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Back to School Health Care Checklist

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils and boxes of unused crayons typically signals new beginnings as the first day of school approaches. As you ready your household for different sports schedules, carpool coordination and bus pick-up, one item that should also be at the top of your list is your family’s health care, which goes above and beyond annual shots.

In 2011 the number of unintentional visits to the emergency room totaled 31 million. Unintentional injuries and falls were the leading cause of ER visits for children under the age of 18 that same year. While preventive health care is vital to a child’s wellbeing, added protections like supplemental health insurance can help avoid major cash liquidation should a little one fall victim to an unexpected illness or accident. Supplemental insurance can be a great base for adding financial stability to your health care portfolio, in addition to other additional low-cost ways to keep your family happy and healthy.

Supplemental Health Insurance

After getting your children their checkups and preventive shots, their health care cycle doesn’t stop. Once the school year begins, “owies,” broken wrists, stitches and a host of other childhood accidents are bound to occur. Yet health insurance policies don’t cover what it used to, leaving families exposed to paying thousands of dollars of medical debt before their health insurance kicks in. But for a low monthly cost, supplemental health insurance can ease a family’s financial burden when the unexpected happens. Supplemental insurance serves as “insurance or your insurance,” covering accidents and critical illnesses that can tax a family’s savings quickly.

The Wall Street Journal recently noted that employee insurance deductibles have risen 49% since 2011. Many companies are now helping subsidize their workers with supplemental health plans to help offset unexpected costs that could keep them away from the job. But for those who don’t have a supplemental insurance option at work or buy health insurance on their own, supplemental plans can be purchased online, direct.

There are some limitations to supplemental health plans that a buyer needs to research before settling on a plan.

1. Some supplemental plans do not accept individuals with a pre-existing condition. Others do not ask any medical questions. If you believe you could be rejected for supplemental insurance, look for a “guaranteed issue” plan.

2. Plans can be individualized by accident, hospital or critical illness, but other supplemental health insurance plans include bundled benefits that cover all three under one policy. If you are unsure which type of supplemental plan to pick, enrolling in a bundled plan can take away the guesswork of predicting what might happen to you or a family member in the future.

Immunizations

The most unpopular to-do on any parent’s back to school list, immunizations are required for enrollment by most school districts. And the number of shots required has most likely increased since your childhood days. The CDC’s list includes required Hepatitis B and chickenpox vaccinations, and HPV, tetanus and other shots are strongly recommended during junior high. Flu shots are also strongly recommended each year. Your school can also provide guidance for other state guidelines and low-cost care available for families without health insurance.

Vision Test

Even though many schools provide vision testing during the school year, it is recommended for children to get a simple vision test from their pediatricians. Children who cannot yet read can still tell you what direction the three lines of the letter “E” are facing. Ask their physician to take the extra few minutes to test their vision to ensure your children have the best advantage to perform well in school. If your child has a lazy eye or you believe there could be a blindness issue, skip the pediatrician “easy test” and take your child to see an eye specialist.

Hearing Test

Seventy-five percent of children between birth and age three experience some type of hearing loss due to middle ear infections. While a hearing loss is usually temporary, children with repeated infections can sustain permanent damage to their eardrum, bones of the ear or even nerve damage. Genetic, congenital factors can also result in permanent hearing loss. Other factors that affect hearing include chicken pox, head injury, influenza, and other diseases. If you suspect that your child has a hearing loss, or if they have suffered repeated middle ear infections during early children, it’s a good idea to test their hearing.

Allergies and Medication List

The school nurse and the administration office should have copies of your child’s prescribed medications along with a list of allergies. Even if your child doesn’t take medication at school a record of their prescriptions should be on file. Detailed accounts of food allergies should also be kept on file along with other allergies such as latex, bee stings, plants or other elements that your child does not react well to.

Power Lunches

Healthy living starts at home, where moms and dads can influence their children’s diet. It can be easy to give your children money for cafeteria lunches, but do you know what kind of nutrition they are getting? School lunches have improved since the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, putting more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk in schools. But selection and consistency can vary. Packing your child’s lunch each day can provide colorful variety with grapes, melon, carrots, peppers and other whole grain options. Pick your child’s favorite healthy options and put them into rotation. Good food will help keep your little ones healthy and happy.

Emergency Contacts for School

Don’t assume your child’s school keeps its contact records from year to year. Before school begins, make sure your child’s school record includes the most up-to-date contacts should they become ill or suffer an accident at school. Designate the order of which people should be called by priority, and identify the contact by relation, “Mother” or “Sister-in-Law” to assure the school that the names on the list are approved. When listing the telephone number, provide additional instruction if they number can also receive text messages.

As you plan ahead for the flurry of back-to-school activities this fall, keep this checklist in mind to protect not just your children, but your entire family.

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HealthValues is an organization helping Christians become wiser with money, create collective buying power and advocate for smarter health care solutions.