Talk to YOUR Employer about Voluntary Benefits – It Will Help Both of You!

In these tough economic times, any way we can save money should be explored.  It might be hard to ask for a raise or more benefits from your employer right now.  Many of us are just glad to have a job.  But what if your employer could provide you a benefit at NO cost to them?  They might consider that right?

 Voluntary benefits are offered through your employer, but they don’t pay a penny for them.  So how do they work?  Many of go out and purchase car insurance, home owner’s insurance, pet insurance, or pre-paid legal services on our own.  When we do that, we often get the worst rate and pay high fees to an agent.

 With voluntary benefits, you can get free quotes for those same services through your employer group.  Let’s say your employer offers voluntary auto insurance.  You call up the number, give them your information, and they can usually save you a lot of money.  If not, all you have lost is the time to make a phone call.

How can they be cheaper?  When your employer offers the plan, the insurer knows things about you.  One, you have a job.  Two, your employer might allow payroll deductions – so they know they will get paid.  Three, people at work, like teachers, tend to be a better risk than individuals.  There are enough of you to get a discounted rating.  There are even discounts for how long you have stayed at the same employer.  Also, through your employer, the agent fees are lower.  Calling in by yourself, you can never get those rates.

 Your employer pays nothing.  The carrier they select takes all the calls and handles the payments.  The insurance is often portable if you decide to work somewhere else.  If you could save $1,000 to $4,000 on insurance and still be with a well known insurer would you do it?  We have many examples of just those types of savings.  The worst that could happen is you save nothing and stay where you are.

Andrea Billings  is an expert on thes issues that explained things well to this website.  Feel free to call her at 623-594-4370.  She can talk to you individually, or can go and talk to your employer on your behalf to get things rolling.  In these tough times, don’t let an opportunity like this pass you by.

Good News on the HIV Research Front

Protein that destroys HIV discovered

August 23, 2010

HIV virus

Loyola University researchers have identified the key components of a protein called TRIM5a that destroys HIV in rhesus monkeys.

The finding could lead to new TRIM5a-based treatments that would knock out HIV in humans, said senior researcher Edward M. Campbell, PhD, of Loyola University Health System.

Campbell and colleagues report their findings in an article featured on the cover of the Sept. 15, 2010 issue of the journal Virology, now available online.

In 2004, other researchers reported that TRIM5a protects rhesus monkeys from HIV. The TRIM5a protein first latches on to a HIV virus, then other TRIM5a proteins gang up and destroy the virus.

Humans also have TRIM5a, but while the human version of TRIM5a protects against some viruses, it does not protect against HIV.

Researchers hope to turn TRIM5a into an effective therapeutic agent. But first they need to identify the components in TRIM5a that enable the protein to destroy viruses. “Scientists have been trying to develop antiviral therapies for only about 75 years,” Campbell said. “Evolution has been playing this game for millions of years, and it has identified a point of intervention that we still know very little about.”

TRIM5a consists of nearly 500 amino acid subunits. Loyola researchers have identified six 6 individual amino acids, located in a previously little-studied region of the TRIM5a protein, that are critical in the ability of the protein to inhibit viral infection. When these amino acids were altered in human cells, TRIM5a lost its ability to block HIV-1 infection. (The research was done on cell cultures; no rhesus monkeys were used in the study.)

By continuing to narrow their search, researchers hope to identify an amino acid, or combination of amino acids, that enable TRIM5a to destroy HIV. Once these critical amino acids are identified, it might be possible to genetically engineer TRIM5a to make it more effective in humans. Moreover, a better understanding of the underlying mechanism of action might enable the development of drugs that mimic TRIM5a action, Campbell said.

In their research, scientists used Loyola’s wide-field “deconvolution” microscope to observe how the amino acids they identified altered the behavior of TRIM5a. They attached fluorescent proteins to TRIM5a to, in effect, make it glow. In current studies, researchers are fluorescently labeling individual HIV viruses and measuring the microscopic interactions between HIV and TRIM5a.

More info: Loyola University Health System news

A shout out to the people at Loyola University Health Systems for all their work!

Local Health Trust Holding Back Costs!

We came across this recent press release we wanted to share to show not everything in the health world is negative.  There are still organizations out there looking out for the little guy and keeping costs down.  Here is their press release:


VALLEY SCHOOLS DECREASES ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS FOR MEMBERS THROUGH COST CUTTING AND TOUGH NEGOTIATION Phoenix, Arizona – The Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) announced today that the administrative costs for its members will be significantly reduced from the amount earlier expected. In fact, there will be no increase at all.


Initially, independent actuaries had built in an increase due to the large overall increases nationwide that are occurring in health care administration because of new rules and regulations going into effect. “At a time when others are reducing options and increasing prices, I am glad we are able to expand choices and maintain administrative costs for our members even though there may have been overall rate increases,” said Tom Boone, CEO of Valley Schools.


The ability to keep administrative costs at a zero percent increase is attributed to three major factors. First, the staff and operations at VSEBT have been asked to do more with less, forgoing any increases in pay, and working longer and harder. VSEBT Administrator Andrea Billings said, “Despite our rapid expansion in size in recent years, we have held our staff and salaries the same. We know our members are going through tough budget times, and we want to help them however we can. I want to express my appreciation to the VSEBT staff for their continued outstanding efforts and dedication.”


The second major factor was taking a continuing positive partnership with our medical, dental and other carriers that provide services to VSEBT members. They were also willing to keep their administrative costs at the same levels for the upcoming year.


The final factor was a favorable renewal of the stop loss coverage which protects VSEBT members from the risk of high cost claims. Health benefits are the second largest cost for our members next to salaries. Savings on these health benefits free up monies for vital public services and save tax dollars. “We are very happy to be able to once again hold down administrative costs to no increase to allour members,” said Tom Boone. “It really is about cutting operating costs where possible to maintain classroom funding for our children and to protect vital municipal services.”



Dealing With Stress Effectively

In keeping with our positive attitude, we are not going to talk about stress and all its bad side effects.  Instead, here is an excerpt from a great article with some ideas for controlling your stress:

Dealing with stress and its symptoms






While unchecked stress is undeniably damaging, there are many things you can do to reduce its impact and cope with symptoms.

Learn how to manage stress

You may feel like the stress in your life is out of your control, but you can always control the way you respond. Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation.

Learn how to relax

You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how much it affects you. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. They also increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.

Learn quick stress relief

Everybody has the power to reduce the impact of stress as it’s happening in that moment. With practice, you can learn to spot stressors and stay in control when the pressure builds. Sensory stress-busting techniques give you a powerful tool for staying clear-headed and in control in the middle of stressful situations. They give you the confidence to face challenges, knowing that you have the ability to rapidly bring yourself back into balance.








For more information, please go to:

WellStyles – An Award Winning Program Developed Here in Arizona!

Valley Schools’ Award Winning WellStyles Program

Valley Schools has developed a scientific approach to wellness called the WellSytles Program TM.  Valley Schools provides insurance and benefits services to many local school districts and other government entities in Arizona.  They found out that a focus on wellness can really pay off in lower premiums by keeping people healthier.  Here is a link to this program:

If you want a copy of their monthly newsletter with ideas for health living, recipes and other great materials, feel free to contact Rebecca McGonigle at that link.  I am sure she would love to help out by putting you on the mailing list.  We will also see if we can get copies of the prior and future reports to post here as well.

WellStyles focuses on 1) informing members of how they can influence current and future health through diet and healthy living; 2) by giving members opportunities to participate in activities that will help them; and 3) providing rewards to incentivize members to participate in improving their own health and lifestyles.

Keep up the great work Valley Schools!