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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.