Three simple ways to cut healthcare costs as you get older

Congress (barely) passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) 10 years ago. And it was supposed to make healthcare affordable for every American.

However, as I warned back then, all it really did was rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic (and raise the mandatory ticket prices for many).

Now—here we are 10 years later and a new analysis has found that a staggering percentage of Americans still worry about affording healthcare. Fortunately, as I’ll explain in a moment, there are a few simple ways to reduce your healthcare costs as you get older.

But before we get into those often-overlooked, cost-saving measures, let’s discuss the new analysis…

Healthcare costs remain a major concern

Researchers with the University of Michigan turned to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, a semi-annual survey of older adults in the U.S. about health and aging. Specifically, they focused on data from a group of about 1,000 men and women ages 50 to 64.

It turns out, 27 percent of respondents in this group said they had little or no confidence in being able to afford health insurance during the coming year. And 45 percent said they worry they won’t be able to afford healthcare when they retire.

Their biggest concern was actually the federal government. In fact, 68 percent of them worry that federal policy changes will again influence their current health insurance.

As a result, they were almost three times more likely to not seek medical care or fill a prescription compared to those who weren’t worried about costs. And during the previous year, 13 percent of them said they had already forgone getting medical care—and 12 percent said they had already skipped filling a prescription.

Their concerns about healthcare also spill over into other areas of their lives. For example, 14 percent said that fears about losing health insurance kept them from leaving a current job. And 11 percent said they’ve postponed planned retirement because of healthcare cost concerns.

Clearly, access to affordable healthcare is a big concern for older Americans planning for retirement—still, to this day. And while the ACA may not be going away any time soon, there are three simple, sensible steps you can take to reduce your healthcare costs as you get older…

My three tips to reduce healthcare costs

1. Skip supplemental plans. When you turn 65, you’re required to go on Medicare Part A and Part B. Quite frankly, this basic health insurance is all you should ever need or want if you’re conscious about healthy living and want access to natural approaches to preventing and reversing chronic conditions.

Medicare Part A covers in-patient hospital and nursing home care, lab tests, and surgery. It’s similar to the old hospitalization insurance or “major medical.” So, you won’t go bankrupt—or wipe out your savings account—because Medicare Part A takes care of any major health event.

Medicare Part B is medical insurance that’s similar to a good plan like you probably had for decades before the ACA came along. It covers doctors’ visits and outpatient care, as well as medical equipment, home healthcare, and some preventive services. But, unlike today’s private health insurance, it has reasonable premiums and copays, so you can make wise and prudent decisions about utilizing healthcare.

As I mentioned above, these two plans are all anyone should really need.

So you can skip Medicare Part D or any of the private pricy, “supplemental” plans you see relentlessly advertised on primetime TV. (All the money goes into marketing, not into helping their policyholders.) Instead, you can put the money you save toward non-drug, natural health care approaches—such as acupuncture and bodywork—that Medicare doesn’t cover.

(Learn more about Medicare in the April 2019 issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter [“What you REALLY need to know about Medicare: My tried-and-true tips to getting the coverage you need—without wasting any of your precious time OR money”]. Not yet a subscriber? Become one today.)

2. Take fewer drugs. As I often report, polypharmacy (taking multiple prescription drugs at once) is a major problem among older adults. But as I explained again last week, often times, older people do better when taking fewer drugs!

Plus, in many cases, older adults are prescribed doses that are just too high…causing far more harm than good. In fact, just last week, I also reported on new science showing that aggressively lowering blood pressure with prescription drugs heightens mortality risk in older adults.

So, cutting back on the number of drugs you take—as well as lowering the doses—will likely improve your health…and decrease your spending!

And when you must take drugs….

3. Ask for generics. As always, when you really need a prescription drug, you should opt for an older, inexpensive, generic version over a newer, more expensive one.

For one, you can assume it will be safer. In fact, as you may recall, a study led by my colleague Dr. Donald Light (formerly at UPenn, now at Harvard) found that 50 percent of new drugs were less effective—and 90 percent were less safe—than the drugs they were meant to replace.

The reason why big pharma keeps pumping out new drugs has little to do with advanced innovation or improving health outcomes. Instead, it’s all about making new drugs to replace the profits lost when their older drugs go “off-patent.” (Big pharma doesn’t make money from generic, “off-patent” drugs.)

Therefore, you can also assume that generic drugs will be much more affordable than the latest, greatest blockbusters.

In the end, worry about healthcare continues to be a big problem in the U.S. And I don’t see us solving it any time soon. But if you follow these three sensible steps, you can probably avoid many of the unnecessary expenses—and lessen your worries.

Sources:

“NBC Poll: Third of US Worries They Can’t Afford Healthcare.” Newsmax, 2/27/20. (newsmax.com/newsfront/healthcare-costs-affordable-americans/2020/02/27/id/956096/)

“Many in U.S. worry about affording healthcare in retirement.” Reuters, 2/10/20. (reuters.com/article/us-health-insurance-retirement/many-in-u-s-worry-about-affording-healthcare-in-retirement-idUSKBN2042FA)


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