Health Buzz: America's Happiest States and Other Health News

How electronic medical records might affect you; why flexible spending accounts should be used up now.

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The States With the Happiest Residents

Looking to get a little happier? Relocating to Utah will give you the best chance at bliss, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released today and reported by the Associated Press. In general, folks surveyed out West had the highest sense of well-being, while more of those living in the South and Midwest reported being in the doldrums. West Virginians were the worst off, followed by those living in Kentucky and Mississippi. And after Utah, Hawaii and Wyoming were the next best places in the contentment ranking.

Even if a move isn't in your future, a boost in your happiness quotient may still be attainable. U.S. News's Deborah Kotz has written about ways to get happy and live longer and how happiness may be infectious—and how to get the bug. Of course, you could broaden the scope and tap U.S. News's 50 Ways to Improve Your Life. Or just keep it simple in these dire economic times and focus on one aspect: sex. Read Kotz's recent blog post on 7 ways to boost your sex life when the Dow plunges. Utah and Hawaii will have nothing on you.

How Would Electronic Medical Records Help You?

Three quarters of the public say they're ready for the medical industry to make the switch from paper to virtual records. The Obama administration has allotted $19 billion of stimulus money to do so. Now all the techies need to do is figure out how to manage the privacy issues of electronic medical records and prevent medical identity theft in the process. Oh, and get the multibillion-dollar system up and seamlessly communicating from California to the Carolinas. Yes, converting the country's mounds of paper records into virtual files is a massive task, but experts say the undertaking is well worth the potential improvements in safety, cost savings, and efficiency.

U.S. News's Nancy Shute tracked down some of the architects of the future network to ask the question we all want answered: "What can electronic medical records really do for me?" Among other things, EMRs can help you get your lab results back without playing phone tag with the doctor's office, and they can let you quickly determine if your prescriptions could have dangerous interactions before you pop the first pills. Read 6 ways electronic medical records could make your life safer and easier.

Wielding Those Flexible Spending Accounts in the Recession

Flexible spending accounts don't generally attract much attention, except at year-end when employees have to spend down their balances or risk losing whatever funds they have left in their accounts. But if you leave or lose your job during the year, instead of forfeiting the money in your FSA, you could actually come out ahead financially. U.S. News's Michelle Andrews explains flexible spending account strategies for tough economic times. For example, even if you've paid in only a portion of the amount you elected to contribute for 2009, you can submit claims for the entire amount, as long as you do so before your employment termination date.

Sarah Baldauf

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