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Say goodbye to pesky vet bills – learn about pet insurance

November 20, 2017

Javier Schwersensky, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society, knows firsthand how scary a pet emergency can be.

"When our cat Spencer became suddenly ill, we panicked," Schwersensky says. "Thankfully, our veterinarian discovered the problem, our cat had emergency surgery, and he was back to normal in no time."

Once the shock of the sickness or injury wears off, the shock of the veterinary bill often takes hold. But with Spencer covered by pet insurance, Schwersensky avoided a large bill.

"Thanks to Petplan, we did not need to worry about the cost," he says.

Manitoba Blue Cross and Petplan join paws for discounted pet coverage

Pet insurance can take some of the stress out of taking care of a sick or injured animal. That's why Manitoba Blue Cross has partnered with Petplan to offer a 10 per cent discount when you sign up for our co-branded plan online. Additionally, you'll get a free BarkBox filled with toys and treats.

Just as Manitoba Blue Cross covers you for those unexpected moments, pet insurance does the same for your pets. Coverage is comprehensive: it includes accidents and illnesses*, surgery and rehab, hereditary and chronic conditions* and prescription medications.

But pet care can be complex, so Petplan also covers more specialized treatments. These include diagnostic tests (X-ray, MRI, CT scan, etc.), non-routine dental treatments, referral visits and alternative and holistic therapies.

You can use any licensed vet in Canada and the U.S., so you don't need to purchase separate travel coverage when you head south with your pets. And if you need to make a claim, simply open Petplan's mobile app and enter your details.

At the end of the day, you can spend quality time with your furry friends without stress.

*As long as the condition was not showing clinical signs prior to the effective date of the policy, or during the policy waiting period.

Manitoba Blue Cross celebrates five customer service awards

November 7, 2017

At Manitoba Blue Cross, "the Colour of Caring" is not just our tagline – it's an integral part of who we are as an organization.

This culture of caring extends to every facet of our company, shining bright in our Customer Service Centre.

This year, we received three Organizational Awards and two People Awards.

Our Customer Service team collected the Community award for their strong community support, which included raising funds for United Way Winnipeg, donating blood to Canadian Blood Services, and participating in numerous donation drives throughout the year.

Another win was the Environment award, which recognized the unique workspace at Manitoba Blue Cross. This year, the Customer Service Centre's seating arrangement was changed to emphasize team building, and new circadian lights were installed to promote productivity and well-being.

Finally, our Customer Service Centre scored the Staff Satisfaction award for highest employee satisfaction.

The two personal awards went to Laura Aldaba, who won Leader of the Year, and Hannah Gonzalez, who won Representative of the Year.

"Both Hannah and Laura demonstrate a strong work ethic, positive attitude, friendly demeanor and a drive to perform their best," says Shannon Granovsky, Manager of Customer Service. "Even when faced with difficult tasks, they do not back down – instead, they face these challenges with empathy and concern."

Congratulations Hannah and Laura, and thanks again to our Customer Service team for your incredible work!

Are you diabetes aware?

November 6, 2017

One in three Canadians has diabetes or prediabetes – and many of them don't know it.

That worrying fact comes from Diabetes Canada. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and the national organization trying to end diabetes is encouraging everyone to learn more about the widespread disease.

What is diabetes?

To understand diabetes, you first have to understand insulin.

Insulin is a chemical that regulates how much glucose (sugar) is in your blood stream. Insulin turns blood sugar into energy for the body to use.

But in people with diabetes, insulin doesn't work as it should. In people with type 1 diabetes, it's not produced. In people with type 2 diabetes, not enough is produced or the body can't use it properly.

This means that without intervention, blood sugar levels can rise to dangerous rates and cause complications like kidney disease, eye disease, nerve damage, heart attack or stroke. A lot of time and effort is put into maintaining healthy blood sugar levels – simply monitoring levels requires people to prick their fingers and test their blood several times a day.

Type 1 diabetes

Around five to ten per cent of people with diabetes have type 1, according to Diabetes Canada.

People with type 1 rely on external insulin, which is injected or delivered through a small, electronic insulin pump.

Insulin injections require more effort, as they don't automatically deliver insulin throughout the day like a pump does. However, injections are cheaper and can be more mobile, as the pump must be constantly connected by a catheter underneath the skin.

In either case, those with type 1 have to keep a close eye on their blood sugar levels and monitor their diet and exercise. For instance, while regular exercise is good for people with diabetes, exercising without preparation (e.g. not taking a different insulin dose or not eating differently) can lead to dangerous blood sugar levels.

Type 1 is typically acquired in childhood, but it may also develop later in life. Researchers are still working to determine the risk factors, but a slight genetic component is involved.

Type 2 diabetes

Around 90 per cent of people with diabetes have type 2, according to Diabetes Canada.

Type 2 varies in severity, so some people may require insulin while others may not. Some may take other medications to help keep a healthy blood sugar level or deal with complications.

In general, people with type 2 diabetes need to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to manage the disease.

According to Diabetes Canada, risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • having a direct relative (parent or sibling) who has diabetes
  • belonging to a certain ethnic group (Hispanic, Indigenous, South Asian, Asian, or African)
  • having high blood pressure
  • being overweight
  • having high cholesterol

Prediabetes

Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to qualify as diabetes. Around half of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes Canada.

What can I do to prevent diabetes?

The first step in preventing diabetes is living a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, a nutritious diet and effective stress management can help reduce your risk. Also, talk to your doctor about what risk factors you might have.

Manitoba Blue Cross members can learn more about diabetes complications by using our diabetes complication tool through My Good Health.

To access My Good Health, log into your mybluecross® account at mb.bluecross.ca. If you are not yet registered, click register. Once you've logged in, click the "Learn More" button under the My Good Health box.

Prevent the flu, enjoy the fall

October 16, 2017

With the days growing shorter and the weather getting colder, it's the perfect time to cozy up inside with a blanket, hot chocolate and some loved ones.

Unfortunately, this is also the perfect time to spread the flu. As more people start to seek shelter indoors, person-to-person contact skyrockets – and that contact spreads viruses like influenza.

Most people are familiar with influenza symptoms. Many of us have experienced the fever, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pains and exhaustion that it brings.

And to some, these symptoms might not be a cause for alarm. Only around 34 per cent of Canadians over 18 got the preventative vaccine during the 2015/2016 flu season, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada's newest data.

But for children younger than 5, adults over 65 and anyone with a chronic condition, the flu can be devastating. Each year, the flu hospitalizes 12,200 Canadians and kills 3,500. Worldwide, the flu kills up to 500,000 people annually.

Even if you don't think you're at risk, catching the flu is never a positive experience, and it can be much worse than you anticipate. That's why Health Canada recommends everyone over the age of six months get vaccinated. Getting your free vaccination every year will help prevent you from getting sick and spreading it to others.

But the flu shot isn't the only way to reduce your risk of becoming sick. For effective flu prevention, Health Canada recommends you also:

  • wash your hands frequently
  • disinfect surfaces that many people touch, like doorknobs
  • avoid sneezing into your hands
  • avoid touching your eyes, face or mouth with your hands
  • get plenty of sleep
  • exercise and eat healthy food to boost your immune system

Getting vaccinated and following these tips can help you enjoy the fall season and stay well throughout the flu season.

To get your free vaccine, visit your public health office, pharmacy, nursing station, doctor's office or clinic. If you have any questions about the vaccine, call 204.788.8200 in Winnipeg or toll free at 1.888.315.9257.

For more information about the flu, click here.

You cover the master plan – we'll cover your health plan

October 2, 2017

What's your plan?

Maybe you're a freelance writer and you're planning your next big travel piece. Maybe, between your children's swimming lessons and bedtime stories, you're planning the next steps for your online business. Maybe you've recently retired and you're planning to take on a more active role as a grandparent.

Whatever your plan is, health coverage can support you on your path. That's why we've developed Blue Choice, a new suite of personal health plans.

Introducing Blue Choice plans

Choose from three coverage options – plan A, plan B or plan C.

If you're looking for a basic option, plan A may be the best fit for you. Plan A includes coverage for ambulance, dental, prescription drugs and some practitioner services (e.g., physiotherapy, podiatry, chiropractic services). It also grants members access to Blue Advantage®, our national discount program and My Good Health®, our online health resource.

If you're looking for a little more coverage, plan B might be perfect – everything in plan A is included with higher maximums. Plan B also includes extra coverage like vision and hospital and additional practitioner services like acupuncture, nutritional counselling and massage therapy. With plan B, you also get travel coverage within Canada and access to counselling services through our Assistance Program.

Finally, plan C is the most robust of our options. It offers the most coverage for popular benefits like massage therapy, osteopathy and clinical psychology. Everything in plan A and B is included, but with higher maximums and orthodontic services.

Assistance Program counselling and support

Mental health services are important, but they can be difficult to access – especially at an affordable price.

That's why, when you choose plan B or C, you're covered for six confidential, professional counselling sessions per year through our Assistance Program.

Services include:

  • marriage counselling
  • family counselling
  • stress counselling
  • alcohol abuse counselling
  • drug abuse counselling

Extensive travel coverage included

When you choose plan B or C, you're covered for travel within Canada. With access to travel assistance and no trip length maximum, you can travel worry free. Additionally, you'll also get a ten per cent discount when purchasing Manitoba Blue Cross coverage for travel outside of Canada.

Why choose Blue?

  • Access your plan through mybluecross®, our customized online portal. Through your account, you can submit claims, view your coverage, stay updated on the status of your claims and manage your health coverage details. And with our new mybluecross® mobile app, you can manage your plan from nearly anywhere.
  • If you need help, our customer service representatives can give you detailed customer support in person. Visit us at 599 Empress Street, contact us through email or give us a call.
  • Your Manitoba Blue Cross membership entitles you to savings on health-related purchases through Blue Advantage®, our national discount program. You can save on medical, vision and many other products and services offered by participating providers across the country. Simply present your Manitoba Blue Cross ID card.
  • Manitoba Blue Cross membership also gives you access to My Good Health®, an online health resource that provides you with comprehensive health information, local resources, a health risk assessment tool and tailored programs to help support you in your health goals.

How to apply:

Request a quote, call us directly at 204.788.6858 or visit us in person.

Once we receive your application:

Plan A

Your coverage will begin on the first day of the month following your submission.

Plan B and C

Plan B and plan C require medical review. Once your application has been reviewed, you will be notified.

* Dental coverage waiting periods apply for all three plans

Your coverage in the palm of your hand

September 18, 2017

Last time you had a medical appointment, how many times did you rely on your cell phone?

If you're like many others, you likely used your phone to book the appointment, relied on its GPS to plan your route and pulled it out to check social media in the waiting room.

So many appointment-related tasks could be accomplished through your phone – unfortunately, filing an insurance claim after the appointment wasn't one of them.

But that's changed. Managing your plan just got easier.

Introducing mybluecross® mobile

Our new, free app lets you:

  • Submit claims for prescription drugs, vision and extended health services
  • Check the status of your claims
  • View and search for past claims

With our lives busier than ever, mybluecross® mobile lets you take care of your claims without taking up your time.

No longer will you need to remember to submit your claim when you get home – you can have it finished before even leaving the medical office. And if you forget, you can always pull out your phone and submit a claim on the spot – no matter where you are.

You can check your claim's status with just a few taps. Get in-depth details of every claim so you'll never have to wonder if your claim has been processed or how much of your claim was reimbursed.

Expect to see new features as we incorporate user feedback and make managing your plan even easier!

How to download

mybluecross® mobile is available on iOS and Android devices.

To download on iOS:

  • Go to the App Store
  • Search "mybluecross"
  • Tap to view description
  • Tap the install icon

To download on Android:

  • Go to Google Play
  • Search "mybluecross"
  • Tap to view description
  • Tap "Install"

To get started, you need to be registered for mybluecross. If you don't have a mybluecross account, register here.

To submit claims through the app, you have to be signed up for direct deposit. Click here to sign up.

Shedding light on genetic kidney disease

September 4 is National PKD Awareness Day

August 28, 2017

Kidneys play an important role in maintaining our health – they filter blood, regulate our fluid levels, remove waste and serve other necessary functions. But as you probably know, most people don't think about their kidneys very often. Even fewer people have heard of polycystic kidney disease, or PKD.

The PKD Foundation of Canada wants to change that. September 4 is National PKD Awareness Day, and they're encouraging everyone to get educated on the little-known but potentially devastating disease.

What is PKD?

Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disorder that causes cysts (fluid-filled sacs) to form in the kidneys. These cysts impair kidney function and can lead to kidney failure.

There are two main types of PKD – dominant (ADPKD) and recessive (ARPKD).

What is the difference between dominant and recessive?

PKD, like other genetic diseases, is passed down to family members through abnormal genes. In most cases, one or both parents must have an abnormal gene for their child to get PKD.

"Dominant" and "recessive" refer to how a disease is passed down genetically. In the dominant version of the disease, only one parent needs to have the abnormal gene for their child to be born with PKD. In this case, the chance of the child getting the disease is 50 per cent. ADPKD is the most popular, affecting one in 500 Canadians, according to the PKD Foundation of Canada.

For the recessive version, both parents must have the abnormal gene for their child to be born with the disease. In this case, the chance of their child getting PKD is 25 per cent.

What are the symptoms?

For ADPKD, symptoms can take a long time to develop. According to the PKD Foundation of Canada, they include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Blood in the urine
  • Chronic pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Urinary tract infection

Besides the usual symptoms, ADPKD can cause complications with other organs. Complications include liver cysts, aneurysms and mitral valve prolapse (where a valve in the left side of the heart fails to close properly).

ARPKD can be deadly from the start. Around 30 per cent of newborns die during their first month, and around 15 per cent die before their tenth birthday.

The most immediate symptom is enlarged kidneys. Besides affecting kidney function, enlarged kidneys can prevent the lungs from fully expanding. ARPKD can also impair liver and spleen function.

Is there a cure for PKD?

No cure exists for either form of PKD. For ADPKD, an oral medication was approved by Health Canada in 2015 to slow kidney enlargement. For both forms of PKD, dialysis or kidney transplant are often necessary.

PKD Foundation of Canada

The PKD Foundation of Canada works to better the lives of those with PKD and their families through research, advocacy, support, education and awareness.

Throughout the beginning of September, the foundation is hosting fundraising walks around the country to end PKD.

Learn more at endpkd.ca

Six tips for summer water safety

July 24, 2017

Young children are more likely to drown in Manitoba than in any other province.

This fact comes from the Manitoba branch of the Lifesaving Society, a drowning-prevention organization. For every 100,000 Manitobans under five, 3.8 drown, their recent report says. That's more than three times the national average of 1.1.

But these rates don't disappear with age. Those highest at risk include Manitobans aged:

  • 15 to 19 (3.0 deaths per 100,000)
  • 20 to 24 (3.4 deaths per 100,000)
  • 40 to 44 (3.2 deaths per 100,000)
  • 80 to 84 (3.2 deaths per 100,000)

It's obvious that drowning doesn't just happen to young people. And while these groups show the highest risk, drowning can happen to anyone.

With beach season in full swing, here are six drowning-prevention tips to keep in mind.

Bring a buddy

"I don't go swimming alone," says Christopher Love, Water Smart Coordinator at the Lifesaving Society.

Love has trained lifeguards for years, but he knows his rescue skills can't help him if he's the one in danger.

"If I'm hurt or unconscious, I can't save myself," he says. "Always have someone with you."

From 2010 to 2014, 30 per cent of victims between five and 34 were alone when they drowned. This number jumped to 43 per cent for victims between 35 and 64 and skyrocketed to 71 per cent for victims above 65.

But being alone affected young children the most, as 93 per cent of drowning victims under five weren't being properly supervised.

Stay within arms' reach

"Within arms' reach" is a crucial mantra when supervising children six and under, Love says. It only takes a few seconds for a child to drown, so being beside them at all times is the only safe option.

"In larger groups, this means one or more adults need to be detailed as 'parent lifeguards' when children are in or near the water," Love says. Parent lifeguards should have no duties or distractions, like food, cellphones or conversations, he adds.

Pick one and wear it

When it comes to lifejackets and personal flotation devices (PFDs), Love has heard every excuse in the book.

"Many times, we hear the excuse that lifejackets and PFDs are uncomfortable to wear," he says. "This may once have been true, but there are now a large number of styles and sizes available on the market."

Ninety-six per cent of boaters who drowned weren't wearing a lifejacket or PFD.

Swim and boat sober

"Alcohol inhibits swimming ability and reduces both judgement and reaction time when it comes to responding to any problems that may arise," Love says.

Forty-seven per cent of swimmers who drowned and 70 per cent of boaters who drowned had alcohol in their system.

Love has simple advice: "Save the party till afterwards."

Seatbelt, windows, out

Vehicle accidents were responsible for around 10 per cent of drowning deaths, and while not every accident is preventable, you can prepare yourself in case you end up submerged.

"You should have an escape tool," Love says. Seatbelt cutters and window breakers are widely available, and you can sometimes find both in the same device.

Remembering "seatbelt, windows, out" is important, because people often forget what to do in an emergency, Love says.

"Don't panic, and don't pick up your cell phone," he adds, noting that some people's first instinct is to call for help rather than exit the vehicle.

Plan ahead

The most important step in drowning prevention is preparation, Love says.

"Before you make the trip, think ahead," he says. "What are the potential risk factors?"

Knowing what the dangers are is the first step in preventing them. "You can't do that after the fact," he says.

Besides bringing proper equipment, communicate your plans so people can check on you, Love says. "Let someone know where you're going and when you're coming back," he says.

For more information, visit the Manitoba branch of the Lifesaving Society.

Make room for healthy "me" time: July 24 is International Self-Care Day

July 10, 2017

Is self-care on your to-do list?

For too many of us, it's not. We go through our increasingly busy days without leaving time and effort to take care of ourselves, and our health suffers.

That treadmill might gather dust in the corner of the basement. Those vegetables might mold in the fridge, neglected in favour of fatty fast foods. Stresses at work might get us smoking again.

While July 24 is International Self-Care Day, self-care should be an everyday activity. This recommendation comes from the International Self-Care Foundation (ISF), a UK-based charity promoting self-care worldwide.

What is self-care?

In 1998, the World Health Organization defined self-care as "What people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness."

When you're not at the doctor's, you're practicing self-care. And since most people only see their doctor for a few hours a year, self-care is hugely important to our short and long-term health.

What does self-care look like?

The ISF has developed seven key areas of self-care:

  • Knowledge and health literacy
    Do you understand your doctor's advice? Do you know where to find health care information? Do you make decisions based off evidence and expert recommendations?

    If you do, you have good health literacy, which refers to our ability to be informed and make healthy decisions. Health literacy is one of the most important self-care areas, because knowing how to make healthy choices is the first step in making those choices.
  • Self-awareness
    You could be the best mechanic in the world, but if you don't take a good look at the car you need to fix, it won't leave the garage. It works the same way with our health. If we don't analyze our lives and look for ways to improve them, we can't make healthy changes.
  • Physical activity
    We might get home from our jobs or studies and want to crumble on the couch, not moving until we absolutely need to.

    While being sedentary can be tempting, it won't do us much good in the long run. But we don't have to commit to running a marathon to make a change. Just walking to work or taking the stairs can make a real difference.
  • Healthy eating
    When we're in a rush, it's easier to visit the drive-through than prepare a healthy meal. But besides being a burden on our wallets, unhealthy foods can take a toll on our health.

    Meal prep can be our saviour. Preparing lunch the night before will prevent us from rushing to that local burger place once hunger hits.
  • Risk avoidance
    When we're stressed or pressed for time, risk avoidance can become unimportant. We might drive faster than usual, put less stock in proper procedure or forget safety gear.

    When stressed, we might also engage in high-risk behaviours like excessive drinking, smoking or unsafe sex.

    Knowing what situations cause these risky behaviours is important. The more we're aware, the easier it is to prevent these situations from happening in the first place.
  • Hygiene
    On some days, showering or flossing can be the first thing we dismiss. And while skipping them might not seem like a big deal, keeping good hygiene habits is extremely important to living a healthy life. The more often we floss, for instance, the easier it'll be to keep up with it when we're tempted to stop.
  • Rational and responsible use of products and services
    Tools like medication, nutrition planning, vitamins and smoking cessation products can be a great aid in staying healthy, but they should only be used responsibly and only when needed.

    Setting reminders on our phones to take medication and schedule appointments can ensure we get the most out of these tools.

Keep these areas of self-care in mind, and look for ways to add more self-care to your life. It's never too late to start. For more information, visit the International Self-Care Foundation.

The cost of injury: July 5 is National Injury Prevention Day

July 4, 2017

Today, preventable injuries will kill 43 Canadians.

That's nearly 16,000 per year. And even when injuries don't claim lives, their cost is staggering. Each year, injuries prompt 3.5 million emergency room visits and cost the Canadian economy $26.8 billion.

These frightening statistics come from Parachute, a national injury prevention organization. Their report on the cost of injury in Canada is a reminder that preventable injuries can have severe consequences.

July 5 is National Injury Prevention Day, and we're encouraging you to keep yourself and others safe. Whether you're at work, home or play, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Predict

"Foresight is a big deal – that's where injury prevention happens," says Kevin Repay, Disability Case Manager at Manitoba Blue Cross. With a specialty in cardiac physiology and biomechanics, Kevin adjudicates disability claims and works to ensure injured people can make a safe, timely and successful return to work.

Injury prevention becomes so obvious after the fact – when you trip on those boxes in the basement, you realize you should have moved them ages ago. Wherever you are, Kevin advises you assess your surroundings and predict where injuries are likely to occur:

  • Is the area clean and clear of obstructions? A recent spill or an ill-placed footstool can cause an accident in seconds.
  • Are common objects within reach? The most popular injuries are sprains and strains, and twisting to reach the phone can lead to injury over time.
  • With summer in full swing, backyard use is increasing dramatically. Watch for sharp objects (rocks, tools, etc.) hidden in the grass, and make sure your deck is in good shape to prevent splinters.
  • If you have young children, see from their perspective by crawling through your home and making note of potential hazards. The corner of a piece of furniture might not seem like a big deal to an adult, but it could be right at head-level for a curious toddler.

Pace

When time is short, you might be tempted to rush. But pacing is the key, Kevin says.

"It's important to approach the activity with the right pacing in mind," he says. "Rushing through something could end up taking more time, once you have to go back and fix everything – especially with an injury."

While life is often unpredictable, creating a schedule or a to-do list can help prevent situations where you find yourself rushing. Keeping a list of tasks will help you manage your time and avoid those last-minute sprints.

And when you do find yourself rushing, Kevin has simple advice: just slow down. "Take your time and try not to overwhelm yourself," he says. "It's better to be cautious."

Protect

"You never know what's going to happen once that saw starts buzzing," Kevin says.

You can't always predict when an accident will happen, but you can protect yourself should one occur. This is especially true when using any type of equipment, where injuries can be a split-second away. And you don't have to be using a saw to sustain a serious injury. Whatever you're using, be smart:

  • Read all the directions first, and never use something if you're not sure how.
  • Wear all recommended protective gear when working, even if it doesn't seem necessary. It only takes one injury to realize why it was recommended in the first place.
  • Do a routine check on all safety equipment you own, and replace any gear that's too worn. Most helmets, for instance, should be replaced after just one collision.

Prepare

Kevin's biggest piece of advice? "Think about things before they happen," he says.

At the end of the day, injury prevention is all about preparation – there's a reason it's not called injury reaction.

"Plan out. Pace. Assess your surroundings," Kevin says. "That's how you stay safe."

For more injury prevention tips, see the Government of Canada's injury prevention page.

Stay aware, stay educated: June is National Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Awareness month

June 20, 2017

To expecting parents, few things are as important as their child's health. Birth defects, especially ones that cause lasting health problems, are common fears.

That's why June is dedicated to raising awareness of spina bifida and hydrocephalus, two birth defects that can leave people with lifelong disabilities.

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in Canada, according to the Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario. Every year, it affects 120 newborn Canadians.

Spina bifida occurs when the spinal column develops improperly during the first few months of pregnancy. The damage can range from minor (hidden beneath the skin, with few effects) to major (with the spine protruding from the spinal column, potentially resulting in paralysis).

The exact causes are unconfirmed, but doctors recommend women take folic acid supplements to help prevent spina bifida and other birth defects.

Hydrocephalus

Eighty-five per cent of children born with spina bifida will also have hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of fluid in the brain cavity. The fluid is cerebrospinal fluid, which helps keep the brain healthy by providing nutrients, removing waste, and regulating other important functions.

Normally, this fluid does its job and gets reabsorbed into the bloodstream. But when the reabsorption process or the natural flow is interrupted, the fluid builds up, increasing pressure on the skull.

This means hydrocephalus isn't just a birth defect – since it can be caused by conditions like meningitis, brain injuries, and tumours, it can affect people of all ages. In children, it can expand the skull and cause vomiting and irritability. In adults, it can lead to incontinence, trouble walking, and dementia. In older adults, this dementia is often misattributed to other diseases, like Alzheimer's, which is why awareness is so important.

Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Manitoba (SBHAM)

The SBHAM works to improve the quality of life for people with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus through education, advocacy, research, and support.

Featured FAQ: Why did our Customer Service Centre hours change?

April 27, 2017

To create this Featured FAQ, Manitoba Blue Cross checked in with our Customer Service Centre representatives about some of the most frequently asked questions brought to light by our members. After hearing the most pressing questions and common conundrums – a topic was chosen and a little more time was put into getting you the information you need.

Thank you for speaking up, letting us know how you feel and helping us serve you better.

Manitoba Blue Cross changed the hours of the walk-in portion of our Customer Service Centre September, 2016. Our new hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. The main shift involved closing our doors to customer walk-ins on Mondays – a change made to accommodate trends in email and phone inquiries.

Over the last several years we have witnessed a significant rise in email inquiries and in phone calls, alongside a simultaneous decrease in walk-in customer volumes.

Email volumes alone have increased by more than 200 per cent in the last six years. Last year, our customer service representatives responded to over 37,000 emails, up from 16,000 in 2011. In the same span of time, we've seen a 40 per cent decrease in walk-in customer volumes.

While our Customer Service Centre has witnessed many changes over the past several years with the rise in web-based communications, we're doing our best to keep up with the changing times and to stay attuned to the needs of our customers.

We recognize that you value the customer care you receive at our Customer Service Centre. Our representatives are here to help you manage your plan and navigate your coverage information. When you need assistance, further information or clarification on your plan details, we hope you reach out to us – either by phone, email or in-person during our new walk-in hours.

We appreciate your feedback and hope you continue letting us know how to meet your needs. If you have any questions about your coverage with us, please reach out.

Find our current contact information here.

Dreaming of the clear blue sea: Q&A with Kally on her wish

March 23, 2017

celia-wish

Sailing, swimming with turtles, snorkeling and floating in the clear blue sea are the things dreams are made of – that's why Turks and Caicos was an easy decision for Kally when choosing her wish destination.

At 15 years old, Kally was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. The cancer was in stage 3 and close to being stage 4 at the time of her diagnosis.

Kally started treatment right away, including chemotherapy and surgery to remove a lump in her lymph node on her neck. She has been told that she is currently in remission.

And while 15-year-olds have enough to worry about with school and the everyday pressures of life as a young adult, Kally has braved so much more than many her age.

For her wish destination, Kally is going to Turks and Caicos, an archipelago of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the Bahamas.

Manitoba Blue Cross is proud to sponsor the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada and to provide children like Kally with premium-free travel coverage – so they can reach their wish destinations safely.

We asked Kally about her choice destination and some of the things she plans on doing on her tropical island adventure.

We hear you did a ton of research before deciding on visiting Turks and Caicos. What stuck out to you about this destination?

The clear blue water and the stories I have heard from other people who have gone there.

What's your favourite beach or ocean memory?

celia-wish

Going snorkeling in Mexico with my family and cousins.

Snorkeling, swimming with turtles, sailing on a catamaran and deep sea fishing – clearly you're an ocean lover. What's your favourite water sport or activity?

I love to wakeboard and tube. Also just swim and float around.

We hear that you're hoping to overcome a fear of heights to try parasailing. How are you feeling about that at this particular moment?

I'm a little nervous about parasailing just because I have heard scary stories. But I still would like to try it out and live life on the edge.

...

Manitoba Blue Cross is matching donations made to the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada during March through text or the link below. We will match up to $10,000 total.

To donate text Bluewish1 to 80100 or click here.

A trip fit for a princess: Q&A with Celia on her wish

March 16, 2017

celia-wish

Four-year-old Celia now spends her time dancing with ribbons in ballet class and singing along to her favourite songs, but it hasn't always been easy for Celia to enjoy the things she loves.

On a routine check-up the day after she was born, Celia was diagnosed with Tricuspid Atresia, a congenital heart condition in which the right side of the heart can't pump blood to the lungs to be oxygenated. Normally, this would mean Celia's blood wouldn't receive the oxygen she needs to live. However, in a coincidental turn of events, Celia was also born with several holes in her heart, which allowed her blood to get oxygen accidentally – and in turn saved her life. Celia has gone through multiple major surgeries and lots of physiotherapy on her road to treatment.

Manitoba Blue Cross is proud to sponsor the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada and to provide children like Celia with premium-free travel coverage – so they can reach their dream destinations.

We asked Celia about her favourite things, her love of princesses and her upcoming trip to Florida to visit the Magic Kingdom.

We hear you love princesses! Who is your favourite princess? What do you love about her?

I love all the princesses! My favourite princess in the whole wide world is Sleeping Beauty! I love them because they give hugs!

Is it true you do ballet?

Yes, I go to dance class! I hold hands with my cousin and we dance with ribbons!

Do you have a favourite song?

My favourite song is the Trolls song Can't stop the feeling. I sing it all the time!

celia-wish

What is your favourite toy/game to play?

I like to play dress up and with my stuffies and I like to play school teacher.

We hear you are going on a really exciting trip to the Magic Kingdom in Florida! What are you going to do there?

I'm going to go in the castle and see the princesses and ride in the teacups and race cars!

Who would you love to meet at the Magic Kingdom?

I would like to meet everybody!

...

Manitoba Blue Cross is matching donations made to the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada during March through text or the link below. We will match up to $10,000 total.

To donate text Bluewish1 to 80100 or click here.

Trains, monster trucks and Lightening McQueen: Q&A with London on his wish

March 14, 2017

london-wish

London is a bright, happy boy and a lover of monster trucks, Lego, trains, cars – and especially Lightening McQueen, the hero from the animated Pixar movie Cars. That is why London chose to visit Cars Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios for his wish.

Before London was born, he had already been diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a rare heart defect where the left side of the heart is underdeveloped. He has undergone surgeries – starting at just five days old – to treat this condition.

Manitoba Blue Cross is proud to sponsor the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada and to provide children like London with premium-free travel coverage – so they can reach their dream destinations.

We asked London about his upcoming trip to Florida to visit Disney World and about some of the things he loves best.

We hear you love monster trucks, cars and trains! What's your favourite toy or game?

I love Grave Digger from Monster Jam. I REALLY love monster truck games. I love Play-Doh and activity books. I love puzzles. I wish I got a Grave Digger puzzle.

We hear you love ice cream! What's your favourite food?

I love chocolate pudding, milk and cookies. I love strawberries, oranges and watermelon.

Is it true you are going on a really cool trip to Florida to visit Cars Land in Disney's Hollywood Studios? What are you excited to do at Cars Land?

london-wish

I want to see Lightening McQueen. I don't know if he is real or if he can talk. I want to play with new cars there!

What do you love about Lightening McQueen?

I love the numbers on him and he goes fast and he is a race car and talks.

Manitoba Blue Cross is matching donations made to the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada during March through text or the link below. We will match up to $10,000 total.

To donate text Bluewish1 to 80100 or click here.

Take a load off: How to reduce stress for a healthy heart

February 13, 2017

Talking about how stressed we are is as common place as chatting about the weather or local sports team, but do we know the heart health outcomes of our frazzled states? A recent medical study led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISSMS) breaks new ground in explaining the connection between stress and heart disease.

According to the MGH and ISSMS study, feelings of stress can cause heightened activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, something that usually occurs when we sense danger. The over-activity in this "fear region" of the brain encourages the body to produce white blood cells at a higher rate than normal – in order to repair tissue and to fight off disease. Because these white blood cells are not actually needed, the over-expenditure can result in arterial inflammation, which is associated with higher incidents of heart disease.

Stress can present itself in different ways, depending on the individual. It can commonly be a result of a major life change – good or bad – like a promotion, a new relationship or the death of a loved one. More mundane activities can also induce tension, like daily work pressures, rush hour traffic or strained communications with family and friends.

Signs that you are over-stressed include feelings of irritability, sadness or guilt; change in sleep patterns; changes in weight or appearance; difficulty concentrating or making decisions; negative thinking; loss of interest in things you used to enjoy; and restlessness.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, when you're stressed out, your body responds following three phases in order to help you respond to the situation at hand:

First, your body releases adrenalin, causing your heart rate to increase and breathing to speed up.

If the agitation is not curbed following the initial adrenalin rush, your body will then begin to release stored sugars and fats, in an attempt to supply you with extra energy. This release can lead to mental and physical exhaustion.

If you remain in this stressed out state, you will enter the third phase, in which your body is unable to provide the energy it needs. During the third phase, you may experience insomnia, judgment errors and personality changes.

It's important to identify the events in your life that trigger your symptoms. Some people find it helpful to keep a journal and write down activities that lead to greater than normal stress. You can begin to identify your triggers and think about coping strategies to help you avoid falling into the same pattern in the future.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada suggests following these three guidelines to help get rid of stress daily:

1. Just say no

Before you can look after anyone else's needs, you have to make sure you're looking out for yourself. It's important not to over commit. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by trying to please everyone, it's best recognize your own limitations. This way you can mitigate any feelings of guilt you may have for not being able to make all of your commitments as well as the stress you put yourself through trying to live up to unrealistic expectations.

1. Take action daily

Though this advice may seem counterintuitive to point number one, it's not. Putting things off, whether it's work that needs to get done or a decision that needs to be made, is stress-inducing. Checking things off your list, no matter how small, is satisfying and productive. It'll help you build confidence, reduce anxiety and develop healthy patterns.

3. Ask for help

Remember that it's okay – and much of the time necessary – to ask for help. Whether it's confiding in a friend, getting help with a project or talking to a counsellor or psychologist, a little help can go a long way. It's important to note that if going at something alone is overwhelming, we can reach out for help.

To find out more about how you can reduce stress and improve your heart health, click here.

Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance as part of their employer health plan can contact the Employee Assistance Centre directly to inquire about counselling services or to schedule an appointment:

Directly: 204.786.8880

Toll Free: 1.800.590.5553

TTY: 204.775.0586

If you are unsure as to what benefits are available to you and your family, check with your Human Resources representative.

Good health pays off: Reasons to exercise in 2017

January 19, 2017

The classic New Year's calls-to-action have probably already beckoned you to "hit the gym," "get in shape" or "achieve your fitness goals." And there is good reason for that - like the irrefutable evidence that regular physical activity helps prevent several chronic diseases and is associated with reduced risk of premature death. Yet only one in five Canadians gets enough exercise.

Though promoting cardiovascular health is the primary health-related reason people seek out active lifestyles, there are many other health benefits associated with increased physical activity, like preventing type 2 diabetes, protecting against colon and breast cancer and maintaining healthy bone mineral density - to name a few.

There is also psychological wellness to take into account. Regular physical activity is proven to improve well-being by reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Psychological wellness also has important effects on preventing other chronic diseases such as hypertension, osteoporosis, cancer and obesity.

Even though there is a bevy of evidence suggesting that exercise has many health benefits, doctors are reluctant to prescribe workout regimes to their patients. The Canadian Medical Association Journal released a study in 2016 stating that though regular exercise is valuable component to treating many chronic conditions, physicians are often reluctant to add treadmill or lifting time to treatment plans. So there's a good chance that if you're making a fitness plan in the New Year, you're going at it alone.

Motivating yourself to create and sustain an exercise routine can be intimidating. Additionally the cold at this time of year makes it hard to embrace the outdoors and healthy activities that are more appealing during the warmer months like walking, running or biking. Lastly, gym memberships and fitness classes can be expensive, and it's not always easy to shell out extra dollars after the holidays.

So how can Manitoba Blue Cross help you hop on the fitness train?

By being a Manitoba Blue Cross member, you already have a leg up on affording better wellness. Through Blue Advantage, our national discount program, you can save on medical, vision care and wellness services offered by participating providers across Canada. All you have to do is present your Blue Cross identification card to the participating provider and mention the Blue Advantage program.

So what are some of the health and wellness discounts you can expect simply for being a Manitoba Blue Cross member?

Anytime Fitness

15% off monthly membership fees (12 month & month-to-month)
50% off enrollment fees (12 month memberships)

Curves

50% off service fee
10% off monthly fees

Shapes

25% off basic annual agreement
All group fitness classes are included with your membership

Snap Fitness

10% off monthly fees
50% off enrollment

Urban Poling

15% off all products purchased through the Urban Poling online store

Read about all of your Blue Advantage discounts and find the terms and conditions of each offer here

Kick the Habit: National Non-Smoking Week is January 15-21

January 5, 2017

While "New Year, New You" is a go-to mantra for the masses making to-do lists at this time of the year, there are some New Year's resolutions that are more pressing – like kicking a toxic habit.

According to Statistics Canada, smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in Canada. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, at least 70 of which are linked to cancer. Additionally, there is strong medical evidence that tobacco use is linked to more than two dozen diseases and conditions and that smoking has negative effects on nearly every organ in the body.

Though many of these health repercussions are known to non-smokers and smokers alike, "kicking the butt" is easier said than done. This is primarily due to one of the highly addictive chemical additives in cigarettes – nicotine. When smokers break the habit, the nicotine in cigarettes can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including nausea and intestinal cramping, headaches, sore throat, insomnia and difficulty concentrating.

The good news is that every attempt counts. According to ManitobaQuits, a campaign launched by the Manitoba Lung Association, every attempt at quitting helps you acquire the skills, mental strength and motivation you need to quit for good.

And the rewards for quitting are almost instantaneous. After 20 minutes of not smoking, your blood pressure will drop to a level similar to that before your last cigarette – after 24 hours your risk of heart attack starts to drop.

National Non-Smoking Week has been observed in Canada for nearly 40 years during the third week of January. Each year, individuals and agencies working on local, regional and national scales take part in activities and educational efforts. The goals of the week are to educate Canadians about the dangers of smoking; to prevent non-smokers from starting; to help people quit; to de-normalize tobacco use; and to work toward a smoke free society in Canada.

While quitting smoking can be an uphill battle, there are many resources available to assist you on your journey, including smoking cessation resources through My Good Health, our free online health resource for members. To access My Good Health, log into your ®mybluecross account, accessible at the top right corner of any page of our website. Once you've logged in, click the "Learn More" button under the My Good Health box. You can find resources by clicking "Healthy Living," and then under Healthy Lifestyle, click "Stop Smoking."

Quitting can take time, and even if you are not ready to stop just yet, you can still take part in National Non-Smoking Week by planning for the future. The Government of Canada has a guide to help people do just that called On the road to Quitting - Guide to becoming a non-smoker – available in adult and young adult versions. The guide suggests aspiring quitters create action plans, following these eight steps:

  • Write a clear statement describing why you want to stop smoking
  • List your concerns about quitting
  • Prepare for the symptoms of withdrawal
  • Recognize the skills you already have to help you quit
  • Identify your supports
  • Identify your smoking patterns
  • Decide how to change the things that remind you of your habit
  • Set a quit date

To read the full guide, click here. For more information on quitting smoking, visit Go Smoke Free.

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