Dental Benefits-A Bite-size Look at Health Reform

By Cathy Miller, Business Writer

As someone who was part of the dental community, I am probably more interested in dental benefits than most insurance agents. While dissection of the health reform law continues on a daily basis, there is little discussion regarding the impact to dental benefits. Let’s look at what provisions in the health reform law apply to dental benefits.

Dental Benefits Tidbits

In this section, when I refer to dental benefits, I mean the types of plans you, as insurance professionals, encounter – individual and group dental benefits. When it comes to specific provisions of the health reform law related to dental benefits, it’s pretty slim pickings.

Similar to many aspects of the health reform debate, there was a division of support in the dental industry. That, combined with the primary focus on providing health coverage for the 45 million uninsured, it is not surprising that dental benefits ranked low in priorities.

Here is a brief summary of provisions specific to dental benefits.

Essential Benefits Package – The health reform law includes an essential benefits package. Part of that package is a mandatory requirement for oral health care benefits for children under the age of 21, referred to as the pediatric dental benefit. Preventive pediatric oral health services include the same ban as other preventive services on out-of-pocket charges.

Stand-Alone Dental Plans – The health reform law allows stand-alone dental plans to participate as part of a health insurance exchange, provided they offer the pediatric dental benefit.The participation of stand-alone dental plans allows health plans in the exchange to exclude oral care for children, since the dental plan offers coverage.

It appears that some of the immediate provisions of health reform do not apply to stand-alone dental plans, including:

  • Elimination of annual and lifetime maximums
  • Expansion of dependent child definition to age 26

So for those with a stand-alone dental plan, it looks like business as usual – at least in the short-term.

Medicare Advantage PlansMedicare Advantage plans often offer dental benefits as an added feature. These plans are required to use any rebates to help pay for extra benefits, such as dental benefits.

Cadillac Plans – The 40 percent excise tax that applies in 2018 to Cadillac plans does not include dental plan costs. That was good news for dental plans as early discussions generated a fear that employers would drop dental plans to avoid paying the excise tax.

W-2 Reporting – As noted in Part 2 of our 3-part series on health reform, employers have W-2 reporting requirements, including the aggregate value of dental, medical, vision and Medicare supplemental insurance. NOTE: May 13, 2010 Clarification – dental and vision benefits are included EXCEPT if they are “stand-alone” plans.

The Main Course – Dental Grants and Education

Most of the health reform law related to dental care provides grants and dental health education, including funding for the following:

  • An oral health infrastructure managed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to improve dental public health programs
  • School-based health clinics and expansion of school-based sealant programs
  • A grant program for general, pediatric or public health dentists and dental hygienists
  • Demonstration programs for training alternative dental health providers to support underserved communities

The biggest winners in the health reform dental provisions are children. The law strives to provide public or private dental coverage for all children.

No Leftovers for Medicaid

One of the main concerns for the American Dental Association (ADA) was the “failure to properly fund Medicaid.” While the health reform law expanded Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level for individuals under age 65, no provisions in the law allow for an adult dental benefit for existing or new enrollees in Medicaid.

Under the current law, dental benefits for adults (age 21 and older) are optional for state Medicaid programs. With the declining economy, the trend saw more states cutting back on dental benefits, some providing for dental emergencies only. Other states provide no adult dental coverage at all – even for dental emergencies.

Another complaint from the ADA was the compensation under Medicaid. The health reform law addressed the issue by requiring Medicaid and the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) to report to Congress on payments to dental and healthcare professionals.

Dental Servings

What the future holds for dental insurance is anyone’s guess – not unlike any form of insurance. For insurance professionals, continuing education on dental and other forms of insurance is an ongoing process, especially with the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. One thing is certain, there is plenty of change waiting to be served.

Sources: Kaiser Family Foundation, HealthReform.gov, Children’s Dental Health Project, Thomas Library of Congress

Notice of Disclaimer –Cathy Miller and InternetCE are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice. The information provided is for your general background only, and is not intended to constitute legal advice as to your specific circumstances. We recommend you review legislation with legal counsel.

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Cathy Miller, Business Writer/Consultant has over 30 years of professional writing with a specialty in health care, employee benefits and wellness. Cathy also has an active Life/Accident/Health insurance license. Visit Cathy at her business writing blog, Simply stated business to Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours.

Exercise and Learn More

By Shelley A. Gable

What does it mean to exercise and learn more?

Imagine yourself taking an online insurance continuing education course. You’re alert and focused. Everything you’ve learned makes sense. And the next day, you still recall what you learned and are able to apply it on the job.

What a refreshing picture. Exercise can help you create it.

How does routine exercise improve your ability to learn? Let me count the ways…

  1. Improved concentration. When your brain is low on oxygen, it can be difficult to focus. Naturally, if you’re not attentive during an online course, you’re less likely to recall new information later. However, even small amounts of light exercise daily can be enough to boost your brain’s oxygen levels.
  2. Brain cell growth. Working some high-impact cardio into your routine can stimulate the growth of new brain cells and include brain functioning. A benefit of more intense exercise that helps you learn.
  3. Restful sleep. Many studies suggest that exercising during the day leads to more restful sleep. Additionally, a study last year from the University of South Carolina also connects exercise to falling asleep more easily. An earlier post on this blog describes the important role that sleep plays in memory consolidation and learning.
  4. Relieved stress. Experts have been telling us for years that exercise is a great way to relieve stress. Not only is stress distracting, but it also has a negative effect on cell communication within the brain related to short-term memory.
  5. Reduced risk of memory damaging conditions. Studies suggest that exercise reduces the risk of conditions that can damage memory such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can also reduce the gradual memory loss that comes with aging.

How can you work exercise into your routine?

Ideally, you should have a regular workout routine that includes strength training and aerobic activity. Even if that’s not something you’re willing to commit to, there are many ways to work light exercise into your day.

  • Go for quick strolls. If you have 15 minutes between meetings or a break between tasks in the afternoon, squeeze in a brisk walk.
  • Take frequent breaks during an online insurance ce class, and use that time to go for a walk.
  • Find a walking buddy and commit to some form of exercise over your lunch hour.
  • Take the stairs (maybe even two at a time) instead of an elevator.
  • Use the facilities (restrooms, break room, etc.) on a different floor of your building…and take the stairs to get there.
  • Park far away from the door when you go to work and run errands, prompting you to walk just a little further than you otherwise might.
  • Take a walk around the block, or even just down the street, when you check your mailbox.
  • Play with your kids and/or pets.

Remember: What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.

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Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online.

Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. Shelley writes articles on topics related to training and management for print and online publications. Visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.wordpress.com.

Health Reform – A Continuing Education for Individual Market

By Cathy Miller, Business Writer

Part 3 in a 3-part Series

The impact of health reform on the individual market is perhaps the most debated. Some predict the total elimination of the individual market for insurance professionals. Others feel the complexity of health insurance and the volume of new insureds secures their role.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Commission on Taxation (JCT) estimate a reduction by 2019  of 32 million in the number of uninsured. Whatever side of the debate you lean toward, there is a long road ahead until we have all the answers. 

Part 1 of our 3-part series for continuing education on the new health reform law, provided a recap of the timeline for 2010. Part 2 looked at health reform from the perspective of employers’ responsbilities. In this section, Part 3,  we review some of the changes for the individual market.  

Individual Mandate – Requires individuals to have health coverage, effective January 2014. The following provisions apply:

  • Those without coverage incur a tax penalty
  • Penalty based on the greater of $695 per year with a maximum of three times that amount ($2,085) per family or 2.5% of household income
  • Penalty will be phased-in with increasing annual cost until reaching the above amount in 2016
  • After 2016, the penalty is increased annually with a cost-of-living adjustment
  • Exemptions exist for various financial hardships, individuals with religious objections, individuals who were without coverage for less than three months, undocumented immigrants, American Indians, and incarcerated individuals

Temporary High-Risk Pools– The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a letter to the states on April 2, 2010 to determine interest in developing high-risk pools for health coverage. The health reform law includes a provision for temporary health-risk pools. Implementation is within 90 days of the enactment of the law and runs until 2014. The high-risk pools provide health coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.

Many states already have high-risk health pools, but have problems with underfunding and long waiting lists. HHS hopes to build on the more effective plans. Because of the tight timeline for implementation, states were asked to respond to HHS by April 30th. 

Health Benefit Exchanges – By 2014, state-based exchanges, administered by a governmental agency or non-profit organization, must be created. The exchanges offer health coverage options to individuals and small businesses (up to 100 employees).

Medicaid Changes – Effective in 2010, the law expands the eligibility for Medicaid to include childless adults. There is an expansion of Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level for individuals under age 65.  (In 2009, that was $14,404 for an individual and $29,327 for a family of four).

Premium Subsidies – Families with incomes between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level receive subsidies, helping them purchase insurance through the exchanges. Cost-sharing subsidies will also be available, limiting their out-of-pocket costs.

This summary does not reflect all of the provisions of the health reform law affecting the individual market. The law does contain text regarding the role of agents or brokers in the health benefit exchange. The text is in Part II, Sec. 1311 of H.R. 3590 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

This is the last of our 3-part series. Let us know if there are specific provisions you would like to hear about. We can count on a lot of change so continuing education is more important than ever for insurance professionals. Thank you.

Sources: Kaiser Family Foundation, HealthReform.gov, CBO, Thomas Library of Congress

Notice of Disclaimer –Cathy Miller and InternetCE are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice. The information provided is for your general background only, and is not intended to constitute legal advice as to your specific circumstances. We recommend you review legislation with legal counsel.

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Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online

Cathy Miller, Business Writer/Consultant has over 30 years of professional writing with a specialty in health care, employee benefits and wellness. Cathy also has an active Life/Accident/Health insurance license. Visit Cathy at her business writing blog, Simply stated business to Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours.

Anatomy of Memory

By Shelley A. Gable

It seems like every few weeks I hear something in the news about new research related to memory. Whether it’s on the radio, in a magazine, or on TV, I come across terms like working memory, encoding, and long-term memory. But what does it all mean? And why does it matter?

Let’s look at the journey of information into memory through the lens of an online insurance continuing education course.

There are three major steps information must work through to become a permanent memory.

  1. Sensory Memory
  2. Short-Term Memory
  3. Long-Term Memory

We’ll walk through these steps to explore how information comes in through your senses and eventually ends up as a permanent fixture in your brain.

Sensory memory is about quick perception.

When you arrive at a new slide in an online insurance continuing education course, your brain takes a moment (generally a split second) to take a visual snapshot of the slide. This happens before you even start to read the text or consciously think about what you’re seeing. This is sensory memory at work.

Sensory memory perceives raw sensations from all five senses. It works quickly – even if you were to click away from a course slide within less than a second, you would probably still recall the general layout of the slide, including the  placement and basic shape of graphics and perhaps even the placement of bolded text.

Have you ever noticed a landmark for the first time during your commute to work, only to wonder how you could have possibly not noticed it the other hundreds of times you’ve driven by? If your sensory memory noticed it but you never gave it a thought, the memory of that landmark probably wouldn’t stay with you.

Going back to the online course, when you put conscious thought into what you’re seeing, the information on that slide progresses to short-term memory.

Short-term memory is about thinking.

The simple act of reading the text on a course slide moves that information into short-term memory. Short-term memory, also referred to as working memory, generally functions to store the newly absorbed information that you’re thinking about in a given moment.

It’s worth noting that short-term memory has a limited amount of space available. In other words, it can only hold a limited amount of information for a limited amount of time.

It’s kind of like your kitchen counter. If you’re preparing a large meal or a complex recipe, you might not have enough counter space to accommodate several activities or food preparations at the same time. Therefore, you might opt to prepare food in phases, clearing the counter of scraps and utensils between each phase to make space for the supplies needed for the next phase.

Short-term memory is your brain’s workspace. The fact that space is limited means you’re likely to eventually max out its capacity. This is why frequent breaks during an online course (or a mid-day nap) can be beneficial – it can give newly learned information an opportunity to mosey into long-term memory and make room in the workspace for more new information.

Long-term memory is about encoding.

Experts believe that information that makes it into long-term memory stays in your brain permanently. If you’ve forgotten something you used to know well, that information hasn’t actually escaped – you’re just having a hard time finding it. This is a lot like a misplaced set of keys. You know they have to be around the house somewhere, because they certainly didn’t get up and leave!

Think about it. When given enough cues to help jog your memory, you can remember just about anything – an incident from childhood, molecular properties learned in high school chemistry, or maybe details from a movie you saw last month.

In order for information from an online course to make the leap from short-term memory into the infinite warehouse of long-term memory, you must relate newly learned information to what you already know. Making this connection helps integrate new information into the ever-expanding network of knowledge that makes up long-term memory. This is the reason why so many articles on this website offer suggestions on how to apply what you learn – from talking to social networking to note taking – these activities can help knowledge from an online insurance continuing education course establish that permanent residence in long-term memory.

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If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell for you would share them (button below) or subscribe via the feed.

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Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online.

Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. Shelley writes articles on topics related to training and management for print and online publications. Visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.wordpress.com.

Health Reform – A Continuing Education for Employers

A Quick Look at Employers’ Requirements

By Cathy Miller, Business Writer

Part 2 in a 3-Part Series

Your employer clients probably have a lot of questions about the new health reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. If you are a business owner as well, you have an extra incentive for staying informed.

One thing is certain, it will take a long time before you have answers to all of your questions or those of your clients. That does not mean, however, that we can afford to take a “wait and see” approach to the health reform law.

Part 1 of our 3-part series on health reform discussed provisions effective in 2010, including mandated benefits and a change to the dependent child definition. If your client base includes small or large group clients, you will want to be familiar with the changes Be sure to review those changes with your clients.

In the 2nd part of our series, we provide a snapshot of some of the major changes that employers should know.

Employer Penalties – 50 or more full-time employees

  • Not Offering Coverage – Although the law does not require employers to provide health coverage for employees, some penalties may apply. In 2014, employers with 50 or more full-time employees that do not offer health coverage will pay a penalty of $2,000 per full-time employee. The penalty applies to the number in excess of 30 if even 1 of the 30 receives a federal subsidy. For example, if an employer has 60 employees and does not offer coverage, the employer’s penalty is $60,000 (60 employees minus 30 = 30 X $2,000 = $60,000). Note: when determining the number of employees, calculations are based on full-time equivalent of 30 hours or more per week.
  • Unaffordable Coverage – In this provision, the employer offers coverage; however, if even one employee opts out, under certain circumstances, a penalty applies if:
    • The employee’s share of the premium is 9.5 percent of the family income – or -
    • The employer health coverage has an actuarial value of less than 60 percent -and -
    • The employee receives a federal subsidy and is enrolled in a health care exchange

If the above conditions apply, the penalty is $3,000 for each full-time employee receiving a federal subsidy that is enrolled in an exchange. The exchange notifies the employer if the full-time employee qualifies for the subsidy.

Penalties are assessed monthly and do not apply to employees that are in a waiting period for the employer-sponsored health plan. Beginning in 2014, the waiting period cannot exceed 90 days. Penalties are capped for “unaffordable coverage” up to the amount for “no coverage,” using the same calculation method.

Administrative & Reporting Requirements
  • Automatic Enrollment– Employers with more than 200 full-time employees must automatically enroll employees in the employer-sponsored health plan with the opportunity for opt-out. As yet, no effective date has been provided.
  • Employee Notification – Beginning in March 2013, employers must notify employees about health care exchanges and federal subsidy. Presumably, further notification requirements will become available.
  • Annual Reporting to Secretary of Treasury – Starting in 2014, employers will need to report on:
    • Waiting periods for coverage
    • Certification that the employer offers a minimum essential coverage health plan
    • Monthly premiums for the lowest cost plan option for employees
    • Employer’s portion of the total allowed cost of the plan
    • Monthly count of full-time employees
    • Name, address, TIN, of employees and months of coverage  
  • W-2 Reporting – Staring in January 2012, employers must report the aggregate value of medical benefits, dental, vision, and supplemental insurance coverage on W-2 forms provided to employee annually. NOTE: May 13, 2010 Clarification – dental and vision benefits are included EXCEPT if they are “stand-alone” plans.
  • Uniform Explanation of Coverage – By March 23, 2012, insurers for fully insured health plans and plan administrators for self-insured health plans must provide participants a uniform summary of benefits and coverage. It must describe the benefits, limitations, cost-sharing provisions, and any restrictions on continuation of coverage. There is a $1,000 penalty per failure for not providing the summary.
  • Free Choice Vouchers – In January 2014, employers offering health coverage must provide employees a “free-choice” voucher. The voucher equals the amount the employer would have paid to provide coverage to the employee. The voucher applies only to employees with income less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) whose share of the premium is more than 8 percent, but less than 9.8 percent of their income. They must be enrolled in a plan offered by the exchange.

Let’s see if we can translate that into English. Using today’s FPL numbers, an employee who earns less than around $10,800 for individual coverage or $22,000 for family coverage, decides the employer-sponsored health plan is too expensive. That employee finds a plan in the new exchange that they think will work for them. If the math puts them in the category described above, the employer has to give them a voucher in the amount the employer would have contributed to their employer-sponsored plan.  

 Small Business Employers

The most significant change that insurance professionals should be talking about right now with their small group employers is the tax credit. As discussed in Part 1 of the series, small business employers may be eligible for a tax credit starting this year, based on the following criteria:

  • Employers with up to 25 full-time equivalent employees – and -
  • Provide average wages of up to $50,000 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides Frequently Asked Questions that give examples of calculations and guidance on the tax credit.

As is typical with new legislation, there are already different interpretations of the provisions. Employers should review all legislation with their legal counsel for interpretation and application to their specific circumstances.

Next Up: Part 3: Health Reform – A Continuing Education for Individual Market

Notice of Disclaimer –Cathy Miller and InternetCE are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice. The information provided is for your general background only, and is not intended to constitute legal advice as to your specific circumstances. We recommend you review legislation with legal counsel.

If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell if you would share them (buttons below) or subscribe via the feed.

Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online

Cathy Miller, Business Writer/Consultant has over 30 years of professional writing with a specialty in health care, employee benefits and wellness. Cathy also has an active Life/Accident/Health insurance license. Visit Cathy at her business writing blog, Simply stated business to Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours.

Health Reform – A Continuing Education

Timeline for 2010

By Cathy Miller, Business Writer

Part 1 in a 3-Part Series

Perhaps the one thing we know for sure about the new health reform law is we don’t know a lot – for sure. Like any new legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brings a whole new meaning to continuing education. More than likely, this is just the beginning of changes in health reform.

It certainly has the attention of health insurance professionals. Depending on your outlook on life, the health reform law means doom and gloom or new opportunities. As the saying goes, information is power, so it pays to stay informed.

In keeping with our goal of providing insurance continuing education with learning made simple, we’ll present a 3-Part Series of some of the basics of the health reform law. We will take small-bite sized pieces of the law to try to keep it as simple as possible.

This bite-sized piece provides a high-level timeline for key provisions occurring this year. 

Sepetmber 2010

  • Dependent Children – As long as young adults (hard to call them children) do not have access to benefits through an employer, they can continue on their parents’ health plan as a dependent up to age 26. Both married and unmarried dependents qualify for this dependent coverage. According to HealthReform.gov, beginning in 2014, dependents up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ health plan even if the young adult’s employer offers coverage.
  • Lifetime Maximum – This change prohibits insurers from placing a lifetime benefit limit on health insurance policies.
  • Annual Limits – Until January 2014, health plans can have annual limits. but only for coverage determined acceptable by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Annual coverage limits will not be allowed on essential services (yet to be defined by HHS). In 2014, annual coverage limits will be prohibited.
  • Preventive Care – This requires new health plans to cover preventive services with no co-payments and it exempts the services from deductibles.
  • Pre-existing Conditions – So far, only children under age 19 are protected against pre-existing exclusions in a health insurance policy. In 2014, this provision applies to all individuals.
  • Cancellation of Coverage – Except for cases of fraud, insurers are prohibited from cancelling health coverage. This is particularly important in the individual health insurance market.

Also in 2010

  • Medicare Part D – This is the prescription coverage for Medicare participants who signed up for the coverage. Those who reach the coverage gap in 2010, called a doughnut hole, will receive a one-time $250 rebate. This one is effective immediately.
  • Reinsurance Program – This is a temporary program for employers that provide health insurance for early retirees (over age 55 but not yet eligible for Medicare). It reimburses the employer or insurer 80% of the retiree claims between $15,000 and $90,000. This is effective 90 days after enactment through January 1, 2014
  • Small Business Tax Credit  – It provides phased-in tax credits to small businesses (25 or fewer employees). Tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums will be available to firms that choose to offer coverage.  This provision is effective beginning calendar year 2010.  In 2014, the small business tax credits will cover 50 percent of premiums.
  • Temporary High Risk Pool – Establishes a temporary high-risk pool for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions to offer them health coverage.  It is effective within 90 days of enactment and exists until January 2014 when pre-existing exclusions are banned.
  • Medical Loss Ratio – Requires health plans to report the premium dollars spent on medical services and provide rebates to consumers for the amount that is less than 85 percent for large group health plans and 80 percent for individual and small group health plans. Reporting starts in 2010 with rebates paid out in 2011.

These are just some of the major provisions and do not represent all provisions effective in 2010. Two sources used in this summary that are excellent resources are the Kaiser Family Foundation and HealthReform.gov.

Next Up: Part 2: Health Reform – A Continuing Education for Employers

Notice of Disclaimer –Cathy Miller and InternetCE are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice. The information provided is for your general background only, and is not intended to constitute legal advice as to your specific circumstances. We recommend you review legislation with legal counsel.

If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell if you would share them (buttons below) or subscribe via the feed.

Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online

Cathy Miller, Business Writer/Consultant has over 30 years of professional writing with a specialty in health care, employee benefits and wellness. Cathy also has an active Life/Accident/Health insurance license. Visit Cathy at her business writing blog, Simply stated business to Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours.

Take a Course…Then Take a Nap

By Shelley A. Gable

As kids, we resisted naps. As adults, we wish we could do it more often.

As it turns out, napping might actually be good for professional development. If you’re interested in a work-related excuse to get some mid-day shut-eye, read on.

Over the past several years, sleep researchers have studied a process called memory consolidation, in which our brains integrate newly learned knowledge into long-term memory.

When you learn new information from an insurance continuing education course, that information is initially stored in short-term memory. Information can only survive in short-term memory for a limited amount of time. Scientists believe that when information leaves short-term memory, it either makes the trek to long-term memory or escapes.

Naturally, if you’ve invested the time to complete an online insurance continuing education course that you believe will benefit you on the job, you want your new knowledge to successfully migrate over to long-term memory.

How can you help newly learned knowledge journey from short-term memory over to long-term memory?

Taking a nap might help.

Research from the University of Haifa found that study participants who took a 90-minute nap after learning a task improved their ability to perform the task again later that day. In contrast, the participants who did not sleep did not demonstrate improved performance later in the day.

Researchers have conducted sleep experiments involving various types of learning and performance tests on study participants, and they’ve watched brain activity of study participants while sleeping. Generally speaking, these studies tend to produce similar findings.

Taking a nap may even prime your brain for future learning, too.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley also found that a mid-day nap  can benefit learning. The findings from their study led them to believe that napping can help you learn better later. The study included two groups of healthy young adults, with each group participating in two learning sessions. One group got to take a 90-minute afternoon nap in between the two sessions; the other did not.

In an interview with WebMD, lead researcher Matthew Walker, PhD,  explained that, “People in the group which didn’t nap had a slight reduction of about 10% in their learning capacity during the day, whereas the people who had a nap in between the first time they tried to learn relative to the second time they tried to learn actually improved their ability to learn by 10%.”

The researchers theorize that the memory consolidation that takes place during sleep not only solidifies newly learned information in long-term memory, but also clears some space in short-term memory for new information.

Of course, most of us can’t get away with taking a nap in the middle of a workday. But if you have the flexibility to do so, you also have the scientific evidence to support your decision to take advantage of it. Especially if you’re completing an online insurance continuing education course that day.

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If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell for you would share them (button below) or subscribe via the feed.

Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online.

Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. Shelley writes articles on topics related to training and management for print and online publications. Visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.webs.com.

Multitasking Hurts Your Learning

By Shelley A. Gable

Are you multitasking right now? Maybe you’re participating in a conference call, reading email, checking a message on your phone, responding to chat or an instant message, and perusing news headlines. How many of these tasks have you engaged in simeltaneously?

Are you multitasking with any of these activities while also attempting to complete an online insurance continuing education course?

Multitasking is pervasive in our society, regardless of who you are – office worker, stay-at-home parent, or a sixth grader. It has captured the interest of the scientific community, inspiring numerous studies on the effects and effectiveness of multitasking over the past few years.

Spoiler alert! Research tends to suggest that we’re not the multitasking champions we might believe ourselves to be. And in fact, multitasking hurts our ability to learn.

Who says multitasking is so bad?

Here’s a sampling of who’s making the claim:

  • A recent study conducted by Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass, and Anthony D. Wagner of Stanford University suggests that those who multitask heavily are more prone to distraction and actually switch between tasks more slowly than people who multitask less.
  • National Public Radio’s science correspondent, John Hamilton, explained in an interview that our brains are not capable of focusing on multiple tasks at the same time. Instead of really multitasking, we switch between tasks rapidly. And every time we switch tasks, we miss a little something that is happening in the process.
  • A WebMD article cites research and practitioners who also insist that the brain can only focus on one thing at a time, and that we ignore what we are doing for a few milliseconds every time we switch tasks (not to mention that we lose time reorienting ourselves to the task we just switched to). The article also suggests that multitasking makes us more susceptible to distraction.
  • In “The Myth of Multitasking” in The New Atlantis, the author summarizes a myriad of studies from throughout the decade that suggest that multitasking makes us less productive, interferes with learning new information, and can even have negative health impacts.

Wow. That’s a lot of smart people warning us about the negative effects of multitasking. Multitasking and learning new information just don’t go together well.

What should you do?

The obvious advice at this point is to “unplug” while completing that insurance continuing education course. Close your email. Sign out of chat. Silence your phone. Avoid multitasking.

Since this may be easier said than done for many of us, here are some suggestions you might find easier to live with.

  • Allow yourself to check messages at specified intervals. So close your email and silence your phone, but allow yourself to take a break from your online course to check them periodically. One of the best advantages of online learning is that you can take a break whenever you need to, because you set the pace!
  • Set aside time when interruptions are least likely. If you rarely receive calls and messages early in the morning, maybe you start your online course first thing in the morning. If evening tends to be a quieter time, perhaps you complete the course then. Put simply: reduce the multitasking temptation.
  • After completing part or all of an online course, go back and quickly review the slides again. Pay particular attention to anything you may have missed or skimmed over the first time around. This can help you catch anything you missed if you slipped into multitasking mode at some point.
  • Reinforce your learning using other techniques offered on this blog, such as discussing what you’ve learned by talking with others or using social media, organizing your learning according to primacy and recency principles, taking notes, leveraging your learning style (visual, auditory, or tactile), and engaging in the same study habits we encourage in our kids.

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Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. Shelley writes articles on topics related to training and management for print and online publications. Visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.webs.com.