January 25, 2019

Are you doing these 10 things to save on healthcare?

Filed under: Health Insurance,Healthcare,Medicaid,Medicare,Seniors Health — Tags: , , — seniorlivingguide @ 2:49 pm

Courtesy of Alison Lee

When you’re a retired senior, you finally get to pursue your “real” life. Long vacations, cruises, new hobbies, and other adventures await. However, old age also brings more illnesses, and sometimes it can be a challenge to balance your ideal post-retirement life with your healthcare costs. Make sure you’re doing these 10 things to minimize your healthcare spending.

healthcare saving for seniors

  1. Take advantage of preventive care.

The earlier you spot a disease, the easier and cheaper it is to fix – plus, you’ll feel better sooner. Medicare covers a bounty of preventive and screening services, from cardiovascular disease screening to depression screening. If you’ve been under Medicare Part B for more than 12 months, you’re also entitled to a “wellness” visit every year.

To make the most of your visit, make a list of health questions and concerns throughout the year to take to your wellness check-up so you don’t forget. Being thorough and honest about your habits (such as whether you smoke or drink alcohol), medical history, and family health history can help your doctor catch risk factors early.

  1. Buy generic medications and buy them online from more affordable sources.

You can save a significant amount of money by choosing generic drugs over brand-name ones. Generic and brand-name drugs are deemed “bioequivalent” by the FDA, so there is virtually no loss in quality.

Many Americans also buy prescription drugs online from international and Canadian pharmacies, such as Canadian pharmacy referral service Rx Connected. Pharmaceutical industries in other countries may be more strictly regulated than in the U.S., making their drugs significantly cheaper.

Buying drugs online may sound risky, but there are many legitimate websites that care about drug safety and patient wellbeing. However, do exercise caution when buying anything online. If a price is too good to be true, or if the company claims you don’t need a prescription for something that should, it’s likely a scam. Legitimate websites like Rx Connected will welcome consumer questions and concerns, and even encourages doctors to call them directly.

  1. Get vaccinated.

Make sure you get vaccinated during flu season; it’s often free for seniors under Medicare. The flu bug changes every year, so it’s important to get a flu shot each year. Seasonal influenza isn’t just a nuisance; it’s highly contagious and especially dangerous for seniors. Complications can be serious. Click here for more information about the flu.

You should also ensure you are vaccinated against other contagious diseases. Talk to your doctor about what vaccines to get, including booster shots. Getting vaccinated is not just good for you; you can help protect immunocompromised and high-risk individuals too.

  1. Learn about Medicare Savings Programs and Extra Help, and see if you qualify.

If you haven’t already, research Medicare Savings Programs and Extra Help, programs that help those enrolled in Medicare pay their premiums. You may still qualify for Medicare Savings Programs if your income is higher than the limits. If you’re eligible for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program, Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary Program, or Qualifying Individual Program, you are automatically eligible for Extra Help for prescription drugs.

  1. Visit a Community Health Center.

Community Health Centers are available in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and every American territory. These state-funded clinics offer free or low-cost care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay or their insurance status, and are located in designated “medically undeserved areas.” Services may include preventive care, mental healthcare, pharmacy services, dental care, and more. You can find one near you by clicking here.

  1. Learn about health.

Now that you’re retired, you have time to read all those books on your backburner book list! Why not also read more about health in general? The good news is, a large amount of useful health information is free and found on the internet. Being informed can alert you to potential problems early.

Of course, there is an unfortunate amount of misinformation on the internet. Stay away from articles with sensationalized titles like “Lose 10 Pounds in 1 Week!” Stick to government-approved websites like the CDC, Medline Plus, and the National Institutes of Health.

However, DO NOT diagnose yourself based on information you read on the internet. There’s a reason why physicians go through years of schooling. When in doubt, see a doctor.

  1. Now that you know more about health, get the appropriate level of help.

Not every little discomfort warrants a trip to the ER. If you have a minor health issue or question, see if you can find a 24/7 phone line where you can talk to a nurse. Many insurance plans offer this service, as do many hospitals. A qualified nurse can decide whether your health question warrants a trip to the doctor’s office. Online services – where you talk to a doctor remotely over the internet – are another low-cost option for more minor health problems.

  1. Compare before you buy.

Just like buying a new car, you should shop around before committing to a health service. Ask your healthcare provider about the Healthcare Bluebook, a good tool to use to compare pricing for health services offered by different providers. Don’t pay for a hundred-dollar X-ray when there’s one at half the price just a block away!

  1. Does your local community center, senior center, or non-profit advocacy group offer discounted or free programs?

If you have a chronic illness like arthritis or diabetes, a non-profit advocacy group may have a facility near you that offers programs to help manage your condition. If you do not have a chronic illness, check out what your local community and senior center offers. Don’t restrict yourself to fitness programs; your physical and mental health can benefit greatly from art therapy, music lessons, and more.

  1. Continue living a healthy lifestyle.

The best way to save on healthcare is to not get sick in the first place. Now that you’re retired, invest some time into making healthful, home-cooked meals, spend an hour or two at the park each day, and make sure you’re active and socializing regularly. If you smoke, now is a good time to quit, and while a glass of wine or two is fine on occasion, if you drink excessively, now is also a time to cut down.

Ask any physician and they will say that good health is really quite simple: eat well, move around, get enough rest, and be happy. So go ahead and enjoy retirement.

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December 12, 2018

Filling the Medicare Gap: Funding Options for Long-Term Care

Filed under: Health Insurance,Long Term Care,Medicaid,Medicare — Tags: , , — seniorlivingguide @ 2:31 pm

Courtesy of Janet Campbell

A rapidly-aging population and the ever-increasing cost of care means that a lot of Americans will be forced to figure out how to pay for long-term care. Those who Filling the Medicare Gapdelay preparing and planning could be in for a difficult time and high debt levels: the average cost of a private nursing home room is $75,000 annually, and the median cost of engaging a licensed home health aide is about $152 a day. It is projected that these costs will only continue to climb as the Baby Boomer generation ages, which means that now’s the time to begin structuring a financial plan. The cost of delaying is simply too high. Here are a few options to consider as you look to the future.

Medicare Advantage plans

Seniors are all too aware that the older we get, the more our healthcare costs tend to rise. For that reason, many people 65 and older have a Medicare plan, but unfortunately, it won’t cover all of your medical expenses. That’s a big reason why 1 in 3 Medicare recipients have a Medicare Advantage (or Medicare Part C) plan to help pay for some long-term care costs, like dental and vision care, as well as prescription medications. If you already receive Medicare, it’s worth your while to look into an Advantage plan, especially because some of them offer $0 premiums. If you’re getting close to age 65 or are currently eligible for Medicare, be aware of enrollment dates and requirements so you’re prepared ahead of time; depending on the type of plan you get, your disability status and your employment history, you initial sign-up date will vary.

Long-term care insurance

This is one of the more obvious alternatives, but it’s often considered a cost-prohibitive option by many people. Long-term care insurance does become more expensive the longer you wait to enroll (for example, a yearly premium may cost you approximately $2,000 if you go this route at age 55). Many financial advisers recommend not waiting so long, and that there’s nothing wrong with taking out a policy in your 30s or 40s, especially if it’ll save you hundreds of dollars a year in premiums.

Insurance rider

A life insurance policy rider can give you early access to death benefits to help pay for long-term care. This allows you to access benefits early if you meet certain criteria, such as being diagnosed with a cognitive impairment. Benefits paid out early are deducted from the payout to beneficiaries after the policyholder’s death. Also, be aware that you may be able to sell a life insurance policy to free up cash for long-term care expenses.

Personal savings

A 2015 Department of Health and Human Services study found that most Americans required fewer than two years of long-term care, and that saving $70,000 could be sufficient to meet the need. Setting aside part of your investment earnings or long-term, interest-bearing savings can carry you a long way toward meeting that financial objective, and it’ll keep you from having to come up with an annual or monthly premium payment.

Health savings

If you have a high-deductible health insurance policy, you may be eligible for a health savings account (HSA) to help defray the cost of rising long-term health care expenses. HSA contributions roll over from year to year, and withdrawals can be made tax free as long as you use them to pay for healthcare expenses – that includes long-term care insurance payments. Contributions are tax deductible up to $3,450, and nearly double that if you have a family plan.

Medicaid

Medicaid is an alternative to Medicare, which does not pay for long-term care. Medicaid covers long-term care expenses if you’ve gone through all other financial resources, though eligibility differs from state to state. One problem is that you’re limited as to where you can go if you require nursing home care, since not every facility accepts Medicaid.

Long-term care can be prohibitively expensive, but that doesn’t mean it has to put a strain on your financial resources. Preparing early, whether that means buying long-term care insurance or starting a health savings account, is an excellent way to be ready if you or a loved one needs long-term care.

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