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Broadening Benefits for Your Health: Lifestyle Spending Accounts

While your medical insurance covers much of your bodily health, and many companies have Employee Assistance Programs to help you out with mental health, there’s more to your overall wellbeing.

Employers realize this, which is why more and more companies are adding a new acronym to the fold – the LSA, or the Lifestyle Spending Account.

Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts help cover specific IRS-approved expenses such as copays, glasses, or dental care, Lifestyle Spending Accounts have fewer restrictions. They can be used to pay for a broad variety of services and products that promote your own physical, mental, or financial wellness. Below are just a few examples:

  • Exercise equipment and nutritional supplements
  • Personal trainer
  • Entry fees for races or sports leagues; sports lessons
  • Spiritual retreats
  • State or national park passes
  • Camping equipment
  • Spa treatments
  • Estate planning costs
  • Financial planning services

The crucial difference between LSAs and other health-related spending accounts is that expenses submitted for reimbursement through a Lifestyle Spending Account are taxable to you. The reimbursed amount is considered income and is subject to the same taxes as your normal wages. If you’re looking to further your health and wellness, see whether your employer offers an LSA. It can be a helpful tool in taking care of yourself.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Dangers of Doomscrolling

Many of us experienced quarantines during 2020, which abruptly left us home for much longer periods than normal. During this time of social isolation, there was a collective uptick in time spent online.

Boredom, readily accessible social media, and bad news joined forces to create a new term: doomscrolling. Loosely defined as habitually reading bad news or disturbing content for extended periods of time, doomscrolling is a hot topic right now due to its societal prevalence and impact.

Going down depressing internet rabbit holes on your mobile device or computer didn’t start with COVID-19, but the social isolation of the pandemic made it a new or worse habit for many people. It can have multiple negative effects on your mental and emotional health, including the following:

  • Emotional burnout from unrelenting bad news
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Loneliness
  • Tiredness
  • Depression
  • Feelings of helplessness

Constant consumption of negative news is proven to be bad for you, but doomscrolling can be a hard habit to break. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help limit your intake of heavy content. You can localize the behavior by only getting on social media or scrolling the news at certain times and places in your day (not in bed at night, for example). Practice mindfulness when you pick up your phone – think about why you’re picking it up instead of doing it compulsively. Think about what you’re feeling when you’re online and why you feel that way. Most importantly, make a habit of disconnecting. Set your phone down and take a walk outside. If you’re feeling the itch to read something, pick up a hard-copy book or magazine.

There’s no reason to trap yourself down a well of negative feelings. These simple steps, practiced daily, can help you feel better about the world and yourself.

Turning Up the Volume

Hearing loss is more common than you might think, and it has many different degrees and causes of hearing loss. Roughly one in every eight Americans have hearing loss in both ears.

In the hearing process, sound waves enter our ears and create vibrations that are carried to the brain by the middle and inner ear and translated into sounds. Hearing loss can occur when any of these parts suffer damage.

Aging is probably the best-known cause of hearing loss. Generally age-related hearing loss occurs when tiny hairs that help process sound in the inner ear suffer damage over the years and cannot regrow.

Damage is another common cause of hearing loss. This damage can be from hearing one too-loud sound or cumulative damage over time from frequent exposure to sounds over 70 decibels (see HERE for a helpful decibel chart). It can also be caused by chronic ear infections, meningitis, or trauma to the ear or head (such as experiencing a blow to the head or a punctured ear drum).

Additionally, some people are born with varying degrees of hearing loss due to genetic factors or problems during gestation. Others suffer temporary hearing difficulties due to a buildup of earwax. Some of these factors are unavoidable, but others can be reduced by wearing proper ear protection around noises over 70 decibels.

Hearing loss can have a profound effect on one’s life. If you are experiencing difficulty hearing, talk to your doctor. Hearing aids are not generally covered by medical insurance, so it’s important to check whether your vision or dental plan includes coverage for hearing aid fitting and purchase – if not, hearing aids are eligible purchases for Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, and Health Reimbursement Accounts.

Can’t Catch a Breath

There are plenty things in life that take our breath away – a proposal, a beautiful sunset, a child’s first steps – but it’s not fun when the cause is asthma.

It’s estimated that about 25 million people in the US have asthma, a lung condition that occurs when the airways between the nose and mouth and the lungs get inflamed. This swelling makes the passage of air to the lungs more difficult, which results in breathing trouble ranging from mild to deadly serious. There are many potential asthma triggers — pollen, dust mites, tobacco smoke, pets, exercise, mold, and even stress can set off an attack.

While asthma is not a curable condition, there are multiple ways to reduce one’s exposure and reactions to triggers. A combination of medication and prevention is often most effective. These are a few everyday things you can do to reduce your contact with asthma triggers:

  • Avoid tobacco smoke
  • Routinely dust and vacuum your home, especially if you have carpet
  • Wash your sheets regularly to avoid dust mites
  • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter
  • Wear a mask when using disinfectants to clean
  • Use an indoor dehumidifier to reduce chances of mold

On the pharmaceutical side, there are many different kinds of asthma medications. The inhaler is probably the most iconic asthma medication. Inhalers come in two types: a quick-acting inhaler for emergency use or a long-term control medication. Additionally, there are other medications that help reduce the body’s inflammatory responses, and if allergies play a significant part in your asthma, allergy medications or allergy shots may help control your symptoms.

If you routinely have trouble breathing, it’s important that you talk to your doctor to figure out what’s going on. If asthma is the problem, rest assured that there are plenty of ways to help you breathe easy again.

Understanding Racial Trauma

Racism in America is on many minds. Minorities are often treated differently, which can lead to racial trauma, or race-based traumatic stress (RBTS).

35% of Black workers believe racial or ethnic discrimination exists in their workplace, but only 7% of white workers believe the same.

Racial trauma is the mental and emotional injury caused by encountering racial bias and ethnic discrimination. Experiencing such an encounter can lead to this trauma. If you’re not part of a minority group, it can be easy to overlook or downplay this experience. But racial trauma can have long-term detrimental psychological impacts on individuals and communities.

What can I do? Say something. If you hear someone saying something harmful, speak up. Some examples of responses to racist jokes or comments are:

  • “That’s not funny.”
  • “Help me understand your thinking.”
  • “That’s not okay with me.”
  • “We don’t say things like that here.”
  • “What you just said is harmful.”
  • “I know you were just trying to make a joke, but here’s why it was offensive…”
  • “Is the person’s race relevant to this story?”
  • “As your friend, I feel obligated to let you know that remark was racist.”
  • “I didn’t want to single you out before, but that comment made me uncomfortable. Here’s why…”
  • “I disagree. You are stereotyping…”
  • “Do you have evidence to support that belief?”

It doesn’t have to be confrontational. Offer to chat about things further and share resources. Take comfort in knowing that calling people out is never easy or comfortable, but it’s the right thing to do. Standing up against racism and showing support can help individuals and groups of people. If you or someone you know is experiencing racial trauma, there are resources to help. And if you’ve ever mistakenly said something that could be seen as racist, normalize changing your opinion when presented with new information.

Boston College Racial Trauma Toolkit
Project LETS Race and Mental Health Resource
Asian Mental Health Project

Content by Lockton Dunning Benefits with info from,, and

Copays, Coinsurance, and Deductibles

2023 January, Benefit Spotlight December 27, 2022
Couple reviewing insurance documents

If you’re new to having your own medical insurance plan (or maybe even if you’ve had one for a while), the terminology surrounding how much you have to pay for a given service can be confusing. Let’s look at some of the most important terms that will help you better understand your benefits:

Deductible: A deductible is a fixed amount of money that you have to pay before your insurance starts paying benefits. For example, if your deductible is $2,000, you’ll pay out-of-pocket until you reach that amount, and then your coinsurance will kick in. This amount varies by plan, but typically plans with higher monthly costs have lower deductibles and plans with lower monthly costs have higher deductibles. (Side note: some plans have separate deductibles for prescription benefits, so make sure to check your plan details for this.)

Coinsurance: Coinsurance kicks in once you’ve reached your deductible. Now whenever you have a covered medical expense, you’ll pay coinsurance, which is a set percentage of the total cost, and your insurance will pay the rest.

Copay: This is a set amount you’ll pay for a covered service and varies per service. You may pay copays before you hit your deductible and after; this varies by plan.

Out-of-pocket maximum: This one is a little more self-explanatory. Once you’ve paid this set amount out-of-pocket, your plan will pay 100% for covered services for the rest of the year. Depending on your plan, your deductible may or may not include to your out-of-pocket maximum.

Each plan has different deductibles, coinsurance, copays, and out-of-pocket maximums. It’s important to review your benefits carefully to make sure you know what you’re on the hook for when you receive medical care. Consult your summary plan description for more information.

How do deductibles, coinsurance and copays work? |
Your total costs for health care: Premium, deductible, and out-of-pocket costs |

In It Together – Couples Counseling

Many people find they needed extra support in maintaining good mental health — whether that be via in-person counseling or online therapy sessions. It may not be discussed as often, but sometimes couples need a little extra help, too.

There are plenty of reasons couples may want to talk to an experienced, neutral counselor. They may have experienced conflict around significant life events like a big move or welcoming a new child to the family. Other common communication issues center on finances, parenting, or personal priorities. Couples therapy isn’t about blaming anyone – it presents opportunities to learn better communication skills, help resolve feelings of resentment or distance, and assist in finding compromise. It can help partners learn more about themselves and one another, which leads to healthier relationships on the whole.

(An important side note: Couples counseling is not recommended for couples containing an abusive partner. Bringing up the issue to a third party can often create more conflict and abuse. In this situation, individual counseling for the non-abusive partner may be a good starting point. If you are in this kind of relationship and are seeking help, please click HERE for resources.)

The great news is that many counseling providers began or expanded virtual options during 2020 and seem unlikely to move back to primarily in-person models. There are many providers to choose from (see HERE). Not all of these providers accept insurance, and some are pricier than others, so be sure to double-check before making your first appointment.

Safety Net: Healthy Online Habits for Kids

Many of us were introduced to the internet as young adults or even later in life, but it’s important to consider another group that has easy access to the internet – young children and teens.

According to 2018 Pew Research data, 95% of teenagers report having access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online almost constantly. Younger children are also online more than they used to be. An April 2021 Pew Research study saw rising percentages of children between 5-11 using digital devices and social media sites.

While the internet can be a fantastic resource, it can also be a dangerous place for kids who don’t know better. The internet holds inappropriate content and malware, perpetuates scams and cyberbullying, and can hide sexual predators. To keep kids safe, it’s important to teach them some basic internet boundaries:

  • Keep personal information private.
  • Don’t talk to strangers or meet up with someone you’ve only met online.
  • Tell a trusted adult about inappropriate or bullying messages.
  • Don’t open emails or click links from someone you don’t know.

There are a host of websites, resources, and apps you can use to help keep your kids safe online. It’s important during this process to establish open, trusting communication with your kids. This will help them understand you’re trying to help them learn to navigate potentially treacherous waters and to feel comfortable sharing any suspicious online behavior with you.

Nutritional Boosts

Healthy Snacks like fruits and nuts

Most of us would like to eat more healthily but may not know where to start. The good news is that there are some easy dietary shifts you can utilize:

Sodas. Full-sugar sodas contain a lot of empty calories and a LOT of sugar (up to Mountain Dew’s 77 grams per 20-ounce bottle). In contrast, the American Heart Association recommends that adults limit their daily consumption to 25 to 36 grams. If you crave a sweet bubbly, try swapping out your regular soda for a reduced-sugar or sugar-free version. While they’re more expensive, there are also several kinds of low-sugar probiotic sodas or even kombucha that are delicious and good for your gut. Flavored sparkling water also gives the carbonation hit without a high dose of sugar.

Snacks. When you get hungry in the middle of the afternoon, it’s easy to reach for a bag of chips or a candy bar, but these snacks won’t do much to fuel your body. Beef jerky, low-sugar trail mix, almonds, and various fruits and vegetables will provide you with nutrients like protein, healthy fats, and fiber to nourish your body and leave you satiated for longer. (See HERE for more suggestions.)

Punch up meals. Making your diet healthier doesn’t mean you have to give up food you like. Try looking for recipes that add fruits and vegetables or lean proteins to classics, like THIS grilled cheese recipe or THIS tomato soup that doesn’t rely on heavy cream for texture. If you’re looking for easy vegetable additions to a meal, whether for yourself or any picky eaters at home, try air-frying Brussels sprouts or making your own oven-baked sweet potato fries.

While these may seem like small changes, when implemented daily, they will stack up quickly. All it takes is a few adjustments to your grocery list and a little dedication.

Break the Cycle: Managing OCD

Have you ever seen someone perform a specific, repetitive motion and then laugh it off by saying “I’m so OCD”? While repetitive motions are often a symptom of OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD isn’t anything to laugh about.

It is estimated to be present in 2-3% of the population and is characterized by cycles of obsessions, anxiety, compulsions, and relief. Below are common examples of intrusive, obsessive thoughts and compulsions:

  • Fears about germs, disease, or hygiene
  • Having unwanted, disturbing thoughts
  • Fears about harming yourself or others
  • Repeated cleaning rituals (e.g., washing hands repeatedly, disinfecting doorknobs)
  • Repeating words or phrases mentally
  • Ordering or arranging things

Performing these actions can sometimes bring brief relief from the anxiety that the obsessions and compulsions create, but it often doesn’t last. People who have OCD often struggle to know whether the compulsive activities they undertake are reasonable or not.

There are multiple ways to treat OCD, but the most common, effective treatment is a combination of therapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help give people with OCD better coping skills to manage their obsessions and compulsions, and by extension to relieve their anxiety. Exposure and response prevention is a specific kind of CBT that works by exposing someone with OCD to things that make them anxious a little bit at a time to help them learn to respond in healthier ways. Antidepressants are often the first line of medication used for OCD. This isn’t because OCD corresponds with depression, but because it has been demonstrated that these medications work well for OCD too.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you and are causing significant distress and/or disruption to your daily life, talk to your primary care physician. They can help you take next steps toward testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

International OCD Foundation | How is OCD Treated? (
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Medication & Treatment Options (