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Health Capsules: April 18

By: Lisa Russell


Tax law changes aid young people with autism, other special needs

April is Autism Awareness Month, which aims to increase the public’s knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as the many challenges presented by autism, now estimated to impact one in every 68 American children. One of those challenges is certainly financial –  government estimates show that the cost of raising a child with a disability is nearly four times national averages.

To help Americans better manage this significant challenge, Congress enacted the Achieving a Better Life Experience [ABLE] Act in 2014. The legislation enables families to save up to $100,000 in accounts for the benefit of a disabled person, without jeopardizing that individual’s eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income [SSI], and other government benefits. Prior to the ABLE Act, individuals with disabilities were unable to have assets totaling more than $2,000 or to earn more than $680 per month without forfeiting eligibility, which deterred many teens and adults with special needs from experiencing the independence and improved social skills that come with having a job.

Now, families taking advantage of ABLE accounts will have some additional flexibility in planning for their loved ones with special needs, as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Donald Trump last December.

The changes stipulate that, starting in 2018, the amount of money that can be deposited in an ABLE account per year without jeopardizing public benefits has risen from $14,000 to $15,000.  A provision in the new tax law also allows families who saved money in 529 savings accounts before learning their child had a disability to roll over those funds to an ABLE account, up to the $15,000 maximum annually. In addition, while 529 accounts could previously only cover costs for college, they can now pay for a child’s K-12 education in a public, private or religious school.

The tax bill also includes changes to benefit people with disabilities who are employed. Under the new laws, teens and adults who are working can save beyond the $15,000 threshold up to the federal poverty line, to potentially accumulate as much as $27,060 per year in savings without losing other benefits.

CDC provides smartphone app for international travel

Every two years, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] publishes its “Health Information for International Travel,” commonly known as the Yellow Book, as a reference about health risks for healthcare providers and international travelers. Now, travelers and medical professionals alike can access the updated 2018 Yellow Book any time through the CDC’s TravWell app.

The app helps travelers to plan for a healthy and safe international trip by providing destination-specific vaccine recommendations, pre-trip checklists, and customizable healthy travel packing lists. The app also allows users to store travel documents, medications and immunization records, along with medication reminders. The free app can be downloaded on the Apple App Store or via Google Play for Android devices.

Rear-facing car seats provide best protection in rear crashes

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends rear-facing car seats for children from birth until at least two years of age. But while rear-facing seats have been shown to significantly reduce injuries and fatalities to children in front- and side-impact vehicle crashes, they haven’t been studied as comprehensively in rear-impact collisions. Because those crashes account for more than 25 percent of all accidents, researchers at The Ohio State University recently conducted a small study to test the effectiveness of rear-facing car seats in this scenario, when the child is facing in the direction of the impact.

Julie Mansfield, a research engineer at the university’s Injury Biomechanics Research Center, led a team that conducted simulated crash tests with multiple rear-facing car seats. The team investigated the effects of various seat features, like the carry handle position and anti-rebound bars. They also used two infant and toddler “crash-test dummies” in the simulations, gathering data they used to estimate potential head injuries.

The study showed that when the seats were installed and used correctly, all were effective at absorbing the force of the crashes while minimizing the motion of the child, showing that rear-facing seats are the best choice to protect small children in rear crashes, Mansfield said. “The rear-facing seat is able to support the child’s head, neck and spine and keep those really vulnerable body regions well protected. These regions are especially vulnerable in newborns and younger children whose spine and vertebrae haven’t fused and fully developed yet,” she added.

On the calendar

A Red Cross Community Blood Drive is on Thursday, April 26 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at St. Luke’s Hospital, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield, in the North Medical Office Building. To schedule an appointment, visit www.redcrossblood.org and enter the sponsor code SAINTLUKES or call (314) 658-2090.

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West County SDA church holds a Health Expo event on Sunday, April 29 from noon-3 p.m. at the church, 16800 Baxter Road in Chesterfield. Attendance is free. More information is available online at www.westcountyhealthexpo.com.

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BJC sponsors a Family & Friends CPR course on Saturday, May 5 from 9-11:30 a.m. at the Children’s Specialty Care Center, 13001 N. Outer Forty Road in Town & Country. The course provides instruction and hands-on practice for parents, childcare providers and babysitters for adult hands-only CPR; infant and child CPR with breaths; introduction to adult and child AED use; and relief of choking in an adult, child or infant. The course does not include certification. The course fee is $25. To register online, visit www.stlchildrens.org/registration or call (314) 454-5437.

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