Affordable Care Act: What does it mean, and what to do next?

Health Insurance Marketplace, Affordable Care Act | HealthCare.gov 2013-11-19 11-12-59If you’re someone who was fervently supporting the Affordable Care Act, and you’re now neck-deep in frustrating web applications, what do you do?

I get why the ACA is important, but goddamnit, it really looks like my premiums are going to, at a minimum, double (after the tax credit) for coverage that has a 40% higher deductible.  But it is also nearly impossible for me to decipher what my potential costs might be without entering a fuck ton of somewhat sensitive information to even look at rates on my state’s marketplace.  I am an intelligent, internet-savvy person, and I cannot for the life of me muddle through this shit to compare what’s available and figure out what it might actually cost me.

Yeah, probably that. Spend hours (or days, or weeks) sorting through your options, and try to figure out how to piece together the coverage you need. Fortunately, this is exactly the sort of situation that the hive mind can help out with:

…have you checked to see if you are eligible for subsidies?  It goes up to 400% FPL, which is around $80,000 for a family of 3. This subsidy calculator from kaiser foundation is easier to use than most of the Exchange websites, and they are generally a good info source.

Just want to make sure that both kinds of subsidy are on your radar. At 200% FPL you have a premium cap of between 4 and 6.3% of income, and if you buy a silver plan you also get out-of-pocket cost supports such that the actual deductible on those plans may be lower. This latter bit isn’t talked about much. But see here:

http://themakeshiftacademic.blogspot.com/2013/11/obamacares-other-subsidy-help-with-cost.html

Got a question to ask? Trying to make sense of the policy or the practical implications? Check out the discussion on The American Healthcare Debate thread, and join in the Q&A.

Image credit: Screenshot https://www.healthcare.gov/

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Plastic Safety: Reality vs. Hype

Which plastics are safe?What’s the real deal with plastic safety? If you’re like many of us here on altdotlife, you may have been wondering: Can you safely freeze, but not heat? Use Ziplok bags, but not cans of tomato sauce? How can you figure out what’s just hype, and what are real concerns?

Read more: So what’s the deal with plastics? or check out all our threads on plastic safety issues. Note: most of these are in health or parenting parts of the board, so remember to log in first.

What is so terrible about plastics? How much do I actually need to care about them?I am confused about exactly what the risks are, how to best reduce those risks, and what is really not worth worrying about. I know that several years ago (maybe a decade ago now?) I started seeing a lot of concerns about plastics, specifically BPA and phthalates, in food packaging, baby products, cosmetics, and other household products. I also know that much more recently, the FDA banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, and that lots of big brands are now touting that their products have no BPA or phthalates (like Ziploc bags, long my go-to for freezer storage). Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but I feel like in the last few years I’ve seen a trend toward more glass (mason jars everywhere!), ceramic, iron, etc. food storage and kitchenware, wood baby toys and whatnot, but I have the impression that in many cases it seems to be more about a “look” or a signal that you are “green” than about any actual risk management.

And, as luck would have it, many alties have given this a lot of thought, either personally or professionally.

In addition to EWG’s good advice, what you want to avoid is essentially anything the will increase the likelihood of the plastic to leach into your food. You can’t practically avoid all plastic, but I use a few of the rationals below to decide when to use plastic and when to skip it. This includes:

  • heating plastics increases leaching
  • freezing food in plastic will not cause too much leaching, but remove the food from the plastic container (i.e. into a ceramic bowl) when you thaw it out
  • let food cool off in a ceramic dished before placing it into the plastic for freezing
  • storage of high oil content foods in plastic increases leaching (i.e. cheese tightly wrapped in thin saran wrap)
  • scratched/damaged plastic increases leaching
  • storage of wet foods in less durable (thin plastic containers) increases leaching
  • leaving the food in the plastic for a long time (unfrozen) increases leaching (i.e. use plastic for a food that you will eat soon, but glass for something you will eat later in the day or another day).

(Disclaimer – these are my own personal rules I follow based on my general (career related) knowledge of organic contaminants. I have no official references and this is not based on a detailed study)

Wondering about cans?

Cans are a sort of unique storm of all the leaching risk factors: Heat is used in the canning process. Canned foods (especially tomatoes) tend to be acidic. Canned foods tend to be salty (which also encourages leaching.)

This Snopes piece about BPA and cans is pretty good, I think. Reasonably balanced. Not OMG TOXINS, but also not a press release from a chemical lobbying group (and you’ll see those around too).

And this thread has given me my absolute favorite quote of the week:

“I’m not a toxicologist; I do sometimes read papers about plastics for fun.”

Image credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Wallula Junction

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EWG Guide to Bug Repellants

Mosquitoes? Check the EWG Bug Repellent Guide

Have you noticed that the Environmental Working Group has just released it’s new Guide to Bug Repellents? Check it out, ask questions about it, or just ask for a new bug repellent recommendation on the thread Insect Repellents.

You might also be interested in the threads

Image credit: Mosquito by Jhong Dizon | Photography

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“Natural” Remedies: What Really Works?

Natural remedies: acupunctureAre you interested in a conversation about which “natural” remedies work, and which are more likely to be bunk? (Can you talk about it without frothing at the mouth? ‘Cause that’s the second requirement for the conversation.)  Join us in “Natural” Remedies: What Really Works? to share your stories of antibiotics and acupuncture, sinus rinses and cough drops. We’ve got links to Pubmed and personal anecdotes, so add your comments below on the blog, or join us on the forum (log in first, it’s a health topic).

Image credit: His and her acupuncture needles. #shanghai by Gauravonomics

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