What Parents Need to Know About Health Insurance

As a parent, you want to make sure your child gets the medical care he or she needs. A family health plan is the first step toward ensuring your children get access to quality health care providers to treat everyday illnesses or more serious conditions that require surgery or hospitalization.

Every family’s circumstance is different, but the following are the basics of what parents need to know about health insurance coverage:

Medical Family Policy

Family policies provide health insurance for children’s preventive medical care, emergency care or inpatient hospital care. That means the insurance policy will pay a portion of the costs when a child sees a doctor for a checkup, vaccinations, an accidental injury such as a broken arm, a surgical procedure, or treatment for a chronic health condition.

Dental

Health insurance also covers your child’s dental care, as long as they are 18 or younger. Benefits include preventive care twice a year, including an oral exam with an evaluation of gum health, dental X-rays, cleaning, flossing and plaque and tartar removal.

Your dentist may recommend additional treatments such as fillings for cavities or sealants to protect your child’s tooth enamel. Health insurance will cover a portion of the costs for these treatments.

Vision

If you child wears glasses, he or she will benefit from a policy that includes vision coverage. Your health plan will pay part of the cost of glasses or contacts, vision testing and visits to an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Managing Costs

Family health insurance usually covers the majority of your children’s health care costs, but you should expect to pay some yourself. These are called out-of-pocket costs, and they include your deductible, coinsurance or both.

There are some exceptions. Your health plan will generally pay all of the costs when you take your child to an in-network doctor for checkups and immunizations. Keep in mind that you will pay more in coinsurance for trips to the emergency room than for a doctor’s office visit. If your child becomes sick with a minor illness, it’s more economical to see your pediatrician. If you can’t get an appointment, an urgent care center is generally a better option than an emergency room for minor problems like runny noses and sore throats.

Health insurance can be a confusing topic, especially when you’re seeking coverage for your children. By considering what parents need to know about insurance, selecting a plan that’s right for your family becomes much easier.

Six Outdoor Volunteering Opportunities in Tennessee

You don’t have to choose between recreation and giving back. Here’s a list of organizations across Tennessee that promote active lifestyles and social responsibility.

Hands on Nashville

Whether you want to spend a Saturday planting flowers, or every other weekend making your neighbors’ homes more energy-efficient, Hands On Nashville (HON) can help you find the perfect place to do it. This organization pairs up Nashville residents with community involvement opportunities, based on volunteers’ interests, skills and availability. Along with supporting area non-profits, HON enrolls families and individuals in programs ranging from urban agriculture to youth leadership development.

Team Green Adventures

Nashville-based Team Green Adventures draws volunteers from across the state. Created in 1996 by Lightning 100, “Nashville’s Independent Radio,” this group turns community service events into adventure and recreation the whole family can enjoy. Learn more about nature and how to protect the environment while biking, climbing, rafting or camping with other eco-friendly adventurers.

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy

Shelby Farms Park is a 4,500-acre green recreation space located in the heart of Memphis. Each year, volunteers spend more than 30,000 hours helping to maintain the park and its 6.5 miles of urban trails. Volunteer to be a playground monitor, park guide, trail scout or urban gardener. Shelby Farms Park welcomes individual volunteers, as well as families and other small groups.

Knoxville Track Club

For a fast-paced way to give back, the Knoxville Track Club (KTC) might be more your speed. One of the largest running clubs of its kind in the country, KTC raises money for local charities through its own races and by participating in marathons that benefit numerous worthy causes. KTC also inspires young people to be more physically active by sponsoring exceptional athletes while working with the track and field programs at local schools.

Wild Trails

Chattanooga-based Wild Trails is a community of trail runners and nature enthusiasts who work to preserve and expand green spaces for recreational use. Wild Trails promotes the sport of trail running, educates the public about local trails and holds special events to raise public awareness around physical fitness and community health. Group members also help maintain existing trails and build new ones for runners and hikers to explore.

Great Smoky Mountains National Parks

Even if you don’t live near a major city or large organization, you can still preserve Tennessee’s natural beauty. Volunteer with the National Park Service to assist with special events in your area, adopt a trail or campsite, help biologists monitor trout populations or find similar ways to make Tennessee that much more beautiful for future generations of outdoorspeople.

Ready to start volunteering in the Volunteer State? Grab your family and friends, get outdoors and start giving back.

Taylor Mallory Holland is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in healthcare, technology, and business leadership. She regularly contributes content to some of the world’s top brands, including BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, and Samsung USA. As founder of Taylored Editorial, LLC, Holland also edits books, blogs, and Web content for dozens of bestselling authors. Find her on Twitter @TaylorMHoll.

How to Find a Doctor in Your Health Insurance Network

Health insurance has been a hot topic in recent years, and the more industry experts talk about choosing the right plan and how to find a doctor in your network, the more overwhelming the process can seem.

Though health insurance can be confusing for many people, understanding networks is key to saving money on medical expenses. The following are reasons why networks are important, how to find a doctor and how to choose the best plan for you:

What if you need medical care when you’re away from home? If you travel often or plan to do so in the near future, you will want a network large enough that you can find a doctor that takes your insurance, wherever you may be.

Think of Networks as Discounts

Insurance companies negotiate special rates with doctors, hospitals and other medical providers. When you visit physicians in these networks, you save yourself money.

If your doctor or hospital is not in your network, you will have to pay higher co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles, even in emergency situations.

Out-of-network providers can also bill you the difference between their usual fees and the amount your insurance company agrees to pay, which is known as balance billing. Balance billing by out-of-network providers can leave you owing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

How to Find the Right Network

When you select your health plan, you also select a network. This is why it is important to choose wisely based on both your current needs and future plans. Consider the following before you sign up:

  • Proximity: Will you be able to find a doctor within a reasonable driving distance and who takes your insurance? What about your local hospital or specialists you might need to see? If a plan doesn’t offer a large network in your area, it probably isn’t the best fit.
  • Loyalty: What about the doctors you already know and trust? Will you have to find new ones and start over? Having history and a good relationship with your physicians — especially your primary care provider — can be hugely beneficial to your health. If you would rather not leave your doctors, make sure they are in the network you’re considering.
  • Reach: What if you need medical care when you’re away from home? If you travel often or plan to do so in the near future, you will want a network large enough that you can find a doctor that takes your insurance, wherever you may be.

Most health insurance companies publish provider directories you can review before you choose your network, but it’s always a good idea to check with your doctors’ offices to ensure they are in network

Learn more about how networks help you save.

Turkey Trots in Tennessee: Eight Thanksgiving Day Races in 2015

Get some fresh air and earn your calories with a road race on Thanksgiving morning. So, where are the turkey trots in Tennessee this year?

Memphis Turkey Trot

With a gorgeous setting at the Memphis Botanic Gardens, you can choose between a four-mile run (or walk) and the Turkey Leg Relay at the Memphis Turkey Trot. What makes this race even sweeter? A slice of pumpkin pie is waiting for you at the finish line! Events start at 9 a.m.

Johnson City Turkey Trot

One of the classic 5K (3.1 miles) turkey trots in Tennessee is this 10th annual race hosted by The Goose Chase in Johnson City. Sign up if you’re a competitive runner, a recreational walker, a wheelchair racer or even if you want to bring your stroller or dog. The event draws in at least 5,000 participants, and starts at 8:30 a.m.

Knoxville’s Regal Entertainment Group Autumnfest 5K and Little Gobbler Run

Organized by the Knoxville Track Club, this Thanksgiving morning race offers both a 5K and a one-mile kids’ run. The Little Gobbler Kids’ Run starts at 8 a.m., whereas the 5K closely follows at 8:30 a.m.

Boulevard Bolt in Nashville

This five-mile run/walk lets serious runners race the clock and recreational walkers get some fun exercise at the same time. You’ll join more than 8,500 participants on a course coordinated by multiple interfaith churches in the area, with proceeds benefiting Nashville’s homeless community. The race starts at 8 a.m.

Turkey Trot 5K in Franklin

You can trot or walk this 5K race. Kids nine and under get their own fun run, starting an hour later. The turkey trot typically draws in 2,800 participants and benefits GraceWorks Ministries. Festivities kick off at 8 a.m.

Thanksgiving Day Indian Lake Loop in Hendersonville

Spend the morning running or walking along beautiful Indian Lake. Runners can compete in the five-mile race, and families can sign up for the fun run. This year’s race benefits the local school district. The fun starts at 8 a.m.

Give ‘N Gobble 5K in Dickson

Choose from the 5K, one-mile fun run or the Turkey Chase Fun Run (for kids eight and under) — all of which welcome strollers. Each race benefits the Dickson County Help Center. The Turkey Chase Fun Run starts at 8 a.m. with the 5K and kids’ one-mile starting at 8:30.

Grateful Gobbler Walk in Chattanooga

Now in its 16th year, the Grateful Gobbler Walk kicks off in downtown Chattanooga with a route that has runners and walkers crossing the city’s famous Walnut Street Bridge. This year’s event benefits the Maclellan Shelter for Families and starts at 8 a.m.

How to Make a Backyard Football Game Fun for the Whole Family

Fall is in full swing, which means it’s football season once again — but not just for the Titans and Volunteers. A backyard pickup football game is a fun way for your family and friends to spend quality time together.

You don’t need to be a football fanatic (or even an athlete) to be your party’s starting receiver. Backyard pickup games are meant to be easy on kids and fun for parents. So, huddle up and learn what you’ll need to get started, and how to make the game safe for players big and small.

Relax the Rules, but Count Your Players

Don’t worry about sticking with all the rules and positions you see on television. After all, a simple backyard pickup football game isn’t as complicated as a four-quarter game of tackle.

Keep things lighter by playing two-hand touch, but make each play as simple or as in-depth as your group wants. Just make sure to establish guidelines before you start playing, so no one gets confused.

You can have as many or as few people on each team as you want, as long as the teams are even. If you have an uneven number of players, one person can opt to be quarterback who plays offense for both sides. You might also take turns letting one player make calls as referee or sit out and get some rest.

Mark Your Endzones, but Simplify the Score

Next, you’ll need to define your endzones. If you don’t have fences to mark off natural boundaries, mark off your endzones with cones or lawn chairs instead.

Keeping score in backyard games is almost as easy. Depending on what your group decides, teams can earn seven, six or one point for touchdowns. Because most backyards don’t have goal posts, pickup games usually don’t need extra points, so don’t worry about losing the ball to a rogue field-goal kick.

Make It Family-Friendly

Backyard pickup games don’t just have to be for the big kids and grown-ups. Try these simple tips to help your little one get in on the fun, too:

  • Go “touch” instead of “tackle.” Instead of ending a play when a knee touches the ground, finish each play like a game of tag instead. It’ll give little kids a chance to learn the ropes without the risk of getting hurt.
  • Get excited about uniforms. Although you don’t need uniforms for a backyard pickup game, a cool, colorful outfit can turn up the fun factor on a challenging activity.
  • Shorten your game. Kids under six years old often focus on one thing for just 20 minutes, according to Parents Magazine. Not sure your youngsters will have the stamina or attention span to keep up with everyone for an hour? Try cutting your game down to a half hour instead.
  • Let the kids play coach. Allow even the littlest ones to take charge by giving them a chance to organize plays.

Who Won?

As for determining the winner, your group can do one of two things: play until one team reaches a predetermined score, like 21; or play for a predetermined amount of time, like an hour and the team has the higher score at the end wins.

Just be sure to celebrate the youngest victors, too. Congratulate the entire winning team on a game well played with homemade certificates or trophies. It’ll work wonders for their interest in sports later in life.

Marygrace Taylor is is an award-winning health, wellness, and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook, Prevention, and Women’s Health. You can follow her on Twitter @mgtylr, or at marygracetaylor.com.

Seven Great Things Tennessee State Parks Have to Offer

You don’t have to go far for a weekend vacation in Tennessee’s great outdoors. The Volunteer State offers a variety of activities for all interests — not surprising, as there are 56 Tennessee state parks in total. Here are some things you can do:

Biking

Cyclers have their choice of trails in Tennessee state parks, whether it’s paved, gravel or soft and hilly (perfect for mountain-biking). All have beginner to advanced ratings between them, and you can look for specific bike trails across 19 parks. Their distances range from Natchez State Park, with a 50-mile multipurpose fire trail; to Tim’s Ford, with a seven-mile paved trail connecting the property.

Hiking

Hiking is popular for a reason, and every park in Tennessee offers hikes for different levels of difficulty. History buffs can go to David Crockett State Park, exploring six full miles of trails featuring Crockett Falls, Shoal Creek scenic views, canopied forests and of course some native animals, too. For a bigger challenge, head to Frozen Head and trek the seven-mile trail to the observation deck, where you’ll see the Great Smoky Mountains and Tennessee Valley in every direction. The park has an additional 50 miles of trails.

Birding

Park visitors are in for a treat if they’re prepared to go bird-watching. Look for the state bird, the Northern Mockingbird, as well as other beauties like the Barred Owl, White Ibis and the rare Cerulean Warbler. The Audubon Society has dubbed Frozen Head an official Important Bird Area. More than 130 bird species visit this park each year, some to breed and some as a migratory stop.

Golfing

Bring your clubs! There are nine golf courses across the dozens of Tennessee State Parks, including six traditional courses and three of the state’s five Bear Trace courses designed by Jack Nicklaus. These courses are known for their incredible scenery, and the Cumberland Mountain course is continually rated in the top 10 in America — number one in Tennessee.

Horseback Riding

Galloping these trails is a great way to explore each park’s beauty. Luckily, ten Tennessee State Parks have riding facilities. Try Big Hill Pond, with 14 miles of trails taking you on many old logging roads and gravel roads. Although Chickasaw State Park has only five miles of trails, feel free to use the property as a launching spot to ride into Chickasaw State Forest, which has hundreds more.

Zip-Lining

It’s exhilarating to fly through the woods with the wind in your face, and Tennesseans know firsthand. The Fall Creek Falls State Park ZIPStream adventure course has more than 70 aerial obstacles to complete, including rope swings, cargo nets, tree climbs, balance beams, ladders, bridge crossings and, of course, zip-lining. This is possibly the most fun you’ll have while challenging your body in new ways.

Waterfalls

Tennessee state parks have a number of beautiful waterfalls, as well. Whitewater kayakers enjoy the Caney Fork Gorge near Rock Island State Park’s impressive wide falls all the time when taking a break from a tough paddle downstream. And Fall Creek Falls has this name that for a reason: It has the highest freefalling waterfall east of the Mississippi, and you don’t have to hike far from the parking lot to see it.

Red Clay State Historic Park’s natural water feature isn’t a waterfall, but it’s a gorgeous deep pool called Blue Hole Spring, formed under an ancient limestone ledge. This fresh water source was especially important to the Cherokee Indians.

Plan a day to bike, hike, gallop, golf, zip or paddle one of 56 incredible frontiers right in Tennessee. You never know what may become a family tradition.

Most outdoor activities have some level of risk, and you may need to consult an expert before engaging in the activity. Always check the current weather conditions before embarking on any outdoor activity.

Six Pumpkin Recipes Perfect for Fall

No other activity is perfect for fall than carving a pumpkin, and if you’re wondering what to do with your pumpkins after carving, wonder no more. To use this brightly colored winter squash — which is high in vitamin A and potassium — cut it off the top and scoop out the orange, seed-laden flesh for six delicious results.

Soup

If you haven’t tried pumpkin soup, you’re missing out on a filling dinner or healthy side dish. Spices such as ginger and cinnamon create a sweeter-tasting item, whereas rosemary, parsley or thyme yield a food that’s more savory. This recipe from the Minimalist Baker is easy to make.

Chili

As the weather cools, warm up with this unique take on chili, a traditional comfort food. Pumpkin can easily be added to a variety of recipes. Try making slow cooker turkey pumpkin chili for a hearty meal and vegetarians can try this meatless version.

Muffins

A satisfying quick snack, pumpkin muffins can be made in many recipe variations. For a sweet snack, try pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. For a fiber rich treat, follow this recipe from Food.com and add in oatmeal and chopped nuts. For a muffin with some crunch, throw in some pecans.

Pudding

Great as a snack or healthy dessert, pudding takes on a warm color and flavor when you add pumpkin. This recipe has half the fat of other popular puddings. You can also try a spiced version with nutmeg and ginger. For a nutritional punch, add in chia seeds.

Butter

Pumpkin butter makes a delicious and healthy spread for bread, muffins or toast. It’s quick and easy to make, and you can store it for a long while. Follow this recipe and make it in a crock pot. Short on time? This recipe only takes 20 minutes to make.

Lattes

Pumpkin spice lattes are now a staple of fall and you don’t need to make a trip to the coffee shop to enjoy them. Whip up this treat by following this simple recipe from the Food Network. Indulge without the guilt with this recipe by using almond milk and stevia as a sweetener.

Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe? Share in the comments

Judy Wilson is a writer and editor specializing in varied content areas, including health, wellness, food, cooking and nutrition. She enjoys educating others and enabling them to lead fulfilling lives of vibrant health. You can follow Judy on Twitter @EvergreenWords.

Seven Productivity Apps for Busy Families

Using your time wisely is always important, but even more so once school is back in session. Luckily, there are plenty of productivity apps to help you juggle your family’s schedules. The following seven apps are designed to help relieve your stress and get the most out of your day.

Cozi Family Organizer

A shared calendar with to-do lists is perfect if your kids are old enough to have a cell phone or tablet. By making sure everyone in the family has downloaded Cozi Family Organizer, you can keep track of important tasks and dates. The app not only incorporates calendar and event features, but also allows you to keep a journal and shopping lists as well.

CudaSign

This app first became popular with businesses, but it’s great for families too. With CudaSign, you can sign permission slips, medical forms and any other documents related to personal bookkeeping. If you want to make sure your child has insurance and medical information on hand for emergencies, you can also use this app for document storage.

TextMinder

If you have a child that struggles to remember important dates, use TextMinder to remind them as specific dates get closer. You can set up the app to send daily reminders or just a heads up for major events or tasks.

Bank of Mom

Keeping your family productive also means cutting back on needless spending. Help your children use money responsibly with this handy app. Bank of Mom allows your kids to set up an account and practice taking charge of their allowance by withdrawing and depositing their funds as necessary. The app lets them track spending and saving patterns to give them real-world lessons in budgeting their money.

JotNot Scanner Pro

When you’re trying to stay organized, JotNot Scanner Pro allows you to keep important information handy at all times. This app lets you use your camera to scan important papers and documents. You can then turn them into PDF files to store, or share through email.

Home Budget

If you don’t have time to calculate your expenses every month, try the HomeBudget app. With an easy-to-understand layout, you can monitor your balance and draw up a monthly, weekly or even annual budget. You can also track your spending by taking pictures of your receipts and categorizing them as needed.

30/30

With 30/30, each person can structure his or her own to-do list. This simple but effective task manager lets each user choose the amount of time they need to spend on any given task. Balancing screen time with homework, for instance, is very simple using this platform. The app reminds you when you need to move on to a new task or when you have time for a short break.

Using these productivity apps can help keep you and your family on track. Whether you need help with family finance or time management, you can get there stress-free with these great programs.​

Let us know your recommendations for productivity apps.

How to Make Quality Family Time a Priority this School Year

The kids are back in school and fall is in full-swing, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. You can spend time together well after the first class bell rings. Here are some ideas for activities suited for getting in some quality family time.

Outdoor Adventures

Tennessee abounds with places to get outside and enjoy nature as a family. Pack a picnic and head to one of a dozen inclusive state parks, where you’ll find plenty of inspiration to go hiking, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding and even swimming.

Interpretive centers and outdoor educational opportunities — like Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport, the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge or Discovery Park of America in Union City — also offer families the chance to spend an afternoon learning about science and nature.

Historic Day Trips

It’s fairly easy to get across the state, so consider taking a weekend trip to learn about Tennessee’s rich history — after the kids finish their homework, of course.

In East Tennessee alone, you’ll find dozens of sites where you can learn about the early years of the community. The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville and Davy Crockett Birthplace State Historic Park in nearby Limestone both provide a look at these famous Tennesseans’ lives.

In Northeast Tennessee, Rocky Mount Living History Museum in Piney Flats and Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton offer glimpses of the region’s first settlers. Near Knoxville, you’ll find the Museum of Appalachia and the Blount Mansion.

In Southeast Tennessee, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park commemorates the 1863 Civil War battles for Chattanooga. Expect similar historic sites in Middle and West Tennessee, including the storied home of President James K. Polk.

Sporting Events

Football season is always a great time for the family, especially in Tennessee. Don’t just enjoy watching a Tennessee Vols or Titans football game from the couch, plan an outing to Nissan and Neyland Stadiums themselves. Increase the family experience by tailgating with fun activities and healthy snacks before cheering on your favorite team.

Cooking and Canning

Garden-fresh veggies are everywhere during the fall, so take in the bounty while you can. Visit farmers markets together as a family or search for a pick-your-own farm where you can harvest your own fruits and vegetables. Then work together to either can or freeze the produce so you can enjoy them throughout the winter. Working as a team to preserve the food will make it taste even better when fully prepared!

For many households, back-to-school time means less together time, but that doesn’t have to be the case with so many fun activities that the whole family can enjoy. Spend an afternoon or a weekend with your kids and make memories to last all year long.