Taking the SAD Out of Seasonal Affective Disorder
January 16, 2014
With an average temperature of only -20.9 C, Winnipeggers endured the second-coldest December the city has experienced in 120 years. While long, cold winter days are hard on everyone, they can be especially difficult for the 2 to 3 percent of Canadians suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a clinical depression that tends to strike individuals when the days begin to shorten in late autumn, and can last until spring. Research into the causes of SAD is ongoing, but many experts believe that a lack of sunshine during the winter months plays a very significant role in the development of it.
When it's dark, the brain produces a hormone called melatonin, which makes us sleep. When it becomes light again, it stops producing melatonin and we wake up. SAD sufferers tend to have higher daytime melatonin levels, which results in sleepiness, decreased energy and difficulty concentrating. They also tend to have lower levels of serotonin, known as the feel good hormone, which impacts mood and may lead to feelings of despair, remorse and anxiety.
While SAD can make it a struggle to cope with day-to-day life, there are a number of actions that individuals can take to help them get through the winter blues. For starters, anyone who is depressed for long periods during autumn and winter should seek professional help. When diagnosed with SAD, a health care professional can develop a treatment plan that may consist of counselling, light therapy, and in some cases, antidepressant medications.
The Canadian Mental Health Association also suggests that individuals with SAD can benefit from spending more time outdoors during the day. Those who can brave the windchill are encouraged to bundle up and go for a walk, or enjoy an activity like skating or cross-country skiing. In addition to benefiting from the exposure to natural light, exercise can help relieve stress, build energy and improve mental and physical well-being. When the weather is limiting outdoor time, then sunlight exposure can be maximized by sitting or working near a window, and keeping the curtains or blinds open during the day.
A proper diet can also help reduce the sleep cravings and low energy that come with SAD. It's best to choose foods high in protein like low fat milk and cheese, eggs, poultry, fish, red meat and tofu. When craving carbohydrates, avoid simple carbs like chocolate, packaged cereal, and any breads, pastas or baked goods made with white flour. Instead, choose complex carbs like whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables and legumes. Complex carbs take longer to digest than simple carbs, and they don't raise the sugar levels in the blood as quickly. They act as the body's fuel, and contribute significantly to energy production.
For those fortunate enough to plan a winter getaway, a vacation to a sunny destination can also temporarily relieve SAD. The symptoms will likely return once home, but even a temporary uplifting of spirit can help make the remaining winter months more bearable.
If you are a Manitoba Blue Cross plan member with Employee Assistance Program benefits and you are feeling the winter blues, we can help. To arrange a meeting with one of our counsellors, please contact the EA Centre at 204.786.8880 (toll free 1.800.590.5553) or visit the Manitoba Blue Cross website to speak with a professional online.
5 Environmentally Friendly Ways to Travel
January 16, 2014
It's wonderful to get away on vacation, but it's important to still be mindful of the effect our choices have on the environment. Here are five simple eco-friendly travel tips.
- Choose Friendly Skies: Find an airline that takes measures to reduce its impact on the environment. This might include planting trees per every pound of CO2 emitted, or actively recycling the cans, bottles or newspapers used each flight.
- Pass on Plastic: Plastic bags can take up to 500 years to biodegrade so rather than collecting a number of plastic bags while shopping, use re-useable cloth bags for your purchases.
- Make Yourself at Home: Act like your hotel is home by reusing your towels, avoiding long showers, and remembering to turn off the TV and lights when you leave the room.
- Don't Wander: When exploring the great outdoors, always stay on marked trails so you don't accidently trample on protected or endangered plants.
- Strength in Numbers: Join a tour group, when possible, as the shared transportation will help reduce your carbon footprint. A walking tour is even better!
How to Pack for Air Travel
November 21, 2013
Packing for air travel can often be a challenge because the contents of your baggage must meet Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) regulations. Please visit CATSA's website at catsa.gc.ca before taking a flight to find out what items are permitted or not permitted in your baggage. The following is an example of some of CATSA's regulations:
- Only liquids, aerosols and gels that are in containers of 100 mL (3.4 oz) or less can be packed in a carry-on. Anything larger must be included in checked baggage. This applies to other non-solid items, including cosmetics.
- Prescription medication in liquid form is exempt from 100 mL carry-on restrictions, provided the container is clearly labeled and displays the name matching the passenger's boarding pass. Baby formula, food, juice, and other baby items are exempt from the carry-on rule for infants 0-24 months. All items must be presented for inspection at screening.
- Golf clubs, scuba tanks, and most other sports equipment is not allowed as carry-on baggage and should be placed in checked baggage. Ensure items are cleaned thoroughly, as any chemical residue may trigger alarms.
- Laptops and gaming consoles can be packed in carry-on baggage. At security, remove them from their carrying cases and place them in the tray for easy inspection. Most other electronic devices, such as cell phones, cameras, MP3 players, e-book readers, and portable DVD players, do not need to be removed from their cases or carry-on baggage.
Manitoba Blue Cross Employees Raise over $44,000 for United Way
November 20, 2013
Manitoba Blue Cross employees once again demonstrated the depth of their generosity and compassion for the community by raising over $44,000 for the United Way of Winnipeg during this year's fundraising campaign. Following a $50,000 contribution by Manitoba Blue Cross, the grand total donated to the United Way was close to $100,000!
The United Way Committee did a fabulous job raising awareness and engaging their fellow colleagues by planning a number of fun events that took place over the week of October 4 to 8. Their efforts were clearly successful because a whopping 89% of Manitoba Blue Cross employees participated in the campaign and made a donation.
Along with a mouth-watering Sandwich Making Competition and an O Solo Mio Pizza Party, the week included an early bird and wind-up raffle for a day off with pay, daily surprise draws, casual dress, dress in red and white day, and thank you gifts for making a giving decision.
Manitoba Blue Cross Big Winner at MECCA Awards
November 20, 2013
Maria Garcia, Supervisor, Information Services accepting Community Small Contact Centre Award
Manitoba Blue Cross was recognized in a big way at the 2013 Manitoba Excellence in Customer Contact Achievement awards gala. We proudly took home seven awards acknowledging the outstanding practices we've put into place in our Information Service Centre!
The Manitoba Contact Centre Association honoured us with the Environment Award for a Small Contact Centre, the Community Small Contact Centre Award and the Employee Satisfaction Award.
This is the fourth consecutive year we've been the recipient of the Community Small Contact Centre Award. It is also the fourth time we've received the Environment Award and the second time we've accepted the Employee Satisfaction Award.
In addition to these three awards, the following Manitoba Blue Cross employees were acknowledged with individual awards, as nominated by their peers, for their outstanding leadership and customer service skills in the Information Service Centre.
Maria Garcia - Leader of the Year
Vanessa Hewlett - Leader of the Year
Andrea Kostyra - Representative of the Year
Geneviève Clément-Dykstra, Representative of the Year
New Regulations for Families Travelling to South Africa
Families travelling to South Africa this fall may find themselves stranded due to strict new regulations designed to stop child trafficking.
The new rules, which come into force on October 1, require children to carry a high level of extra documentation to enter or exit the country. Under the regulations, children travelling with both parents will need to produce a full birth certificate showing the names of both parents.
For children travelling without both parents, requirements are even stricter:
- Parents travelling solo will require a certified copy of the birth certificate, an affidavit from the absent parent giving permission for the child to travel, and a court order granting full parental responsibility for the child or the death certificate of the absent parent.
- Children travelling with someone other than their parents need a birth certificate, affidavits from both parents and copies of the passports or identity documents of both parents.
- Unaccompanied minors need their birth certificate and proof of consent from both parents.
For more information, visit: http://travel.gc.ca/destinations/south-africa
Canada Says Do Not Travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone
Due to an Ebola outbreak, the Government of Canada has issued advisories against non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
All three countries have declared a state of public emergency, which has led to a strict enforcement of quarantine measures and rigid restrictions on movement:
- Most border-crossings are closed until further notice
- Strict screening procedures are in place at the few entry points that remain open
- Nationwide curfew is in effect for Liberia between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
- Outgoing and incoming flights have been suspended by some airlines
- Individuals arriving from Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone may be denied entry into many countries
The government recommends that all Canadians travelling in these countries exit immediately by any commercial means possible, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. There is no consulate office in Sierra Leone or Liberia and Canada's ability to provide consular assistance in Guinea is extremely limited. If necessary, visitors can make a collect call to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885 or obtain consular assistance from the High Commission of Canada in Accra, Ghana.
For travelers stuck in Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone, the most important thing is to try and stay away from people who are ill. Says Dr. Jay Keystone, who works in the tropical diseases unit of Toronto General Hospital, "You won't get Ebola unless the individual you're in contact with is sick. So if someone is well, you're not going to get it. You just need to have a heightened awareness that this is going on and wash your hands frequently, certainly before meals. [Ebola is spread through] direct contact, it's not someone walking into a room with someone with Ebola and getting the infection. Ebola generally is not aerosolized, meaning it doesn't go well into the air."
At this time, there is no known vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola. For more information, visit: http://travel.gc.ca/
Travelling Abroad? Register First!
Registration of Canadians Abroad is a free service offered by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada that keeps citizens connected to Canada during an emergency, giving them access to consular services. It is recommended that all Canadians travelling or living abroad sign up for this service before leaving home; however, travellers can also register while abroad.
Registration is quick, confidential and simple. You only need to provide travel information and personal details, such as your passport number, residency information in the destination country and emergency contact information in Canada.
Once registered, should an emergency occur while you're abroad (such as a natural disaster or civil unrest), Canadian government officials will contact you to provide assistance.
Common Travel Scams
A few scams seem to pop up all over the world. Repeat the mantra: if it looks too good to be true, it must be too good to be true...
- Gem and Carpet Deals: Upon entry into a store, often prompted by an enthusiastic taxi or rickshaw driver, you might be offered a deal so good that refusing it seems unthinkable. Think again - those gems are going to be worthless and the carpet you buy may not make it home at all. There are legitimate traders selling both jewels and rugs, and they don't act like this.
- It's Closed: In some countries, everyone from street vendors to taxi drivers will try to tell you that your chosen hotel, restaurant or shop is closed but there's another, even better one you should visit, where they can pick up a commission. This is more annoying than harmful, but always insist on having a look for yourself.
- Motorbike Scam: The motorbike you have hired comes with a lock and two keys: you have one, and your rental company has the other. When you park the scooter and wander off, an enterprising person from the rental company arrives and 'steals' your scooter, thus later requesting you pay a large sum of money to replace the 'stolen' scooter. As you handed them your passport and you signed a contract, you're obligated to pay for it. Carry your own lock and key and an old passport to avoid getting sucked into this scam.
- Cleaning Distraction: The surprising splat of bird poop landing on you from a great height is followed by the swift appearance of a stranger who towels you down. In the confusion, valuables are removed from your person, never to be seen again. Another variation on the same scam has someone 'accidentally' spilling mustard or other condiments on you.
- Money Changing "Errors": Many crooks like to take advantage of your unfamiliarity with the currency of the country you're visiting. Some cab drivers or cashiers will insist that you mistakenly gave them one dollar when you've actually handed them much more. Other cashiers will count out your change very slowly, in the hopes you'll just take what they're holding out to you (much less) and leave. Others might try to sneak in old currency that has no value. In Italy, for example, the old 500-lira coins look a lot like their 2-euro coins. The difference? The 500-lira coins are worthless. To avoid falling victim to these types of scam, learn what the currency in the city you're visiting looks like, count your change carefully, and only pay with small bills.
The best way to avoid falling victim to a crime is to use your head. Be aware of your surroundings, trust your gut, take appropriate precautions and keep your wits about you. Traveling is supposed to be fun. Going on vacation doesn't have to be a scary or a paranoia-inducing experience. The idea is to travel smart and know what (or who) to avoid.
Travelling Soon? Protect Yourself!
July 3, 2013
Do you have a trip planned to Mexico, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, South America, Africa, Far East, Central Asia, or the Middle East? If so, you may want to consider getting a Hepatitis vaccine.
Viral Hepatitis, an infection of the liver, is one of the most common diseases affecting travellers worldwide. While many people worry about contracting AIDS, the truth is that every year 1.5 million people worldwide die from Hepatitis B faster than they would from HIV/AIDS. In fact, left untreated, chronic Hepatitis is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer worldwide. The good news is that it is also one of the most vaccine-preventable of diseases affecting travellers today.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis?
Because Hepatitis often has no symptoms, most people are not aware that they have the infection. About one out of two adults with Hepatitis have never experienced symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they usually appear between two weeks and six months after infection.
Initial symptoms include any or all of the following: fever, loss of appetite, extreme tiredness, joint pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Later on, symptoms include dark urine, pale-coloured feces, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
Unfortunately, people can live with chronic viral Hepatitis for decades before having symptoms or feeling sick. So even though a person has no symptoms and may appear healthy, damage to their liver can still be occurring.
How do I know if I have Hepatitis?
A health care provider can do a blood test to see if you have Hepatitis - whether or not you have symptoms.
How can I prevent getting or spreading Hepatitis while travelling?
- Avoid all uncooked food, including salads. Peel and wash fresh fruits and vegetables yourself (Hepatitis A only).
- Drink bottled or boiled water and use it for brushing your teeth. Do not use ice. (Hepatitis A only).
- Avoid food from street vendors (Hepatitis A only).
- Avoid dental, medical or cosmetic procedures while abroad unless you are certain that needles/equipment are sterile (all forms of Hepatitis).
- Always practice safe sex (all forms of Hepatitis).
- Do not share personal items such as toothbrushes and razors (all forms of Hepatitis).
- Never share needles or syringes (all forms of Hepatitis).
- Avoid getting acupuncture, body-piercing or tattooing while travelling (all forms of Hepatitis).
- Get the Hepatitis vaccine.
How does the Hepatitis vaccine work?
The vaccine protects against the Hepatitis virus by making your body's immune system develop antibodies. The antibodies will protect you by fighting off the virus if you ever come in contact with it in the future. The Hepatitis vaccine is given in a series of three shots. The first and second shot are given one month apart and the third shot is usually given six months after the first shot; however, an accelerated dosing schedule is possible under certain circumstances. If you miss your second or third shot, get it as soon as possible.
Public Health Agency Canada advises that you see your health care provider at least six weeks prior to your scheduled departure. If your departure date is closer, see your health provider now about your need for an accelerated Hepatitis vaccine or dose of immune globulin (IG).
Manitoba Blue Cross wants to make sure you travel with peace of mind. So while it is important to protect yourself as best you can from contracting a serious illness while abroad, it is just as essential to protect yourself with travel health coverage in case an unexpected illness occurs while you're away. For information on our travel health products, please click here.
1. World Hepatitis Alliance Calls on Governments to Take Urgent Action to Tackle Chronic Viral Hepatitis B & C Epidemic; 2008". World Hepatitis Day: Home Page (Press release).
2. Public Health Agency Canada
July Heat Wave
July 3, 2013
Longer days and soaring temps are finally here! After a long winter, it's hard not to bask in the warmth of the sun. We all need some sun exposure (it's our primary source of vitamin D), but before heading to the lake this summer, make sure you're protected. Too much sun exposure can cause adverse health effects. In addition to sunburn, sunshine (specifically UV rays) can cause skin cancer, premature aging, and eye disease (such as cataracts). UV rays can also weaken the immune system, making us vulnerable to other health problems.
How do I prevent sun damage?
- It's common to spend more time outdoors while on vacation so check your destination's weather conditions before you leave.
- Limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Seek shade. If there is no shade, create your own with an umbrella.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Wear sunglasses that provide UVA and UVB protection.
- Apply generous amounts of a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) thirty minutes before you go outdoors.
Are some brands of sunscreen better than others?
Brand matters less than how you use the product. In general, look for water-resistant, broad-spectrum coverage with an SPF of at least 15. Check the sunscreen's expiration date, and follow the directions on the label.
*Remember: Even water-resistant sunscreens must be reapplied after 40 minutes of swimming or sweating and immediately after towel drying.
Should I use a spray sunscreen or a lotion?
The kind of sunscreen you use is up to you; however, certain types of sunscreen work best on specific areas of the body. If you have dry skin, you might prefer a cream. A gel or spray may work better for areas covered with hair, such as the scalp or a man's chest. Parents often prefer sprays because they're easy to apply on children. When using spray sunscreen, be sure to apply a generous and even coating. Avoid inhaling.
Does sunscreen expire?
Sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for up to three years. This means that you can use leftover sunscreen from one year to the next. Some sunscreens include a date indicating when they're no longer effective. Discard sunscreen that is past its expiration date. If you buy sunscreen that doesn't have an expiration date, write the date of purchase on the bottle. Discard sunscreen that is more than three years old, exposed to high temperatures, or exhibits obvious changes in colour or consistency. If you use sunscreen frequently, a bottle of sunscreen shouldn't last from one year to the next.
What should I do if I get sunburned?
- Take a cool shower or a bath (diving into open water to cool off won't help with the burn, and your skin will continue to get damage). Avoid scrubbing and shaving and use soft towels to dry off.
- Get a commercially prepared sunburn cream or Aloe Vera to relieve the immediate symptoms.
- Get as much rest as you can and drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.
- Stay out of the sun until your skin has recovered - which can often take a week or so.
- If you are seriously burned or experience nausea, fever, severe chills, headache, confusion, faintness or dizziness, seek medical attention promptly.
Remember, the best treatment for sunburn is prevention! Use sunscreen year-round, but don't let any product lull you into a false sense of security about sun exposure. A combination of shade, clothing, sunscreen and common sense is your best bet for staying sun safe this summer.
1. Public Health Agency Canada
Receipts for Income Tax Purposes
February 5, 2013
If you choose to request that a printed receipt be mailed to you a $15.00 administration fee will apply. To avoid this fee, we encourage you to download receipts on Customer E-Service. If you are currently not signed up for Customer E-Service, just click the link and follow the steps to register today.
Travel Coverage Tips: How To Best Protect Yourself!
October 26, 2012
With the reality of winter hovering over us, many Manitobans are contemplating a getaway to somewhere warm in the upcoming months. What we may not be thinking about, however, is the importance of travel health coverage and the fact that provincial health coverage only pays a small portion of any out-of-country medical bills.
Here are some tips and guidelines for assessing and buying travel coverage that best meets your needs:
Know Your Health Status:
- Be attentive. If you have an existing medical condition, speak to your doctor and pharmacist before purchasing travel coverage to ensure you fully understand your condition. Confirm whether there have been any changes to it, which might require the need for new medication(s) and/or new recommendations for treatment.
Understand Your Travel Coverage Policy:
- Health benefit providers cover pre-existing conditions differently. Be sure you are aware of any exclusions and/or limitations that might exist within your coverage. Be aware of the "stable and controlled period" of the product you are purchasing and the age at which the pre-existing condition clause will come into effect. For travel health benefits, Manitoba Blue Cross health plans start asking medical questions at 55 years of age.
- If you are required to complete a medical questionnaire, take your time reading through it and be sure you understand each of the questions before filling it out. If you are unsure, take the questionnaire with you to your doctor.
- Don't leave out information in the hopes of getting a better price. You could invalidate your claim and be stuck paying the medical bills you incur.
Prepare for Possible Travel Cancellations and/or Interruptions:
- Invest in cancellation coverage when you put down a deposit on your trip.
- Report any changes to your health or medication since you booked your trip, as it may affect your coverage.
- Be aware of the effects that test results, appointments or surgery many have on your coverage.
- Make sure you do your homework on the different coverage, prices and benefit options available to find the best plan for your needs.
Manitoba Blue Cross is looking after Manitobans. We have plans that cover you whether you are taking one or more trips, studying outside of the province or just going on a tour. We even have plans that cover airfare and holiday cancellations.
For more information on Travel Health Benefits, click here.
Travel Tips and Information
You will not be covered if you travel against medical advice or for the purpose of seeking medical attention.
Be sure you are aware if there is a maximum coverage on your plan and what the exclusions are for the plan you purchase.
Be sure you are covered for the full duration of the planned trip.
Take your time reading your plan, and be sure you are aware if there is a pre-existing condition clause for both medical and cancellation coverage. This varies between carriers.
Disclose all information if you are completing a medical questionnaire. Also, be sure to report any changes to your health that occur between the day you purchased the coverage and the date of departure, as this change may affect your premiums and coverage.
Be aware of the reach of your coverage before you travel outside of Manitoba, and especially before you venture outside of the country. If you have a Manitoba Blue Cross plan you are covered anywhere outside of Manitoba, but this varies between carriers.
If you're travelling for education, be sure to purchase a plan that will provide complete coverage for emergencies. Also, be sure to check with your school to confirm the carriers and the type of coverage they will accept, including the Manitoba Blue Cross student plan.
Be sure you understand any exclusions that may exist on the plan. For instance, some plans have exclusions for alcohol related accidents, don't include sports related injuries and don't include accidents as a result of extreme activities like parachuting or hang gliding. Also, if you're pregnant, be sure you know the number of weeks into your pregnancy you are able to travel under the plan and still have coverage for both you and your baby. If you are seeking coverage for any of these situations, Manitoba Blue Cross has an emergency medical plan that can meet your needs.
Check the Government of Canada's travel information at www.travel.gc.ca to discover entry requirements for various countries, health coverage needs and posted travel warnings.
Healthy eating habits - fruits and vegetables
August 21, 2012
You cannot dispute that fruits and vegetables are good for you; it's been ingrained into our minds since childhood. Among the many health benefits, daily consumption of this important food group will help reduce your risk of various types of cancer and heart disease, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and boost your immune system. Not to mention that fruits and vegetables provide an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals like potassium, folate, and vitamins A and C. But with Health Canada's guideline of eating 7 to 10 servings daily, this food group is undeniably the most demanding. While the recommendation may overwhelm you, with the proper planning it can be easy to ensure that this essential food group is part of your diet every day.
The best way to meet Health Canada's serving suggestion and to reap the benefits of what the food group has to offer is to include fruits and vegetables in every meal, and to choose them for snacks throughout the day. Think of creative ways to incorporate them into your current eating routine like adding berries or a banana to your breakfast cereal bowl. For lunch or dinner, think of meals that incorporate a variety for vegetables like a stir-fry. At snack time, reach for a piece of your favourite fruit or slice up some veggies and eat them with a healthy low fat yogurt dip.
Want to learn more about healthy eating and discover tips for incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet? Visit My Good Health, our health resource site which is free to Manitoba Blue Cross plan members in Customer E-Service. The site has everything you need to support you in eating right and includes tools such as a shopping list that will help you choose an assortment of colourful fruits and vegetables.
With My Good Health you can build a personal health profile to assess your health and wellness habits. You'll receive a health report that will show you areas where you are doing well and those that require improvement. To learn more, click here.
Studying outside of Manitoba? Make sure you're covered.
July 23, 2012
Are you a student under 30 years old? Planning on studying outside of Manitoba in the fall? Protect yourself with our Student Travel Plan in case an emergency medical situation occurs while you are away at school.
Out of province medical bills can add up. There may even be a significant difference between what medical facilities and services charge and what Manitoba Health covers.
The Student Travel Plan from Manitoba Blue Cross will cover you for things like emergency ambulance and hospital coverage, or if you need emergency dental work as a result of an accident. The plan also includes international travel assistance service provided by CanAssistance Inc. With this service, you'll have 24-hour worldwide assistance if you find yourself in an emergency situation in a foreign country.
Depending on the length of your school year, you have the option to purchase a policy for nine months or 12 months. To be eligible, you must be a resident of Manitoba and covered by Manitoba Health. You must also be a full-time student at a school, college or university outside of Manitoba.
To learn more about the Manitoba Blue Cross Student Travel Plan, click here.
Are you getting enough exercise?
July 10, 2012
Many of us don't get enough physical activity in our daily lives if we get any at all. Often, we have the intention of being more active but our everyday commitments feel like roadblocks that prevent us from following through with our goals.
Health Canada recommends that Canadians get 2.5 hours of physical activity per week of at least 10 minute intervals or more. The focus should be on moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise with at least two days a week of strength building exercise.
The rewards of regular physical activity are plentiful. Following Health Canada's recommendation can reduce stress, increase your energy level and enhance your mental health. Active living can also prevent premature death and a number of chronic diseases such as stroke, heart disease and various types of cancer.
If you are just getting started, consider that as little as 20 minutes a day is needed to meet the weekly recommendation. This can even be broken down to 10 minute sessions twice a day.
To learn more and to discover tips to incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle, visit My Good Health on Customer E-Service. This health resource site is absolutely free for Manitoba Blue Cross plan members.
My Good Health will help you build a health profile to assess your overall health and well-being. You'll receive a report that will show you where you are doing well and where you need to improve. From here you can build an action plan to help you achieve your goals for physical activity as well as for other areas like healthy eating habits and coping with stress. My Good Health also has a community support section that will help you find active living resources in your area.
Click here to learn more about how My Good Health can help you.
(Source: Health Canada)
Manitoba Retail Sales Tax
June 22, 2012
The Government of Manitoba's Bill 39 legislation has been finalized. The bill establishes changes to products that are retail sales tax (RST) applicable. Starting July 15, 2012, in compliance with the changes, Manitoba Blue Cross will be collecting 7% RST on the following coverage for Manitoba residents.
Individual Travel Coverage
Manitoba Blue Cross will collect 7% RST for airfare cancellation, holiday cancellation, air extra and tour package.
Group Life Coverage
Manitoba Blue Cross will be required to collect 7% RST for group life, dependent life, optional life, disability, critical illness, accidental death and dismemberment coverage.
For more information on the retail sales tax, see Part 5 of Bill 39 on the Government of Manitoba's website
Travelling to Fargo or Grand Forks this long weekend?
May 15, 2012
If you are making a road trip to Fargo or Grand Forks this long weekend, the links below provide frequently updated information about wait times at border crossings.
Travelling to the US:
Returning to Canada:
Happy travels and ensure that you and your family are covered if an unexpected emergency occurs while you are on your trip. If you need to purchase travel health coverage for the long weekend, click here to view a list of our products.
City of Winnipeg ambulance rate increase
May 4, 2012
Please be aware that the City of Winnipeg has increased their ambulance rates. These new rates are available on the City of Winnipeg website.
We would like to ensure you that if you have Manitoba Blue Cross ambulance coverage either through an employer-sponsored group plan or one of our individual plans, you will still be covered if ambulance services are needed.
Our plan members can also rest assured that Manitoba Blue Cross will continue to pay the City of Winnipeg directly for ambulance services to save you from paying for costs upfront.
If you are currently not covered by one of our plans and would like more information about our individual health coverage, please click here.
Travel Checklist. Things to consider before your next vacation.
April 20, 2012
Planning a trip? Have you created a travel checklist of things you need to do before you leave? Here are some essential 'must dos' to add to your list:
- Understand entry requirements and safety issues. Visit the Canadian government's travel website at www.travel.gc.ca. Here you will be able to find information on passport and document requirements for the country you are visiting. The site will advise you of any travel warnings, the personal safety issues you should take into account and immunizations required for entry.
- Know your coverage. Ensure that you have purchased the correct coverage for the full duration of your trip. Go over the provisions and make sure you understand your coverage and what is and isn't covered. Be certain you understand what to do in the case of an unexpected emergency.
- Don't forget to bring your travel policy. Having your policy on hand will guarantee that you have the proper information available if you require medical services. Also some countries, like Cuba and certain countries in Europe, require proof of health insurance before you enter that country. Your travel health policy will meet this requirement.
- Keep all emergency numbers handy in case you need help. Your Manitoba Blue Cross policy or group ID card includes the number for CanAssistance Inc. which will provide Manitoba Blue Cross plan members with 24-hour worldwide assistance if a medical emergency occurs in a foreign country.
If you would like more information on Manitoba Blue Cross' travel health products, click here.
It is important to have fun and enjoy your vacation, but ensuring that you have followed this checklist prior to departure can save you from possible headaches down the road.
Today's CLHIA Announcement provides advantages for Manitoba Blue Cross' fully insured clients
April 3, 2012
Today, the Canadian life and health insurance industry unveiled an agreement to collectively protect fully insured private drug plans from the full financial impact of high cost drugs. This will allow Manitoba Blue Cross, and the insurance industry, to better serve Canadians and protect their ability to maintain competitive and affordable prescription drug coverage.
In all, 22 insurance companies across Canada, which collectively represent 100 per cent of the group drug insurance market, have joined this initiative and are committed to support higher standards for fully insured prescription drug coverage.
With new medical advancements and discoveries, there has been a significant increase in the number of high cost prescription drug therapies available and being prescribed to patients. This trend is predicted to continue.
The net impact of this agreement is that employers will be effectively sheltered from significant annual rate increases due to rare but expensive drug claims. This will help sustain the private drug plan market in Canada and protect individual Canadians from potentially losing their prescription drug coverage due to high cost claims. This had become an increasing a risk for small and medium sized employers.
How will this affect Manitoba Blue Cross group plans?
Groups not affected by the agreement:
- In Manitoba, this pooling initiative will not affect groups with Manitoba Pharmacare formulary drug plans, groups with plans that have annual drug maximums of less than $50,000, groups with refund accounting insured plans or groups with ASO plans. These types of plans are not at significant risk since there is limited potential for a catastrophic liability to occur under these circumstances.
Groups affected by the agreement:
- In Manitoba, this initiative will impact groups that are fully insured, groups that have a non-refund plan with an open drug formulary or groups with employees residing outside of Manitoba. For these groups, this agreement will help protect both plan members and plan sponsors from the impact of recurring high cost drug claims.
How can I learn more?
Online Claims Submission - Making a Claim Has Never Been Easier
March 26, 2012
Online Claims Submission in Customer E-Service is now available for vision claims, in addition to prescription drug claims.
New to Customer E-Service, our Online Claims Submission allows you to send your drug and vision claims to Manitoba Blue Cross electronically from the convenience of your own home. Your claims will be processed faster and your claim payments will automatically be deposited into your bank account through Direct Deposit.
Planning a road trip this March Break? Make sure your family is covered.
March 14, 2012
In Manitoba, March Break is an exciting time for kids to take a week off from school and celebrate the end of winter. It is also a great opportunity to get away with the family whether you have a trip planned to a sunny destination like Mexico or Florida, or are taking a road trip south of the border.
With March break on the horizon, we'd like to make sure that your entire family is covered for any travel excursions you have planned. Having adequate travel insurance will save you from paying high costs for any medical emergencies that could occur. Travel health insurance will cover things like hospital charges, ambulance services or air transport services to get you home by stretcher if you are badly injured.
Yes, it's always important to purchase travel insurance if you have a trip planned for a sunny destination, but don't forget to consider travel insurance for shopping adventures to the United States. If an accident should happen to you or a family member during a getaway to Grand Forks or Minneapolis, you could be paying thousands of dollars in medical costs. Keep in mind that Manitoba Health will only pay a small fraction of these costs, and things like ambulance services will not be covered.
If you aren't covered by group travel coverage through an employer, individual travel coverage can be purchased from Manitoba Blue Cross or an authorized agent. We have a number of travel products to meet your family's needs so that you can enjoy March break without any concern. If an emergency occurs while you are out of the country, Manitoba Blue Cross will ensure you get the support you need. We work with CanAssistance Inc. to provide you with 24-hour worldwide assistance if you find yourself in an emergency medical situation.
While on vacation it is important to have fun and enjoy time with your family, but taking these precautions could save you stress as well as money. Enjoy March Break!
For information on our travel products, please click here.
Protect yourself from contracting a serious illness on your winter holiday
February 10, 2012
Do you have a trip planned to a sunny destination? Have you considered the vaccinations you'll need?
As the frigid temperatures set in, there is no better way to escape the winter blues than a sunny holiday. But no matter where or when you travel, talking to your health care provider prior to departure is always important. Make sure to discuss your holiday destination, travel plans and vaccination history. Having this discussion about your immunization record and which illnesses are more prevalent in the country you will be visiting, and then receiving the proper inoculations will help you avoid contracting a serious infection or sickness while on vacation. Also, double-check with your doctor that the booster shots you received as a child will still give you the proper resistance. As you age, immunity obtained from some vaccinations may decrease.
If you are travelling to sunny destinations like Mexico, Cuba or the Dominican Republic, Public Health Agency Canada recommends that you consider the following vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Rabies and Typhoid. Vaccine recommendations for other countries are available on their website at www.travelhealth.gc.ca.
Public Health Agency Canada advises that you see your health care provider at least six weeks prior to your scheduled departure. If your departure date is closer, talk to your doctor now.
Manitoba Blue Cross wants to make sure you travel with peace of mind. Yes, it's important to protect yourself as best you can from contracting a serious illness while travelling, but it is just as essential to protect yourself with travel health coverage in case an accident or illness should occur while on vacation. For information on our travel health products, please click here.
(Source: Public Health Agency Canada)
Delivering added value through Blue Advantage
January 30, 2012
Save money on a variety of health related products and services with the Blue Advantage program.
Blue Advantage lists many providers across Manitoba that offer discounts on everything from hearing aids, contact lenses and eyeglasses to laser surgery, medical devices, mobility equipment and fitness programs.
This program provides our plan members with savings at the point of sale on the total cost of products and services from participating providers, regardless of whether the item is covered under your benefit plan or not. To find savings, just visit the Blue Advantage web site. Then to receive discounts, plan members simply present their Manitoba Blue Cross ID card to the participating provider and mention the Blue Advantage program.
Receipts for Income Tax Purposes
December 30, 2011
If you choose to request that a printed receipt be mailed to you a $15.00 administration fee will apply. To avoid this fee, we encourage you to download receipts on Customer E-Service. If you are currently not signed up for Customer E-Service, just click the link and follow the steps to register today.
Booking an all-inclusive this year? Make sure everything's covered.
November 24, 2011
As the weather gets colder many people will be booking their winter holidays. All-inclusive packages have become a desirable choice for a winter getaway whether you are going to an all-inclusive resort in Cuba, Mexico or the Caribbean, saying bon voyage on a cruise ship, or boarding a tour bus for a sightseeing excursion.
Manitoba Blue Cross' Tour Package Plan is uniquely designed to cover you for all aspects of your trip and is the perfect option for any all-inclusive package you have booked. You will be covered for travel arrangements including transportation, accommodation, car rental and excursions like passes to Disney World or tickets to a Broadway show. You will even be covered for loss or damage to baggage or personal effects.
In addition to the special protection a Manitoba Blue Cross' Tour Package Plan will provide, travel coverage will save you from paying expensive medical bills directly and will ensure that all medical bills are covered including things like ambulance services or emergency dental work. To give you the support you need if an emergency occurs, Manitoba Blue Cross works with CanAssistance, which provides 24-hour worldwide assistance to travellers in emergency medical situations.
For information on our other travel products, please click here.
Headed to Europe? Make sure you're covered.
September 7, 2011
Europe has always been a sought after destination for travellers to experience food, culture and festivities while taking in the historical sites and landscapes that each country has to offer.
If you're planning a trip to Europe anytime soon, you will have to take into account that the need for supplemental health insurance is becoming necessary in a number of European countries in order to meet the medical coverage prerequisite. Many governments are requiring proof of health insurance before entry into that country is permitted. These countries include Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine. In addition, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Estonia require that travellers have a minimum medical coverage of 30,000 euros (approximately $42,500 CDN). This minimum medical coverage will not be met by Manitoba Health.
Manitoba Blue Cross wants to ensure that all our customers have peace of mind when they are travelling to Europe.
- If you have Manitoba Blue Cross group travel coverage, please call us with your active contract number to verify coverage. Those with group travel can request a letter that confirms coverage. Please advise us of the dates you will be travelling and confirm if your spouse and/or any dependents will be accompanying you on your trip.
- For those who are not covered by a group plan, individual travel coverage can be purchased from Manitoba Blue Cross or an authorized agent. We have a number of travel products to meet your needs so you are able to enjoy your vacation without having to worry about medical costs in a foreign country.
There are many more advantages to having travel coverage. No matter where you are travelling in Europe, additional coverage will save you from paying doctors, hospitals and clinics directly. To give you the support you need if an emergency occurs, Manitoba Blue Cross works with CanAssistance, which provides 24-hour worldwide assistance to travellers in emergency medical situations.
We also have plans that will cover trip cancellation, cancellation of prepaid expenses (such as hotel or site seeing tickets) and even baggage delays in addition to travel health coverage. For information on our travel products, please click here.
Travelling to Cuba this winter? We've got you covered.
August 23, 2011
Cuba has become a popular vacation spot over the last number of years with its blue ocean, sandy beaches and value for your pocketbook as compared to other travel destinations.
If you are planning a trip to Cuba, you should be aware of Cuba's entry requirements implemented last year. Since May 2010 all visitors entering Cuba require proof of medical insurance to enter the country. Cuban authorities will accept either provincial government health insurance cards, or proof of private travel insurance, such as a Manitoba Blue Cross travel policy, as sufficient to meet this requirement. Those without such proof will be required to buy insurance from Cuban companies at ports of entry.
We at Manitoba Blue Cross want to ensure that all of our customers are able to travel with peace of mind in light of these new regulations.
- If you have Manitoba Blue Cross group travel coverage, please call us with your active contract number to verify coverage. Those with group travel can request a letter that confirms coverage. Please advise us of the dates you will be travelling to Cuba and confirm if your spouse and/or any dependents will be accompanying you on your trip.
- For those who are not covered by a group plan, individual travel coverage can be purchased from Manitoba Blue Cross or an authorized agent. We have a number of travel products to meet your needs so you are able to enjoy your vacation without having to worry about medical costs in a foreign country. For information on our travel products, please click here.
Why purchase travel coverage? Yes, a provincial government health insurance card will gain you access into the country, but not having any additional coverage would require you to pay doctors, clinics or hospitals directly should a medical emergency arise. Only a small fraction of these medical costs will be reimbursed by Manitoba Health once you return home and many costs, such as an ambulance, are not covered. Cuba will not let anyone with unpaid medical bills leave the country.
To give you the support you need if an emergency occurs, Manitoba Blue Cross works with CanAssistance which provides 24-hour worldwide assistance to travellers in emergency medical situations. CanAssistance is an entity recognized by the Cuban authorities with a well-established relationship with Asistur SA, the official medical assistance society of Cuba.
Direct billing reinstated for ambulance services
July 20, 2011
The City of Winnipeg has advised Manitoba Blue Cross that, effective immediately, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service will bill Manitoba Blue Cross directly for ambulance services provided to our plan members.
Manitoba Blue Cross is very pleased to once again provide this valuable service to our plan members.
This is very good news for you. All you have to do is present your Manitoba Blue Cross identification card and we will pay the cost of your ambulance service directly to the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.
Get connected to your health
July 14, 2011
The Manitoba government has launched a new interactive on-line health assessment tool exclusively for Manitobans.
Health e-Plan is a self-guided tool that can help you better understand your current health status and learn ways to make changes to improve your health over time. Visit the Province of Manitoba's Health e-Plan to create your own confidential personalized wellness profile.
A caring cross of another colour
Manitoba Blue Cross employees reach out to fellow Manitobans with a donation to the Red Cross Manitoba Flood Relief.
May 27, 2011
Manitoba Blue Cross extends its heartfelt support to families in Manitoba who are fighting to save their homes, farms, cottages and properties during the 2011 flood. Know that every Manitoban is behind you, thinking of you, and wishing you a speedy recovery from all that you have endured and continue to endure. We are Manitobans and it will take a lot more than this flood to break our Manitoban spirit.
To assist with flood relief, the employees of Manitoba Blue Cross coordinated a number of fund-raising activities. We are proud of our caring group of employees and their commitment to the community and "colour of caring" philosophy, and therefore, Manitoba Blue Cross happily agreed to match their fund-raising efforts dollar for dollar. This allowed Manitoba Blue Cross to make a donation of $5,000 to the Red Cross Manitoba Flood Relief.
See how we can all make a difference. Visit the Canadian Red Cross.
May 13, 2011
The City of Winnipeg has advised Manitoba Blue Cross and other insurance carriers that effective May 16, 2011 the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service will no longer bill carriers directly for ambulance services. This means you will need to pay for ambulance services and submit your receipt to Manitoba Blue Cross for reimbursement.
Other Manitoba ambulance providers are continuing with their current billing practices. If, for any reason you are required to pay these other providers for your ambulance services, submit your receipt to Manitoba Blue Cross for reimbursement.
Thank-you for choosing Manitoba Blue Cross and for your understanding as we work though this change.
Travel Advisory for Egypt Issued
February 8, 2011
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has issued an advisory against all travel to Egypt due to demonstrations and protests, civil unrest, high levels of criminal activity and violence throughout the country, and the threat of terrorist attacks.
Manitoba Blue Cross urges Manitoba travellers to familiarize themselves with their travel coverage to ensure they are protected against the possibility that the unrest in Egypt spills over into other countries in the region.
Note the following cancellation policy information:
If a Subscriber is compelled to return prior to or later than the original scheduled return date and/or to incur certain expenses due to a delayed return because of the occurrence of the situation below, then the Subscriber shall be entitled to the benefits that are in accordance with the coverage selected on the application:
a travel advisory and/or travel warning issued by the Canadian Government after the date the trip is booked, recommending not to travel to the contracted destination on the contracted dates.
Manitoba Blue Cross individual travel policy coverage excludes loss caused or contributed to by a cause of cancellation, which existed at the time of application, including the issuing of an advisory against travel to a particular country or region.
Travellers who have purchased an individual travel plan in preparation for a trip to Egypt should contact the Manitoba Blue Cross Information Service Centre at 204.775.0151 or toll-free at 1.800.873.2583 for information concerning the conditions of their policy.
Travel coverage from Manitoba Blue Cross offers financial protection against unforeseen expenses due to forced trip cancellation and medical bills incurred beyond Manitoba borders. In the case of an emergency, Manitoba Blue Cross travel coverage can also offer you 24-hour worldwide travel assistance that can assist you when you are hospitalized outside of Canada. View the Individual Travel section of our website for more product information.
Message for Individual Product Customers
January 28, 2011
Effective January 1, 2012, income tax receipts for Individual Product Customers will be available through the Manitoba Blue Cross Customer E-Service site. If you choose to request a printed receipt through our Information and Customer Service Centre, a standard service charge of $15.00 will apply. If you are not yet registered for Customer E-Service — our online portal to benefit information, plan details, claim information and more — take a moment and register online today.
Government of Canada vaccination tips for travellers
January 14, 2011
Does your doctor know about your travel plans? The Government of Canada recommends you speak to your doctor about vaccinations before you travel abroad. You may need to update your vaccination or receive additional shots, depending on where you plan to visit.
Reminder: You now need a passport to travel to Mexico
November 4, 2010
As of March 1, 2010, Canadian travellers and Canadian citizens, including those with dual nationality, will have to present a valid passport in order to enter Mexico. Canadians without a valid passport will be returned to Canada.
For other mandatory requirements see section four of the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada travel report on Mexico.
Federal Budget Change: Cosmetic Procedures no longer considered Tax-Exempt Medical Expense
May 14, 2010
In the federal budget announced on March 4, 2010, expenses incurred for purely cosmetic procedures will no longer be eligible for the Medical Expense Tax Credit (METC). Because eligibility for the METC governs what expenses can be covered by a private health plan, Manitoba Blue Cross can no longer cover these expenses under our Health Spending Account (HSA). Cosmetic procedures are not covered under any of our Extended Health Care plans, and so these plans are not impacted by this change.
Common examples of cosmetic procedures include liposuction, hair replacement procedures, Botox injections, teeth whitening and rhinoplasty.
If the cosmetic procedure is required for medical or reconstructive purposes, such as deformities resulting from a congenital abnormality, injury or a disfiguring disease, the expenses will qualify under the METC, and will be considered an eligible medical expense under our HSA plans when members provide a letter from their doctor indicating that the procedure was required for medical or reconstructive purposes. Otherwise, claims for cosmetic procedures incurred after March 4, 2010, will be rejected.
Common examples of procedures that do qualify under the METC and will be considered an eligible medical expense under our HSA plans with the accompaniment of a doctor's letter include sclerotherapy and other procedures for removal of varicose veins and laser therapy for acne performed by a medical doctor or dermatologist.
The following procedures and prescription products are not impacted by this change and will continue to be eligible expenses under the terms of our HSA plans:
- laser eye surgery
- cyst removal
- acne medication ("Accutane")
- acne cream ("Clindoxyl")
- orthodontia (e.g. braces)
To inquire about coverage for products or services not listed here, please contact us
at 204.775.0151 (or toll-free 1.800.873.2583), or visit us at Products section of our website.
To find out if an expense qualifies for the METC, please contact Canada Revenue Agency
at 1.800.959.8281, or visit their website at www.cra.gc.ca and search for "which medical expenses are eligible".
Mount Carmel Clinic
Mount Carmel Clinic is a non-profit health centre whose purpose is to create and promote healthy inner city communities. Manitoba Blue Cross donated funds to help with the costs of upgrading the clinic's facilities to ensure that the clinic can continue to provide necessary services in an appropriate facility.
University of Manitoba Dental Outreach
The University of Manitoba's Centre for Community Oral Health strives to care for underserved communities by promoting oral health and providing essential services through fiscally responsible programs using the resources and expertise of the Faculty of Dentistry.
To help ensure it continues to operate, Manitoba Blue Cross gave funding toward this important community health program.