The Healthiest States in the U.S., Mapped

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iStock

If you live in Massachusetts, pat yourself on the back. The state is the healthiest in the nation, according to the 2017 America’s Health Rankings, the United Health Foundation’s annual report on public health in the United States, spotted by Thrillist. The Bay State climbed up the ladder this year from second place, unseating Hawaii, which had held the top spot for the past five years.

The United Health Foundation’s health rankings, now in their 28th year, aim to provide a benchmark for public health across the U.S. Access to healthcare varies widely depending on where you live, and the rankings hammer that point home, as you can see from the graphic below.

United Health Foundation

The rankings determine the results based on 35 factors including physician availability, environmental conditions, community policies, and health outcome data to score states.

The healthiest states in the nation, according to the foundation’s findings, are Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Utah, and Connecticut. Mississippi is the most unhealthy state in the nation by these measures, followed by Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and West Virginia—underscoring previous research [PDF] that has found that the South has some of the worst public health outcomes in the nation.

Let’s say you’re looking for mental health treatment and you live in Massachusetts. You have more choice than residents of any other state when it comes to providers—there are more than 547 per 100,000 residents. Compare that to the choice in Alabama, where there are only 85 mental health providers for the same number of people. Eastern seaboard states like New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have more than 200 primary care doctors per 100,000 people, whereas Utah and Idaho have less than 100 doctors per 100,000 residents.

The rankings are meant to help states determine where they have room to improve in their public health initiatives. Where does your state fall?

[h/t Thrillist]

12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

stockfour/iStock via Getty Images
stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

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The Countries That Pay the Most and the Least for LEGOs

 NeONBRAND, Unsplash
NeONBRAND, Unsplash

LEGOs—the interlocking toy bricks used to build everything from mini skyscrapers to movie sets—are enjoyed by kids and kids at heart around the world. But just how much it costs to bring a LEGO set home depends on where the builder lives. To see which countries pay the most and least for their LEGOs, check out this map.

The toy review site The Toy Zone compared LEGO prices in different markets through Google Shopping to determine how much people pay for their LEGOs worldwide. Though LEGOs sold in Asia are made from the same plastic as LEGOs in South America, their prices vary wildly.

The Toy Zone found that the most expensive LEGO products on Earth are found in Ecuador, where popular sets sell for an average of $672. In Hong Kong, the best-selling sets on the market cost just $111, making it the most affordable place in the world to indulge your LEGO habit. The U.S. is also on the cheaper side of the map, with popular LEGO sets there selling for $129 on average. In Denmark, where LEGO is headquartered, sets are even cheaper at $115, but still not as cheap as they are in Hong Kong. You can see the full price breakdown of the global LEGO market in the graphic below.

The Toy Zone's analysis only looked at the top LEGO sets in each country, but some collectors' sets exceed the prices shown here. These are some of the most valuable LEGO sets ever sold.

The Toy Zone