Tag Archives: medicine

The Ugly Truth about Energy Drinks

Before you reach for another energy drink, you should know the facts.

From supermarkets to drug stores, you’ll spot students buying energy drinks to not only quench their thirst but help them survive all-nighters in the library.

Since Red Bull was introduced in 1997, energy drinks have seen a major growth, outpacing nearly every other offering in the beverage market. But do we really know what we are buying? Are these drinks safe?

What is really in energy drinks?

There are so many different kinds of energy drinks now-a-days. From Red Bull to Five Hour to Monster, students have many options when deciding their liquid source for energy. So of course recipes vary, but the common element in energy drinks is caffeine.

A standard cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, a cup of tea 50 mg and a can of coke cola 35-55 mg. How much caffeine does energy drinks have? Well, definitely more. Try anywhere from 50 to 500 mg of caffeine in a single serving.  And the addition of guarana (a South American plant extract that contains additional caffeine) ups the caffeine dose even more. Although the FDA regulates the amount of caffeine in soft drinks (maximum of 71 mg per 12-oz serving), there is no such limit for energy drinks.

Caffeine is a stimulant. Scientific studies in adults show that caffeine can increase alertness, improve concentration and enhance mood. Modest caffeine intake (less than 400 mg per day) is safe for most adults. But too much caffeine can cause problems, including restlessness, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Massive caffeine overdoses can cause reduced blood flow to the heart and abnormal heart rhythms.

Many energy drinks also contain sugar. Sugar is “real energy.” Your body can use the sugar as fuel to do work. But don’t forget that extra sugar means excess calories. A steady consumption of sugar-filled energy drinks will lead to weight gain.

Other ingredients, including the amino acid taurine, ginseng and assorted vitamins, probably have little to no impact on a person’s perceived energy level. Although manufacturers tout the importance of these additives, their purported benefits are unproven. One note of caution-ginseng can interact with a variety of prescription medicines.

Are energy drinks safe for you?

Energy drinks have not been proven safe. In fact, because they are classified as supplements, they are not even regulated by the FDA. This means that their ingredients are not tightly controlled and their health effects are largely unstudied.

We do think that an adult who consumes an occasional energy drink (one a day) is unlikely to suffer harm. But too much can lead to caffeine overdose and health problems, and mixing energy drinks and alcohol is such a bad idea – Don’t do it for the sake of your health!

Before you reach for that magic bottle that promises enhanced alertness, concentration and physical performance, you need to remember the facts. Instead get a good night’s sleep, exercise regularly and eat well… these are the real energy magic-makers.

Are you spending too much on prescription drugs?

If you have prescription coverage, odds are you have a formulary, which can save you a lot of money on prescription drugs.

What is a formulary?

A drug formulary is a list of prescription drugs (both generic and brand name) that are preferred by your health insurance plan. Your plan may only pay for medications that are on their “preferred” list, unless your healthcare provider talks with your health plan and gets prior approval.

Most insurance companies maintain formularies, or a list of drugs that they pay for as a plan benefit, usually using a tiered system. Less expensive drugs have the lowest co-pay (Tier 1), the most expensive drugs have the highest co-pay (Tier 3), and the remainder lie in between (Tier 2). This tier designation does not go strictly on retail price — insurance companies negotiate for discounts that sometimes may make a costlier drug preferred over a less costly one.

Formularies are organized along therapeutic classes. For example, they all contain several blood pressure pills, antibiotics and diabetic medications, though often only one mediation from each therapeutic sub-class.

How do I save money on prescription drugs with my formulary?

If your doctor chooses from your list of preferred drugs or formulary, it will save you money. How does your doctor know what to choose? In short, your doctor doesn’t… not unless they have access to your formulary or list of drugs covered by your insurance plan. Get two copies — bring one with you to every doctor visit. Have your doctor keep the other in your chart for reference.

Tier 1 drugs may not necessarily be your first choice. You may be intolerant of a certain drug, or perhaps unresponsive to it. You may be stable on a particular name brand prescription for years already and are therefore hesitant to make a change. Some medications require blood level monitoring, and levels may be more consistent with brand name medications. Switching to a generic may not save you money if you need to have your blood level checked more often.

Additional savings are available in the form of coupons or rebates from pharmaceutical companies, which may save you $20 to $50 off your co-pay, thereby lowering your out-of-pocket cost for a higher tiered drug to the same as that of a lower tiered medication.

So to sum it up… know your formulary and partner with your doctor to save money!

Like us on Facebook!

When it comes to your heath, we have your back. So what’s not to LIKE?

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @StudentHealthy for helpful information about your health!

Our Facebook page got a makeover! And so did almost every page… thanks to Facebook’s new, Timeline. But that’s beside the point. We are very excited to be more active on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We use these communities to give our schools, and students like you, useful information while also answering any questions you have about your insurance plan.

Our Twitter followers and Facebook fans get helpful information daily about their health insurance, being healthy and succeeding in college. Things like…

  • Information about their insurance policy and coverage
  • How to eat well in college
  • Ways to succeed in your classes, major and job search
  • Fun workouts that actually work
  • Advice about how to save money on healthcare
  • And more…

Be assured that you’re insured with us! When it comes to your heath, we have your back. So what’s not to LIKE about us? Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @StudentHealthy today!

Not all doctors see eye to eye

Not all eye doctors are created equal!

An optometrist, also commonly referred to as an “eye doctor”, is not a physician, but rather a trained professional licensed to examine patients for visual defects, and to prescribe glasses and contact lenses.  The glasses themselves, are made by an optician.  An optometrist usually offers a lower examination fee that an ophthalmologist.  If you’re healthy, have no insurance, and only need a pair of glasses, see your local optometrist (or the one employed at your local superstore).

However, if you have a medical problem, it may cost you less to see an ophthalmologist.  Ophthalmologists are physicians trained in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye, including cataracts, glaucoma, or problems resulting from diabetes or high blood pressure.  Ophthalmologists prescribe eye medications and perform eye surgery, but often prescribe eyeglasses or contacts as well.  Ophthalmologists are covered under your insurance (including Medicare) the same as any other specialist, such as a cardiologist.  (Traditional Medicare does not cover optometrists).  Any person who has high blood pressure or diabetes has a valid reason to see an ophthalmologist.

Physicians and optometrists both refer to ophthalmologists for a variety for conditions including certain infections, injuries to the eye, uncorrectable visual problems, lazy eye, glaucoma, cataracts, persistent styes, macular degeneration, diabetic or hypertensive retinopathy, iritis, and droopy eyelids.

Even if you have no disease of the eye other than poor vision, your insurance may cover a visit to a medical eye doctor.  Again, check your policy first for coverage, and your list of covered physicians (ophthalmologists), optometrists and opticians.  Hopefully this information will help you see your way to savings.

CRM Tip: Most student plans do not cover anything but injury or disease of the eye, so you may need to purchase a separate “Vision Insurance Plan” for help with paying for your glasses or contacts. These are very inexpensive and can cost as little as $15 for a discount vision plan through Co-Health USA. Visit the products page on our website to check it out!

It never hurts to ask

Overall, doctors are a compassionate group.  They became doctors to help people after all.  Given the right circumstances, most would consider granting a discount.  However, before you ask, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, your doctor may have already discounted their fee without you even asking.  Perhaps they only charged you for ten minutes of their time when you have taken thirty. The receptionist may be able to tell you if this is so, or could apprise you of your doctor’s usual and customary charges.

And, a word about co-pays.  Your doctor is required by law and contract to collect these payments.  Under most co-pay situations the fee has already been “adjusted” downwards by 20 to 50 percent.  If a doctor charges you say, $100, insurance often knocks that down to about $65, the remaining $35 simply disappearing as a “negotiated” adjustment.  Of the remaining $65 a good $40 goes to overhead (staff, rent, utilities, malpractice insurance, equipment, etc.).  If your insurance pays $40 of the $65 negotiated fee, that leaves your $25 co-pay to cover the doctor’s time with you.  These “negotiated fees” have dropped so low that many doctors are finding it difficult to stay in business.

In summary, if you have financial concerns, talk to your doctor about a discount.  Some doctors offer small billing discount for cash up front and others allow interest-free monthly payments.

Also, check out your Health Center on campus!  Health Centers have doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who can care for you at a discount.  Student Health Centers are great place for SAVINGS!

CRM Tip: Be reasonable, but it never hurts to ask!