Rural Health assists with health insurance
BRADENTON -- Don't have health insurance yet? The new health care law's mandate that individuals be covered started Jan. 1. And there's a deadline for being in compliance for 2014. You'll need to be enrolled in a plan by March 31.
Here's one place to get help in choosing plans being offered in the health exchange marketplace at healthcare.gov:
From 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Manatee County Central Library, application counselors from the Manatee County Rural Health Services will be available to answer questions and assist with applications. The library is at 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. W., Bradenton.
The counselors can tell you whether you may be eligible for subsidies based on income that lower costs of health plans on the site.
They also can help you look at the details of the many plans available through the exchange. Comparing plans can show which one best meets your needs.
Rural Health Services is proud of the number of applications that its counselors have helped complete since last October, when the exchange opened, to December, said William Colgate, the agency's chief performance officer.
A total of 488 applications were completed, with most of them in December, he said. The exchange's rocky debut resulted in a quiet October and November.
January has been slow compared to the last three weeks of December but is still much higher than October and November, said Colgate. In the first 14 days of January, 156 applications were completed.
Rural Health Services recently received a grant to hire six more application counselors. They will join the eight counselors now on board.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we experience a ramp-up (in applicants) like we did in December," said Colgate. "It may wane in February, but as we get closer to March 31, there could be a sense of urgency."
For other locations and times when application counselors are available, call 1-855-253-9098, of visit www.mcrhs.org.
DOH encouraging pregnant women to get flu vaccine
MANATEE -- The Florida Department of Health is encouraging pregnant women to be vaccinated against the flu. The advisory is in response to reports of the death of a pregnant woman in Florida earlier this flu season and the hospitalization of other pregnant women who became infected with the H1N1 flu virus, commonly known as swine flu.
This season's flu vaccine protects against H1N1, one of the predominant flu strains expected to circulate. Formulation of the vaccine changes each year to protect against expected flu viruses, which is why flu shots are needed annually.
Pregnancy increases the risk of developing complications from the flu.
"It's better to have the flu vaccine rather than end up in the hospital," said Ron Cox, epidemiologist at Florida Department of Health-Manatee.
The vaccine is safe for the mother and unborn baby at any stage of pregnancy, said Cox. The vaccine also will protect babies for several months after birth.
Despite the fact that it's nearly February, it's not too late to get the vaccine and be protected for the remainder of flu season, said Cox.
"It's never too late. As a matter of fact, flu is peaking in late January and February and goes into March," he said.
Free Spanish lessons offered for H2U members
BRADENTON -- Blake Hospital is offering free beginning Spanish classes for H2U members and hospital employees beginning 5:30-7 p.m. Jan. 23. The classes continue at the same time each Thursday, excluding holidays, throughout 2014.
H2U is Blake's member-based senior enrichment program.
Blake director of volunteer services Darlene Monroe will lead the class. She takes a different approach to teaching Spanish; people must learn to think in a new language before they can speak it, she said.
Some of the techniques used by Monroe are having students watch the popular Spanish soap operas called "novellas." She also will bring in native Spanish speakers to converse with students.
Studies show that learning another language affects multiple parts of the brain and can be helpful for maintaining memory, said Monroe.
The classes will be held in Suite 4700 of the Medical Arts Building, 2010 59th St. W., Bradenton, next to Blake Hospital. For information, call 941-798-6151.
Parkinson Symposium held Jan. 25 in Sarasota
SARASOTA -- The latest advances in Parkinson's disease treatment will be presented at the 2014 annual Parkinson Symposium 2014 from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Sarasota Memorial Institute for Advanced Medicine, 5880 Rand Blvd., Sarasota.
"Update on Parkinson's Disease: The Revolution in High Gear," will be presented by physician Lawrence Elmer of the University of Toledo College of Medicine.
Research and new treatments for Parkinson's have been advancing rapidly in the past five years, said Wanda Jackson, a coordinator at the Institute for Advanced Medicine.
"It's moving in leaps and bounds," she said.
A second speaker will talk about sexual health and Parkinson's by physician Dean Sutherland. Topics for the symposium are driven by patients' request for information, said Jackson, and they frequently have questions about how to manage Parkinson's in relation to sexual health.
Motivational speaker Bruce Hamilton will be presenting "No Bad Days."
Cost is $15 and includes breakfast. Check-in starts at 8 a.m. Register by calling the Neuro Challenge Foundation at 941-926-6413 or visiting www.neurochallenge.org.
Susan Hemmingway, Herald health correspondent, can be reached at email@example.com.