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Charleston County Sheriff attends meeting about investigations involving police use of force


The meeting was hosted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Director Vernon Keenan, in Stockbridge, Ga., and was attended by 25 law enforcement professionals from 11 agencies, according to Charleston County Maj. Eric Watson. He said the meeting focused ...

Bill Belonga


A celebration of life in memory of Bill Belonga will be held June 6, 2015. Arrangements are under the direction of Horis A. Ward - Fairview Chapel, Stockbridge, GA 770-474-1231.

Law enforcement officials discuss officer-involved shootings


STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. (AP) - Representatives of state-level law enforcement agencies from nine southeastern states held a meeting just outside Atlanta this week to discuss best practices when investigating officer-involved shootings. Statewide law enforcement ...

MBI, other law enforcement officials discuss police shootings


STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. - Representatives of state-level law enforcement agencies from nine southeastern states held a meeting just outside Atlanta this week to discuss best practices when investigating officer-involved shootings. Statewide law enforcement ...

BC-GA--Georgia News Coverage Advisory 8:30 am, GA


Some TV and radio stations will receive shorter APNewsNow versions of the stories below, along with all updates. STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. — Representatives from law enforcement agencies around the South have been meeting in suburban Atlanta this week to discuss ...

Stockbridge celebrates Georgia Cities Week


Since receiving its official Main Street designation from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs on Jan. 26, the Stockbridge Main Street program and its advisory board have been working diligently to renew community interest in the historic downtown area.

Stockbridge man wins $339,503 in Georgia Lottery game


Free access to myAJC for AJC subscribers. Like April rain showers, cash is raining down on a Stockbridge man who has won the $339,503 jackpot in the Georgia Lottery Fantasy 5 game. Bower Kardocky claimed his prize April 13 at the Georgia Lottery ...

Henry County stolen cab tracked to Columbus, Ga.


UPDATE: Police in Columbus, Georgia, arrested Riggins April 17th. While they had not yet found the stolen cab, the believed it was also in the Columbus area. STOCKBRIDGE, GA (WXIA) – Authorities are searching for a woman accused of stealing a cab in ...

A 123-Year-Old Women’s Club Keeps Tradition Alive Over Tea In Stockbridge


A hundred years ago social networking meant something very different than what it means now. But a social networking group that began in 1892 is still meeting today, with its members still gathering f…

Spearfishing in Wisconsin for The New York Times


After two days of waving down strangers as they drove out onto the ice, I met a family that ended up being within the very small percentage of successful spear fishermen on Lake Winnebago during the s…

Spearfishing in Wisconsin for The New York Times


After two days of waving down strangers as they drove out onto the ice, I met a family that ended up being within the very small percentage of successful spear fishermen on Lake Winnebago during the s…

Carpenter Stockbridge (GA) – Stockbridge Carpenters


Carpenter Stockbridge (GA) Lending helping hands when you need masterpieces built in Stockbridge (GA). Papa’s Carpenter Specialists in Stockbridge, Georgia work with, builds and fixes items and stru…

LGBT activist killed in East Atlanta home


A beloved LGBT activist was killed Monday in a crime spree that crossed two counties. Friends and loved ones are now raising funds to help her wife and to support the equality movement. Catherine Han…

Man steals from Walmart twice in one day | VIDEO


STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. — The Henry County Police Department is looking to identify a man who loaded items in his cart and walked out of a Walmart without paying. Police say the suspect then changed clothes …

Summer Gas Prices Expected To Be Cheapest In A Decade


Low gas prices are projected to continue through this summer. Triple-A says prices could get to around $2 per gallon. GasBuddy.com says motorists will enjoy the cheapest summer gas prices in a decade.…

Summer Gas Prices Expected To Be Cheapest In A Decade


Low gas prices are projected to continue through this summer. Triple-A says prices could get to around $2 per gallon. GasBuddy.com says motorists will enjoy the cheapest summer gas prices in a decade.…

Some photos from the cemetery in Stockbridge. The whole Sedgwick...


Some photos from the cemetery in Stockbridge. The whole Sedgwick family is buried in a circular pattern with the patriarch and matriarch at the center, with the idea being that when the Rapture/Resurr…

Kitchen Ceramic Tile and Grout Clean in Stockbridge


The home owner of this house in Stockbridge had become increasingly unhappy with the state of their ceramic tiled floor and we were asked to come in and give the ceramic tile and grout a thorough deep…




SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR STOCKBRIDGE

Advices to people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in STOCKBRIDGE GEORGIA

What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome* (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, meaning that the symptoms are caused by changes in how the GI tract works. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus—the opening where stool leaves your body. Food is digested, or broken down, in the GI tract.

The organs of the GI tract

*See the Pronunciation Guide for tips on how to say words in bold type.

IBS is a group of symptoms that occur together, not a disease. Symptoms can come and go repeatedly without signs of damage to the GI tract.

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What are the symptoms of IBS?

The most common symptoms of IBS include pain or discomfort in your abdomen—the area between your chest and hips—and changes in your bowel habits. The pain or discomfort of IBS may be reported as cramping and

  • starts when you have bowel movements more or less often than usual
  • starts when your stool appears looser and more watery or harder and more lumpy than usual
  • goes away after a bowel movement

The changes in bowel habits with IBS may be diarrhea, constipation, or both.

Symptoms of diarrhea are

  • passing stools three or more times a day
  • having loose, watery stools
  • feeling an urgent need to have a bowel movement

Symptoms of constipation are

  • passing fewer than three stools in a week
  • having hard, dry stools
  • straining to have a bowel movement

Some people with IBS have only diarrhea or only constipation. Some people have symptoms of both diarrhea and constipation or have diarrhea sometimes and constipation other times. People often have symptoms after eating a meal.

Other symptoms of IBS are

  • whitish mucus—a clear liquid made by the intestines—in the stool
  • a swollen or bloated abdomen
  • the feeling that you haven’t finished a bowel movement

Women with IBS often have more symptoms during their menstrual periods.

IBS is a chronic disorder, meaning it lasts a long time, often years. However, the symptoms may come and go. You may have IBS if

  • you have had symptoms at least three times a month for the past 3 months
  • your symptoms first started at least 6 months ago

While IBS can be painful, it doesn’t lead to other health problems or damage the GI tract.

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What causes IBS?

Doctors are not sure what causes IBS. Researchers are studying the following possible causes of IBS:

  • Brain-gut signal problems. Signals between your brain and the nerves of your gut, or small and large intestines, control how your gut works. Problems with brain-gut signals may cause IBS symptoms, such as changes in your bowel habits and pain or discomfort.
  • Colon muscle problems. The muscles of your colon, part of your large intestine, may not work normally. The muscles may contract, or tighten, too much. These contractions may move stool through your gut too quickly, causing cramping and diarrhea during or shortly after a meal, or slow the movement of stool, causing constipation.
  • Sensitive nerves. The nerves in your gut may be extra sensitive, causing you to feel more pain or discomfort than normal when gas or stool is in the gut.
  • Mental health issues. Psychological, or mental health, issues such as anxiety or depression may be related to IBS in some people. Stress can make the nerves of your gut more sensitive, causing more discomfort and emotional distress.
  • Infections. A bacterial infection in the GI tract may cause some people to develop IBS.
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Normally, few bacteria live in the small intestine. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is an increase in the number or a change in the type of bacteria in the small intestine. These bacteria can produce extra gas and may also cause diarrhea and weight loss. Some researchers believe small intestinal bacterial overgrowth may lead to IBS; however, more research is needed to show a link between the two conditions.
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How is IBS diagnosed?

Your doctor may be able to diagnose IBS based on your symptoms. Your doctor may not need to do medical tests or may do a limited number of tests.

Your doctor will ask about your

  • medical history
  • eating habits
  • medicine use

Your doctor will look for a certain pattern in your symptoms. Your doctor can diagnose IBS by using symptom-based standards such as the Rome criteria. Based on the Rome criteria, IBS may be diagnosed if

  • your symptoms started at least 6 months ago
  • you have had abdominal pain or discomfort at least three times a month for the past 3 months
  • your abdominal pain or discomfort has two or three of the following features:
    • Your pain or discomfort improves after a bowel movement.
    • When your pain or discomfort starts, you notice a change in how often you have a bowel movement.
    • When your pain or discomfort starts, you notice a change in the way your stools look.

Your doctor will also conduct a physical exam and may perform blood tests to make sure you don’t have other health problems. IBS can have the same symptoms as other health problems, so more tests may be needed. If any blood tests suggest you may have another health problem, your doctor might also perform the following tests:

  • Stool test. A stool test is used to check stool for blood or parasites, which are tiny organisms found in contaminated food or water. Your doctor will give you a container for catching and storing the stool. You will return the stool sample to your doctor or a commercial facility. The sample will be sent to a lab to check for blood or parasites. Your doctor may also check for blood in stool by examining your rectum—the lower end of the large intestine leading to the anus—during your physical exam.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is used to look inside your rectum and lower colon. This test is used to look inside the rectum and lower colon. The test is performed at a hospital or an outpatient center by a gastroenterologist—a doctor who specializes in digestive diseases. Anesthesia is usually not needed. Your doctor will give you written bowel prep instructions to follow at home before the test. You may need to follow a clear liquid diet for 1 to 3 days before the test. You may also need a laxative or enema the night before the test. You may also have one or more enemas about 2 hours before the procedure.

    For the test, you will lie on a table while the doctor inserts a flexible tube into your anus. A small camera on the tube sends a video image of the intestinal lining to a computer screen. The test can show problems in the rectum or lower colon that may be causing your symptoms.

    You can usually go back to your normal diet after the test, though you may have cramping or bloating during the first hour after the test.
  • Colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is used to look inside your rectum and entire colon. The test is performed at a hospital or an outpatient center by a gastroenterologist. You’ll be given a light sedative and possibly pain medicine to help you relax. Your doctor will give you written bowel prep instructions to follow at home before the test. You may need to follow a clear liquid diet for 1 to 3 days before the test. You may need to take laxatives and enemas the evening before the test.

    For the test, you will lie on a table while the doctor inserts a flexible tube into your anus. A small camera on the tube sends a video image of the intestinal lining to a computer screen. The test can show problems in your colon that may be causing your symptoms.

    Cramping or bloating may occur during the first hour after the test. Driving is not permitted for 24 hours after the test so that the sedative can wear off. Before the appointment, you should make plans for a ride home. By the next day, you should fully recover and go back to your normal diet.
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How is IBS treated?

Irritable bowel syndrome is treated by relieving symptoms through

  • changes in eating, diet, and nutrition
  • medicine
  • probiotics
  • psychological therapy

You may have to try a few treatments to see what works best for you. Your doctor can help you find the right treatment plan.

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Eating, Diet, and Nutrition

Eating large meals can cause cramping and diarrhea in some people with IBS. If you experience these symptoms, try to change your eating patterns by eating four or five small meals a day.

Certain foods or drinks may make symptoms worse, such as

  • foods high in fat
  • some milk products
  • drinks with alcohol or caffeine
  • drinks with large amounts of artificial sweeteners, which are used in place of sugar
  • beans, cabbage, and other foods that may cause gas

To find out if certain foods trigger your symptoms, keep a diary and track

  • what you eat during the day
  • what symptoms you have
  • when symptoms occur

Take your notes to your doctor and talk about which foods seem to make your symptoms worse. You may need to avoid these foods or eat less of them.

Fiber may improve constipation symptoms caused by IBS because it makes stool soft and easier to pass. Fiber is found in foods such as whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, fruits, and vegetables. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that adults consume 21 to 38 grams of fiber a day.

While fiber may help constipation, it may not be enough to treat the abdominal discomfort or pain of IBS. In fact, some people with IBS may feel a bit more abdominal discomfort after adding more fiber to their diet. Add foods with fiber a little at a time to let your body get used to them. Too much fiber at once can cause gas, which can trigger symptoms in people with IBS.

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Medicine

Your doctor may give you medicine help relieve symptoms. Follow your doctor’s instructions when you use medicine to treat IBS. Talk with your doctor about possible side effects and what to do if you have them.

These medicines can lessen the symptoms of IBS:

  • Laxatives treat constipation. Many kinds of laxatives are available. Your doctor can help you find the right laxative for you.
  • Loperamide (Imodium) treats diarrhea.
  • Antispasmodics help reduce muscle spasms in the intestines and help ease abdominal pain.
  • Antidepressants in low doses can help relieve IBS symptoms.
  • Lubiprostone (Amitiza) is prescribed for people who have IBS with constipation.
  • Linaclotide (Linzess) is also prescribed for people who have IBS with constipation.

The antibiotic rifaximin can reduce bloating by treating small intestinal bacterial overgrowth; however, scientists are still debating the use of antibiotics to treat IBS and more research is needed.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms—tiny organisms that can be seen only with a microscope. These microorganisms, most often bacteria, are like the microorganisms normally found in your GI tract. Studies have found that probiotics taken in large enough amounts improve symptoms of IBS; however, more research is needed. Probiotics can be found in dietary supplements, such as capsules, tablets, and powders, and in some foods, such as yogurt. Talk with your doctor before using probiotics, supplements, or any other complementary or alternative medical treatment. Read more at www.nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics.

Psychological Therapy

Psychological therapy can help improve IBS symptoms.

  • Talk therapy. Talk therapy may reduce stress and improve IBS symptoms. Two types of talk therapy used to treat IBS are cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic, or interpersonal, therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on your thoughts and actions. Psychodynamic therapy focuses on how your emotions affect your IBS symptoms.
  • Gut-directed hypnotherapy. In hypnotherapy, a therapist may help relax the muscles in your colon by putting you into a trancelike state.
  • Mindfulness training. Mindfulness training can teach you to focus your attention on sensations occurring at the moment and to avoid catastrophizing, or worrying about the meaning of those sensations.
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Does stress cause IBS?

Although stress does not cause IBS, if you already have IBS, stress can make your symptoms worse. In addition, simply having IBS symptoms can produce stress.

Learning to reduce stress can help improve IBS. With less stress, you may find you have less cramping and pain. You may also find it easier to manage your symptoms.

Meditation, exercise, hypnosis, and counseling may help lessen IBS symptoms. Getting enough sleep and changing life situations to make them less stressful may also help. You may need to try different activities to see what works best for you.

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Points to Remember

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, meaning symptoms are caused by changes in how the GI tract works.
  • IBS is a group of symptoms that occur together, not a disease. Symptoms can come and go repeatedly without signs of damage to the GI tract.
  • The most common symptoms of IBS include pain or discomfort in your abdomen—the area between your chest and hips—and changes in your bowel habits.
  • While IBS can be painful, it doesn’t lead to other health problems or damage the GI tract.
  • Doctors are not sure what causes IBS. Researchers are studying the following possible causes of IBS:
    • brain-gut signal problems
    • colon muscle problems
    • sensitive nerves
    • mental health issues
    • infections
    • small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  • Your doctor may be able to diagnose IBS based on your symptoms. Your doctor may not need to do medical tests or may do a limited number of tests.
  • IBS is treated by relieving symptoms through
    • changes in eating, diet, and nutrition
    • medicine
    • probiotics
    • psychological therapy
  • Although stress does not cause IBS, if you already have IBS, stress can make your symptoms worse.
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Hope through Research

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ (NIDDK’s) pision of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition conducts and supports basic and clinical research into many digestive disorders.

Clinical trials are research studies involving people. Clinical trials look at safe and effective new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. To learn more about clinical trials, why they matter, and how to participate, visit the NIH Clinical Research Trials and You website at www.nih.gov/health/clinicaltrials. For information about current studies, visit www.ClinicalTrials.gov.

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Pronunciation Guide

abdomen (AB-doh-men)

abdominal (ab-DOM-ih-nuhl)

antidepressants (AN-tee-dee-PRESS-uhnts)

antispasmodics (AN-tee-spaz-MOD-iks)

anus (AY-nuhss)

chronic (KRON-ik)

cognitive (KOG-nih-tiv)

colon (KOH-lon)

colonoscopy (KOH-lon-OSS-kuh-pee)

constipation (KON-stih-PAY-shuhn)

diarrhea (DY-uh-REE-uh)

enema (EN-uh-muh)

flexible sigmoidoscopy (FLEK-suh-buhl) (SIG-moy-DOSS-kuh-pee)

functional (FUHNK-shuhn-uhl)

gastroenterologist (GASS-troh-EN-tur-OL-uh-jist)

gastrointestinal (GASS-troh-in-TESS-tin-uhl)

hypnotherapy (HIP-noh-THAIR-uh-pee)

interpersonal (IN-tur-PUR-suhn-uhl)

intestines (in-TESS-tinz)

irritable bowel syndrome (IHR-ih-tuh-buhl) (boul) (SIN-drohm)

laxative (LAK-suh-tiv)

mucus (MYOO-kuhss)

probiotics (PROH-by-OT-iks)

psychodynamic (SY-koh-dy-NAM-ik)

psychological (SY-koh-LOJ-ih-kuhl)

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For More Information

American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society
45685 Harmony Lane
Belleville, MI 48111
Phone: 734–699–1130
Fax: 734–699–1136
Email: admin@motilitysociety.org
Internet: www.motilitysociety.org

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
700 West Virginia Street, Suite 201
Milwaukee, WI 53204
Phone: 1–888–964–2001 or 414–964–1799
Fax: 414–964–7176
Email: iffgd@iffgd.org
Internet: www.iffgd.org

Rome Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 6524
Raleigh, NC 27628
Phone: 919–539–3051
Fax: 919–900–7646
Email: mpickard@theromefoundation.org
Internet: www.romecriteria.org

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Acknowledgments

Publications produced by the Clearinghouse are carefully reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts. This publication was reviewed by Douglas A. Drossman, M.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Thank you also to the Salvation Army, SE Corps, Washington, D.C., for facilitating field-testing of the original version of this publication.

The U.S. Government does not endorse or favor any specific commercial product or company. Trade, proprietary, or company names appearing in this document are used only because they are considered necessary in the context of the information provided. If a product is not mentioned, the omission does not mean or imply that the product is unsatisfactory.

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National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892–3570
Phone: 1–800–891–5389
TTY: 1–866–569–1162
Fax: 703–738–4929
Email: nddic@info.niddk.nih.gov
Internet: www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1980, the Clearinghouse provides information about digestive diseases to people with digestive disorders and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. The NDDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about digestive diseases.

This publication is not copyrighted. The Clearinghouse encourages users of this publication to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.

This publication may contain information about medications and, when taken as prescribed, the conditions they treat. When prepared, this publication included the most current information available. For updates or for questions about any medications, contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration toll-free at 1–888–INFO–FDA (1–888–463–6332) or visit www.fda.gov. Consult your health care provider for more information.


NIH Publication No. 13–4686
September 2013

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Page last updated October 16, 2013

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STOCKBRIDGE GEORGIA tspan:3m STOCKBRIDGE GEORGIA




Make Your Health Benefits Work for You in STOCKBRIDGE GEORGIA

The Department of Labor´s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) administers several important health benefit laws covering employer-based health plans. They govern your basic rights to information about how your health plan works, how to qualify for benefits, and how to make claims for benefits.

In addition, there are specific laws protecting your right to health benefits when you lose coverage or change jobs. EBSA also oversees health care laws covering special medical conditions. For more information on the laws that protect your benefits, see EBSA´s Website. Or call the agency toll free at 1-866-444-3272 to reach a regional office near you. These 10 tips can help make your health benefits work better for you.

1. Explore Your Options for Health Coverage

You have options for health coverage. There are many different types of health benefit plans. Find out what your employer offers, then check out the plan (or plans). Your employer´s human resource office, the health plan administrator, or your union can provide information to help you match your needs and preferences with the available plans. Or consider a health plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Visit HealthCare.gov to see the health plan options available in your area. Get information about all of your options and review it. The more information you have, the better your health care decisions will be.

2. Review the Benefits Available

Do the plans offered cover the benefits that are important to you, such as mental health services, well-baby care, vision or dental care? Are there deductibles? What are the out-of-pocket expenses you may face? Determine your needs and priorities. Compare all of your options before you decide which coverage to elect. Matching your needs and those of your family members will result in the best possible benefits. Cheapest may not always be best. Your goal is high quality health benefits.

3. Read Your Plan´s Summary Plan Description (SPD) for the Wealth of Information It Provides

Your health plan administrator should provide a copy. It outlines your benefits and your legal rights under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Federal law that protects your health benefits. It also should contain information about the coverage of dependents, what services will require a co-payment or coinsurance, and the circumstances under which your employer can change or terminate a health benefits plan. You also can find many of the answers to your questions in the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC), a short, easy-to-understand summary of what a plan covers and what it costs. You should receive a copy with your enrollment materials. Save the SPD, the SBC, and all other health plan brochures and documents, along with memos or correspondence from your employer relating to health benefits.

4. Use Your Health Coverage

Once your health coverage has started, use it to help cover medical costs for services like going to the doctor, filling prescriptions or getting emergency care. Using your benefits will help you and your family stay healthy and reduce your health care costs. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides many valuable protections for people enrolled in employment-based health plans including prohibiting preexisting condition exclusions and annual and lifetime limits on essential health benefits. What’s more, many plans cover certain preventive services for free, including routine vaccinations, regular well-baby and well-child visits, blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests, and many cancer screenings. You also can keep your children on your health plan until age 26. Take advantage of your benefits, especially free preventive care if your plan covers it. If you were required to pay cost-sharing for a preventive service, check your Explanation of Benefits and ensure that the provider billed the service properly.

5. Understand Your Plan’s Mental Health and Substance Use Coverage

Many health plans provide coverage for mental health and substance use disorder benefits. If a plan does offer these benefits, the financial requirements (such as co-payments and deductibles) and the quantitative treatment limits (such as visit limits) for the mental health and substance use disorder benefits cannot be more restrictive than the financial requirements or treatment limits applied to medical/surgical benefits. Plans also cannot impose lifetime and annual limits on the dollar amount of mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment. Some plans cover preventive services like screenings for depression and child behavioral assessments for free. Check your SPD and SBC to find out what your plan covers.

6. Look For Wellness Programs

More employers are establishing wellness programs that encourage employees to work out, stop smoking, and generally adopt healthier lifestyles. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the ACA encourage group health plans to adopt wellness programs but also includes protections for employees and dependents from impermissible discrimination based on a health factor. These programs often provide rewards such as cost savings as well as promoting good health. Check your SPD and SBC to see whether your plan offers a wellness program(s). If your plan does, find out what reward is offered and what you need to do to receive it.

7. Know How to File an Appeal if Your Health Benefits Claim is Denied

Understand your plan’s procedures for filing a claim for benefits and where to make appeals of the plan´s decisions. Pay attention to time limits – make sure you timely file claims and appeals and that the plan makes decisions on time. Keep records and copies of correspondence. Check your health benefits package and your SPD to determine who is responsible for handling problems with benefit claims. Contact EBSA for assistance if you are unable to obtain a response to your complaint.

8. Assess Your Benefits Coverage as Your Family Status Changes

Marriage, Porce, childbirth or adoption, the death of a spouse, and aging out of a parent’s health plan are life events that may signal a need to change your health benefits. You, your spouse, and your dependent children may be eligible for special enrollment into other employer health coverage or through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Even without life-changing events, the information provided by your employer should tell you how you can change benefits or switch plans. If you’re considering special enrollment, act quickly. You have 30 days after the life event to request special enrollment in other employer coverage or 60 days to select a plan in the Marketplace.

9. Be Aware that Changing Jobs and Other Work Events Can Affect Your Health Benefits

If you change employers or lose your job, you may need to find other health coverage. If you have a new job, consider enrolling in your new employer’s plan. Whether starting or losing a job, you may be eligible to special enroll in a spouse’s employer-sponsored plan or through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – better known as COBRA – you, your covered spouse, and your dependent children may be eligible to continue coverage under your former employer-sponsored plan. This coverage is temporary (generally 18 to 36 months) and you may have to pay the entire premium plus a 2 percent administrative charge. Get information on your coverage options and compare. Be aware of the deadlines for deciding on coverage and find out when your new coverage will be effective.

10. Plan For Retirement

Before you retire, find out what health benefits, if any, extend to you and your spouse during your retirement years. Consult with your employer´s human resources office, your union, or the plan administrator. Check your SPD and other plan documents. Make sure there is no conflicting information among these sources about the benefits you will receive or the circumstances under which they can change or be eliminated. With this information in hand, you can make other important choices, like finding out if you are eligible for Medicare and Medigap insurance coverage. If you want to retire before you are eligible for Medicare and your employer does not provide health benefits in retirement, consider what you will do for health coverage. Your options may include enrolling in a spouse’s employer plan or in a Marketplace plan or temporarily continuing your employer coverage by electing COBRA. Planning for retirement includes planning for your health coverage in retirement. To find out more, read Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning.

These Laws Can Help

  • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act – Offers protection for inPiduals enrolled in retirement, health, and other benefit plans sponsored by private-sector employers, and provides rights to information and a claims and appeals process for participants to get benefits from their plans.
  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Creates the Health Insurance Marketplace and provides protections for employment-based health coverage, including extending dependent coverage of children to age 26; prohibiting preexisting condition exclusions and prohibiting lifetime and annual limits on essential health benefits.
  • The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – Contains provisions giving certain former employees, retirees, spouses, and dependent children the right to purchase temporary continuation of group health plan coverage at group rates in specific instances.
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – Allows employees, their spouses and their dependents to enroll in employer-provided health coverage regardless of open enrollment periods if they lose coverage or in the event of marriage, birth, adoption or placement for adoption. Also prohibits discrimination in health care coverage.
  • The Women´s Health and Cancer Rights Act – Offers protections for breast cancer patients who elect breast reconstruction in connection with a mastectomy.
  • The Newborns´ and Mothers´ Health Protection Act – Provides rules on minimum coverage for hospital lengths of stay following childbirth.
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act – Prohibits discrimination in group health plan premiums based on genetic information. Also, generally prohibits group health plans from requesting genetic information or requiring genetic tests.
  • The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Mental Health Parity Act – Requires parity in financial requirements and treatment limitations for mental health and substance use benefits with those for medical and surgical benefits.
  • The Children´s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act – Allows special enrollment in a group health plan if an employee or dependents lose coverage under CHIP or Medicaid or are eligible for premium assistance under those programs.

For More Information

Visit the Employee Benefits Security Administration’s Website to view the following publications. To order copies or to request assistance from a benefits advisor, contact EBSA electronically or call toll free 1-866-444-3272.

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Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day in STOCKBRIDGE GEORGIA

The U.S. Treasury Department’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) today released a new Quarterly Report detailing how the program continues to help small businesses grow and create jobs. Since the beginning of the program, the Treasury Department has disbursed more than $1.1 billion to participating states.

The Internal Revenue Service is partnering with community-based organizations across the country to promote Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day, an effort to alert millions of low and moderate-income workers who may be missing out on a significant tax credit that can be as much as $6,000.

Millions of workers who earned $52,427 or less last year may qualify for EITC for the first time in 2015, making awareness of the credit critical. About a third of the people eligible for EITC fluctuate each year based on changes to their marital, parental and financial status. All across the United States, local officials and community organizations are holding events highlighting this key benefit.

“About four out of five eligible workers and families get the credit they earned. That leaves millions missing EITC every year,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “It’s an important credit and one of the government’s best tools to fight poverty.”

Last year, almost 28 million eligible workers and families received $66 billion total in EITC, with an average EITC amount of $2,400.

The IRS website is a valuable first stop to help taxpayers get it right this filing season, from information on claiming the EITC, to learning about the Affordable Care Act (known as the health care law), to finding free tax help. The IRS encourages everyone to use the EITC Assistant on IRS.gov/eitc, an interactive tool to find out if they are eligible for the credit. The IRS website also provides helpful information on the health care law and how it may affect tax returns at IRS.gov/aca. There is also an interactive tool that helps individuals determine if they are eligible for the premium tax credit. And qualified taxpayers may also find a free tax return preparation site on IRS.gov/vita.

The amount of EITC varies depending on income, family size and filing status. Those who work for someone else or those who run a business or farm and who earned $52,427 or less during 2014 could receive larger refunds if they qualify for the EITC. This could mean up to $496 in EITC for people without children, and a maximum credit of up to $6,143 for those with three or more qualifying children.

The EITC is refundable. This means those eligible may get a refund from the IRS even if they owe no tax or had no taxes withheld from their paycheck.

Workers potentially eligible to claim the credit should visit IRS.gov/eitc to learn if they qualify, how to claim the credit and more. The EITC Assistant will also determine their filing status, if they have a qualifying child or children and estimate the amount of the EITC they could get. If an individual doesn’t qualify for EITC, the Assistant explains why and a summary of the results can be printed.

Get the Credit — How to Claim the EITC

To get the EITC, workers must file a tax return, even if they are not legally required to file, and specifically claim the credit. Free tax help is available to those eligible for the EITC:

The Internal Revenue Service is partnering with community-based organizations across the country to promote Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day, an effort to alert millions of low and moderate-income workers who may be missing out on a significant tax credit that can be as much as $6,000.

Millions of workers who earned $52,427 or less last year may qualify for EITC for the first time in 2015, making awareness of the credit critical. About a third of the people eligible for EITC fluctuate each year based on changes to their marital, parental and financial status. All across the United States, local officials and community organizations are holding events highlighting this key benefit.

“About four out of five eligible workers and families get the credit they earned. That leaves millions missing EITC every year,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “It’s an important credit and one of the government’s best tools to fight poverty.”

Last year, almost 28 million eligible workers and families received $66 billion total in EITC, with an average EITC amount of $2,400.

The IRS website is a valuable first stop to help taxpayers get it right this filing season, from information on claiming the EITC, to learning about the Affordable Care Act (known as the health care law), to finding free tax help. The IRS encourages everyone to use the EITC Assistant on IRS.gov/eitc, an interactive tool to find out if they are eligible for the credit. The IRS website also provides helpful information on the health care law and how it may affect tax returns at IRS.gov/aca. There is also an interactive tool that helps individuals determine if they are eligible for the premium tax credit. And qualified taxpayers may also find a free tax return preparation site on IRS.gov/vita.

The amount of EITC varies depending on income, family size and filing status. Those who work for someone else or those who run a business or farm and who earned $52,427 or less during 2014 could receive larger refunds if they qualify for the EITC. This could mean up to $496 in EITC for people without children, and a maximum credit of up to $6,143 for those with three or more qualifying children.

The EITC is refundable. This means those eligible may get a refund from the IRS even if they owe no tax or had no taxes withheld from their paycheck.

Workers potentially eligible to claim the credit should visit IRS.gov/eitc to learn if they qualify, how to claim the credit and more. The EITC Assistant will also determine their filing status, if they have a qualifying child or children and estimate the amount of the EITC they could get. If an individual doesn’t qualify for EITC, the Assistant explains why and a summary of the results can be printed.

Get the Credit — How to Claim the EITC

To get the EITC, workers must file a tax return, even if they are not legally required to file, and specifically claim the credit. Free tax help is available to those eligible for the EITC:

  • Free File on IRS.gov. Free brand-name tax software walks people through a question and answer format to help them prepare their returns and claim every credit and deduction for which they are eligible. Free File also provides online versions of IRS paper forms, an option called Free File Fillable Forms which is best suited for taxpayers comfortable preparing their own returns.

  • Free tax preparation sites. EITC-eligible workers can seek free tax preparation at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites. Taxpayers can locate the nearest site using a search tool on IRS.gov or through the IRS2go smartphone application.

    It is important for taxpayers to bring along all the required documents and information to make sure they get the EITC they deserve. Also, those who bought coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace should receive Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, from their Marketplace in early February. It’s important to also bring the Form 1095-A to the volunteer site. Any taxpayer who does not receive it by early February should contact their Marketplace, not the IRS. The IRS will not have access to the information on the form.

Like last year, the IRS expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds within 21 days. The IRS reminds taxpayers that the fastest way to get a refund is to e-file their tax return and choose direct deposit. It takes longer to process paper returns. Because of budget cuts resulting in a smaller staff, it will likely take an additional week or more to process paper returns, meaning that those refunds are expected to be issued in seven weeks or more. Taxpayers can track the status of their refund with the “Where’s My Refund?” tool available on IRS.gov or on IRS2go.

Similar Benefits Available Through the Health Care Law

The Affordable Care Act requires that a taxpayer and each member of his or her family have qualifying health insurance coverage for each month of the year, qualify for an exemption from the coverage requirement, or make an individual shared responsibility payment when filing a federal income tax return.

Premium Tax Credits: If taxpayers bought coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, they should receive Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement from their Marketplace by early February. They should save this form because it has important information needed to complete their tax returns. 

If a taxpayer is expecting to receive Form 1095-A and has not received it by early February, they should contact the Marketplace where the coverage was purchased. Due to the fact that the IRS does not have this information, it is recommended that taxpayers contact the appropriate marketplace.

Anyone who benefited from advance payments of the premium tax credit must file a federal income tax return. The taxpayer will need to reconcile those advance payments with the amount of premium tax credit they’re entitled to based on actual income. As a result, some people may see a smaller or larger tax refund or tax liability than they were expecting. When filing their return, taxpayers will use IRS Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit (PTC), to calculate the premium tax credit and reconcile the credit with any advance payments.

Reporting requirements: Most taxpayers will simply check a box on their tax return to indicate that each member of their family had qualifying health coverage for the whole year. No further action is required. Qualifying health insurance coverage includes coverage under most, but not all, types of health care coverage plans. Taxpayers can use the chart on IRS.gov/aca to find out if their insurance counts as qualifying coverage.  

Exemptions: A taxpayer may be eligible to claim an exemption from the requirement to have coverage. If eligible for an exemption, the taxpayer will need to complete the new IRS Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions and attach it to their return. The individual must apply for some exemptions through the Health Insurance Marketplace.  However, most of the exemptions are easily obtained from the IRS when filing a tax return.  

Individual Shared Responsibility Payment: If an individual does not have qualifying coverage or an exemption for each month of the year, they will need to make an individual shared responsibility payment when filing their return for choosing not to purchase coverage. Examples and information about figuring the payment are available on the IRS Calculating the Payment page. More information about the Affordable Care Act and the 2014 income tax return is available at IRS.gov/aca.

Get It Right

Taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of their tax return even if someone else preparers it for them. The rules for EITC are complicated. The IRS urges taxpayers to seek help if they are unsure of their eligibility, whether from a paid tax professional or at a free tax return preparation site. Deliberate errors can have lasting impact on future eligibility to claim EITC and leave taxpayers with a penalty.

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