warm – and safe. If you start a wood-burning fire, follow all fireplace safety precautions. Do not use an oven or a range as a home heating device. If you have a generator, use it outside only, where there is sufficient ventilation. Test all of your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they work properly. Do not let candles burn unattended, and keep them away from combustibles. LED candles are a safe, energy efficient alternative. Also, if you have an ice dam prevention system, turn it on before the snow starts to fall.

Stay inside – and safe. Drive only if you absolutely must, and be sure your car is outfitted with snow tires, has adequate fuel and an emergency supply kit. If you go outside to shovel, know your limits and try not to overtax your body.
Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing layers of warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Stay away from any downed power lines you may see. Keep your pets inside, or make other suitable arrangements for them.

We at Travelers hope these measures will help get you through the storm safely and comfortably.

Find more suggestions on long-term planning for a winter storm by visiting our page on winterizing your home.

Swimming pool safety and maintenance tips

Swimming pool safety and maintenance tips

Protect your friends and family as you beat the heat.

Before your family starts splashing around in the pool, make sure you check the pool liner for rips and tears – just one of the many tips listed below.

  • Maintain secure fencing and a locked entrance around the pool and deck area to prevent access when adequate supervision is not available.
  • Make sure there is adequate lifesaving equipment in the pool area, including life preservers and a rescue hook.
  • Keep chemicals safely stored away from the pool area. Follow all storage and usage instructions recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Never leave a child unattended in the water or pool area.
  • Inspect the liner periodically. Rips and tears can appear undetected at the top of the lining.
  • Check for signs of wear and tear in areas where pipes or other items may have penetrated the liner (e.g., skimmers, hoses, etc.).
  • For above ground pools, check metal supports for rust or deterioration. These may indicate areas where the pool could rupture or a person could be injured.
  • Check the deck for safety hazards (e.g., protruding nails, loose boards, etc.).
  • Keep your pool maintained and seasonably prepped. Be sure to lower the water level and keep the pool covered in the winter months.
  • Install an audible pool alarm to alert you if someone falls into the pool while it is unattended.

Fall maintenance tips

Fall maintenance tips

Prepare your home for cooler days ahead.

Fall foliage is beautiful, but not when it builds up in your gutters! Take these tips into account during the cool autumn months.

  • Have your furnace cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified technician.
  • Keep flammable materials, including all lawn and power equipment, away from water heaters and wiring in the basement.
  • Insulate water pipes in areas exposed to cold temperatures, and turn up the thermostat during extra cold periods.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season to keep leaves from building up in gutters.
  • Check and repair caulking around doors and windows that show signs of deterioration.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases; and make repairs as needed.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and maintained annually by a professional.
  • Clean and/or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Keep a mufti-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Inspect your smoke detectors. Make sure there is one on each floor of your home. Test them monthly, and change the battery annually or as needed.

Summer maintenance tips

Summer maintenance tips

Enjoy longer days and warmer nights while protecting your investment.

Summertime is the best time to be outside enjoying the weather. Make sure your deck or patio is ready for the summer sun by keeping in mind the seasonal maintenance tips below.

  • Check deck or patio for possible deterioration and safety hazards such as loose boards and protruding nails.
  • Check electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Check all window and door locks to ensure correct functioning. Make sure all locks are secure and there are no holes in any of the screens.
  • Inspect recreational equipment for proper operation and possible dangers (e.g., Are swing sets secure, and do they contain any rusty bolts?).
  • Carefully inspect your toilet. Look for the erosion of plastic floater valves, and check all pipe connections.
  • Clean or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust and pieces of material.
  • Inspect washing machine hoses periodically, and replace hoses that show signs of wear or leakage.
  • Have your roof inspected by a professional once every few years to identify areas of potential leakage.

Backyard Summer Safety Tips

Backyard Summer Safety Tips

Here are 5 Backyard Summer Safety Tips for families looking to turn their backyards into a stay-cation hot spot.

The Pool

The Hazard: A backyard full of young children and adults looking for some relief from the hot sun. Between the adults relaxing in pool floats and children working on their cannonball, there is room for disaster to occur. As the sun becomes stronger and the pool becomes more crowded, the potential for risk grows. In fact, every year about 43,000 people are injured in and around swimming pools and more than 600 people drown in home or public pools†.

The Tips: Before your houseguests work on their diving, make sure they know how to swim. All new swimmers should be accompanied by an individual familiar with water life-saving skills and don’t let anyone swim alone. Make sure there is adequate lifesaving equipment in the pool area, including throwing rope with life saving rings, a reaching pole or rescue hook. While the food is coming off the grill and the drinks are refreshing, be sure to check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards. Everyone loves listening to some tunes by the water but keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces to avoid electrical issues.

Learn more about pool safety »

The Grill

The Hazard: Your party guests are hungry and looking to refuel after a pickup basketball game in the driveway. Throwing some burgers and hot dogs on the grill during a party is what summer is all about, but barbecuing can be dangerous, even deadly, if you are not careful. Americans enjoy more than three billion barbecues each year and need to be aware of the dangers associated with grills†.

The Tips: As the cook you want to be around your guests, but remember that barbecue grills should be kept on a level surface away from the house, garage, landscaping, and most of all, children. Although it may be hot out, protect yourself by wearing a heavy apron and an oven mitt that fits high up over your forearm. After a long day of grilling can be tiring, but take the time to soak the coals with water before you put them in the trash. Always remember that grills remain hot long after you are through barbecuing.

Learn more about grilling safety »

Trampolines

The Hazard: You want to make your backyard a more fun place for your children and their friends by adding toys like trampolines. These trampolines can be fun for kids but also can be extremely dangerous. In 2010 alone, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that there were over 92,000 hospital emergency room injuries associated with trampolines‡.

The Tips: Although your kids may want to play with all their friends on the trampoline, limit the number of people allowed on at a time. The trampoline should also not be used without knowledgeable adult supervision and a set of rules should be established before allowing guests to use the trampoline. You may also reduce your risk by installing additional safety nets and other accessories.

Play Sets

The Hazard: Swing sets are a great addition to any backyard and enjoyed by children of all ages, however they can become dangerous if they are not maintained. Normal wear and tear can cause these play sets to become unsafe and in need of replacement.

The Tips: The winter can cause damage to outdoor structures and swing sets should be checked regularly for sturdiness. Over the years bolts can become rusty and may need to be replaced. Wooden structures can rot and should be reinforced if necessary. Young children should be supervised when playing on swing sets and should not be left alone. The play sets should be on level ground and should be placed on woodchips to prevent injuries.

Fire Pits

The Hazard: Summer nights are the perfect time for making s’mores in the backyard fire pit. Fire pits can quickly get out of control and can cause major damage. These fires can also be dangerous as young children often get too close to the flames.

The Tips: Although your kids may beg to light a fire with their friends, never allow them to start a fire alone and there should be adult supervision at all times. Even if you are called away from the fire, always have someone keep an eye on the flames to ensure the fire is maintained. At the end of the night, make sure the fire is completely out by using sand to extinguish.

¹ Source: Harris Poll “Harris Poll Finds People Planning More Staycations” May 30, 2012
†Source: Insurance Information Institute; www.iii.org
‡ Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission “CPSC Safety Alert” 2010

Spring maintenance tips

 

Spring maintenance tips

Spring ahead with these home maintenance tips.

 

Spring cleaning and spring maintenance tips go hand in hand. Take a cue from the tips below and spruce up your gutters as you spruce up your rose garden.

  • Inspect your smoke detectors, and make sure that there is one on each floor of your home. Test them monthly, and change the batteries annually or as needed.
  • Check the light bulbs in all your fixtures to be sure they are the correct wattage as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Replace all high-intensity bulbs (such as incandescent) with fluorescent bulbs that don’t produce as much heat.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Have your air conditioning system inspected by a professional as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating.
  • Check water heater for leaks and corrosion.
  • Clean or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material.
  • Remove all dead trees in your yard, and keep healthy trees and bushes trimmed and away from utility wires.
  • Safely store oil and gas for lawn equipment and tools in a vented, locked area.
  • Repair cracked, broken or uneven driveways and walkways to provide a level walking surface.