How Seniors Can Mitigate Rising Healthcare Costs

by Sean Finucane on November 5, 2019 · 0 comments

Senior citizens are now the fastest-growing population in the U.S., with older people representing one in five residents nationwide by 2030. Thanks in large part to advancements in the medical field, we’re living a lot longer — but improved healthcare is actually a double-edged sword. We might enjoy an increased lifespan thanks to medical treatments, but being able to afford those treatments in retirement presents a huge challenge for seniors.

In fact, one estimate released by Fidelity Investments suggests that a couple who retired in 2017 should expect to spend at least $275,000 on healthcare costs alone throughout their retirement. That’s a staggering figure for those living on a fixed income. And with some prescription drug care costs predicted to rise by hundreds of dollars in the next year, it’s no wonder that many seniors (and soon-to-be seniors) are highly concerned with how they’ll even afford to live.

Although it’s clear that the U.S. healthcare system is a mess — and one that isn’t likely to be cleaned up any time soon — there are steps seniors can take to curb their medical costs and save money overall.

Know Your Policy

More than 10,000 people reach the retirement age of 65 in the U.S. each day. That translates to thousands of people becoming eligible for Medicare coverage on a daily basis. However, navigating the policy selection process can be confusing. You’ll want to give yourself ample time to read and understand the benefits of each policy — and know what is and isn’t covered — before signing up or before switching your coverage. Talking to a Medicare agent to discuss potential changes that might reduce out-of-pocket costs can be highly beneficial, especially since the enrollment period is now open and lasts until December 7. You might also qualify for Medicare savings programs that can cover medical insurance, hospital insurance, copayments, deductibles, or coinsurance. Refrain from making assumptions about your policy so you can avoid out-of-pocket expenses and ensure the payments you’re responsible for are the best option for you.

Review Your Medications

The global pharma market is expected to reach $1.12 trillion in 2022, but that doesn’t mean paying an arm and a leg for prescription drugs is inevitable. It’s a good idea to carefully review your medications to find hidden savings. You might be able to talk to your doctor about adjusting your dosage or switching to a form of medication that’s covered by your policy (or at least costs less out-of-pocket). Generic versions typically cost less, as switching to generic prescriptions saved seniors $92 billion in 2014. Keep in mind that even changing your pharmacy can help you save money, as the same prescription might come with drastically different costs depending on where you have it filled. Be sure to check costs at both chain pharmacies and independently owned drug stores to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. And if you take over-the-counter medications on a somewhat regular basis, go for generic or clip some coupons that can allow you to save.

Look Into Toothy Alternatives

Although orthodontic treatment typically begins when patients are between the ages of eight and 14, oral care should be a lifelong process. It’s particularly important for seniors to receive necessary dental treatments and regular checkups — but because Medicare doesn’t usually cover these expenses, many seniors may not be able to afford it. Roughly 100 million Americans every year fail to visit the dentist, but the consequences of skipping out can mean major shifts in your overall health. There are some ways to save on dental treatments, however. Visiting a dental school could reduce your bill by up to 50%, in some cases, while allowing you to receive the care you need. Dental savings plans can also be helpful, as they might allow you to get a 10% to 60% discount on oral care. Local health departments or United Way chapters may also be able to find reduced-cost dental services for you, while some organizations may host special events to ensure affordable dental care for seniors. Don’t assume that dental care is out of reach; by keeping an eye out for savings and getting a little creative, you’ll likely be able to afford services that can improve your health.

Take Preventative Steps

In the end, one of the best ways to keep healthcare costs low is to prioritize your health even before you retire (and during retirement, as well). Getting a free annual flu shot, focusing on proper fitness and nutrition, and taking advantage of preventative care coverage can reduce the risk of needing to pay more for other treatments and procedures later on. Keep in mind that adults aged 65 and older who haven’t had an eye exam in three years or more may be eligible for a free eye exam and up to a year of eye care services at no cost, despite the fact that Medicare doesn’t usually cover vision care. Whatever you can do to improve your health as soon as possible — whether it be losing weight, quitting your smoking habit, or improving physical strength and balance to prevent falls — you’ll want to invest in yourself. By doing so, you can ultimately save money (and peace of mind) in the long run.

Most seniors know all too well the importance of saving money. But when it comes to healthcare, keeping costs low may seem impossible. By planning ahead and making better use of the resources available to you, you may be able to mitigate these expenses and make your quality of life that much better.

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