Seniors

7 Tips for Saving on Healthcare

Savings are always welcome, especially for seniors living on a retirement income. For annual healthcare spending, small savings can add up. Get the most from the golden years while maintaining a quality lifestyle. Reduce annual spending with these 7 tips for saving on healthcare:

1. Take advantage of cash discounts

According to the AARP, many medical practices offer discounts of 10% or more for customers paying with cash. Ask about discounted medical tests and exams.

2. Limit Emergency Room Visits to Emergencies

Ambulance transport and emergency room care can become expensive utilized frivolously. For minor injuries and other non-emergencies, urgent care facilities offer an affordable alternative. Additionally, wait times and the length of visits may be shorter than for hospitals.

3. Call a Nurse

Today a number of telephone resources are available for speaking directly to a registered nurse. This can help reduce visits to the doctor, saving time and money. The nurses offer guidance for home care, making an appointment with a physician, or seeking immediate treatment.

4. Choose the Generic Medication

From cough medicine to prescription drugs, the generic label is always more affordable than the name-brand. Ask about generic alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter medications. Other discounts may be available by filling prescriptions at large retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart. Generic medication programs are available at some retailers helping save more on medication.

5. Get a Discount Card

Options for prescription drug savings cards are available. Some offer discounts of 80% or more on prescription medication, helpings people save thousands annually. Ask a pharmacist for more information

6. Compare Prices

Pharmacies may charge different rates for medications. Prior to filling prescriptions, contact local pharmacies to compare rates. Save the drive by asking your regular pharmacist to match or beat competitor pricing.

7. Utilize Your Network

Health insurance carriers work with local medical agencies to offer discounted rates for treatment. Receive treatment from a medical professional outside the network and pay up to 20% more, according to the AARP. Medical offices performing elective treatments often defer to the out-of-network rate. Ask about costs and network coverage before agreeing to a medical procedure or receiving treatment. Ask your health insurance carrier to recommend options for treatment within the network.

Saving and planning for successful retirement are active endeavors. Save more by making smart decisions about medical treatment and prescription drug service. Health coverage can vary, contact an agent to update your policy today and start saving.

Secrets to a Successful Retirement

A large number of people between 30-50 are ready to think about retirement. For many, retirement is a goal market yet rather than completion, retirement marks the beginning of a new adventure. Planning is an important part of successful retirement yet questions abound. Help is here. The financial folks at MoneyTips.com completed a survey of 500 American retirees to find the secrets to a successful retirement. The survey found while the definition of retirement varies across the board, successful retirees shared several traits in common.

An increasing number rely on a set income.

Of the 500 retirees surveyed, almost half have under $500,000 in total assets. 67% of the respondents have a set annual income under $100,000; 27% under $50,000. Of all the retirees polled a whopping 85% rely on social security for some or all of their retirement income.

Many worry about the future.

Almost half the retirees surveyed reported having similar financial concerns about the future. The most-commonly reported financial concerns were:

  • Depleting savings accounts (25%)
  • Incurring serious medical debt (24%)
  • Maintaining a comfortable lifestyle (23%)

Other responses included paying for grandchildren’s education (7%) and planning an estate (5%).

They’ve found ways to pinch pennies.

Finding ways to save each day helps extend savings. Successful retirees shared these tips on saving money during retirement

  • Create a spending budget
  • Reduce monthly expenses
  • Limit luxury purchases

Successful retirees also create financial plans including investment and insurance options.

They planned ahead.

Successful retirees are there by design. Among those surveyed, the majority responded as having planned for retirement early. For those reading this that have yet to begin, there is still time. Of all the successful retirees surveyed, over half waited until after 40 to start saving. The amount people can save for retirement will vary. Consider setting a percentage of income as a savings amount. Of those surveyed the majority saved between 6-10% of their income per year. Those in the highest category, saving 21% or more each year, only formed 8% of survey respondents.

For answers on what to do with those savings, 62% reported utilizing the help of a financial professional at some point. That included those with little financial experience to those merely seeking a second opinion for a decision. 44% of successful retirees report retaining primary control of their investment portfolio. 67% opted for traditional IRA accounts and 27% chose Roth IRAs. a 401(k) plan formed a portion of income for 53%. A number of other investment vehicles formed the remainder.

Getting Your Prescriptions During a Disaster

During Hurricane Harvey thousands of rooftop evacuations were performed, some on live television. Those rescued took whatever they could grab and left the rest behind. In the chaos of the storm, this often meant prescription medications. Those living in hurricane-affected areas may one day be the person rescued. Prepare with a plan to get emergency prescription medication.

Texas law permits pharmacists to dispense 30-day supplies of medicine in case of emergency. In the aftermath of Harvey, local and federal responders created mobile medical facilities for dispensing medications and limited care to affected communities. These operate within the worst-hit areas, and outside offering care to stranded motorists and other evacuees. The American Red Cross is also an active participant in disaster-relief efforts, creating access to prescriptions through a network of volunteer medical staff.

Inspect all medication for water or other damage. Medications can become hazardous if exposed to water and other elements. Consult a professional for advice on questionable medications.

In Hurricane Harvey, floodwaters rose quickly. Many were caught off-guard due to controlled flooding and rapid rainfall. Plan ahead with a list of resources for obtaining medical care and prescription drugs during an emergency:

  • Community centers and designated storm shelters often have charity and medical staff on-site. They are authorized for dispensing prescription medication and immediate medical care.
  • RxOpen.org lists American Red Cross shelters and pharmacies in the are. Maps are available with updated open/closed status for each pharmacy listed.
  • The National Cancer Institute offers direction for locating cancer treatment care during emergencies. For more information visit Cancer.gov or call 1-800-4CANCER.
  • Medicare recipients can call 1-800-MEDICARE for information on prescription drug access, dialysis, and other medical needs

Storms form quickly and can be unpredictable. Prepare ahead of time. Plan for medical care during an emergency and never miss a dose. Our insurance agents are always on the lookout for great topics to help save money and live better. Call anytime for answers for an insurance quote, or answers to insurance questions.

When Can Medicate Cover Nursing Home Costs?

Many families struggle understanding the complex requirements to qualify for Medicaid nursing home care. The language can be confusing, nursing home regulations are complex, and requirements vary by state. Specific requirements will vary by individual but that being said, here are the basic qualifications for Medicaid nursing home care:

Eligibility Requirements

The Medicaid program is a joint federal and state effort representing the largest source of retirement home revenue in the United States. This program offers care options for those in need due to health or financial position. Medicaid eligibility begins with a valuation of income, savings, and assets. The valuation process will vary by state, and several calculations are considered when determining eligibility.

  • Complicated math. The math to qualify can become tricky. In some states, qualification begins once personal worth dips below $2000.00. Housing factors separately, with calculations changing based on home value. Some personal property and household goods are counted separately, and life insurance policies may be independently factored. Bear in mind that while home values may be viewed separately, applicants deemed unable to return home may have potential home sales values taken into effect. There are exceptions, of course, speak to a health insurance carrier for more detailed information.
  • Medicaid is a supplement. Once all sources of income (including investments, retirement pensions, social security and others) are tallied, prepare to still spend 80-90% of personal income on nursing home care. Medicaid is used in conjunction with personal income. An allowance of 10-20% of personal income is typical for those residing in nursing homes.
  • Financial records. The net-worth requirements are investigated dating back five years. For those planning to quickly give away possessions to qualify, think again. Medicaid officials are thorough, exploring bank records for the past five years. Suspicious activity, including a rash of gift-giving, may raise red flags suspending care upon investigation. Using determined formulas, officials can help identify those trying to expedite Medicaid eligibility. For example, gifts totaling $50,000 in a state where typical monthly nursing home costs are $5,000 would disqualify eligibility for ten months ($5,000 x 10).

Spousal Security

Medicaid has specific guidelines for couples. When one person goes into a nursing home and the other continues to live at home, the healthy spouse can keep 50% of the couple’s possessions. There is a cap on this amount which will vary by state. Assets included in this calculation include the house, furnishings and household goods, as well as one car. The person living at home can also receive a portion of the other’s income, usually between $2,030-$3022. Income beyond the allowable amount will go towards paying nursing home costs.

Medicare is Different

Medicare is the government medical insurance program for adults aged 65 and older. The program also serves some younger individuals with serious health problems. Medicare is structured for medically-necessary, short-term rehabilitative care. Nursing home care is unavailable through the Medicare program.

Finding More Information

For more information on Medicaid contact the state Medicaid office. Contact information can be found at www.Medicaid.gov. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (Shiptacenter.org) can help with any Medicare or Medicaid questions.

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Coping With Age Bias When Looking For a Job

For adults on the job hunt, age presents a challenge. Switching careers and re-entering the workforce are challenges enough to overcome. Older Americans are further challenged by discriminatory practices due to age. A lifetime of accomplishments and knowledge are still worth something. Before sending off a resume, update it in language for today’s interviewers. Prepare for interviews beforehand to warm up.

Age discrimination is a real issue for older Americans in the workforce. Complicating matters, recent actions by the United States Supreme Court render it practically impossible to know whether age bias played a role during an interview. Thanks to the Court, the Age Discrimination Employment Act (originally designed to protect older adults from age bias) has limits on protection. This ruling complicates the job search for older adults that want to continue working. Almost two-thirds of employees from ages 55-64 responded age is preventing employment, according to a 2017 AARP survey.

Workplace culture placing emphasis on older employees could introduce openings or promotions rewarding those with years of experience. AARP Senior Attorney Laurie McCann encourages this type of forward-thinking. Tulane University professor Patrick Switch is an age bias researcher. Switch says people today enjoy working beyond retirement age. Employers should view age and experience as a bonus.

Age as an Advantage

For those already employed, addressing age bias can be easier than for those applying for a position. Keeping track of potential age discrimination in the workplace can help address and correct age bias. Often, employers may be unaware of their actions. Age bias happens in more places than the interview. Employees passed over for management and training opportunities due to age are victims of age bias as well.

For job seekers, a resume is the first line of defense against age bias. Tailor a resume for the industry and audience it will reach. Include the most-recent experience. Demonstrate a willingness to learn, and be part of a team. During an interview, combat stereotypes. Dress for the environment. If the office has a casual environment, leave the three-piece suit at home. Show a willingness to work with a younger team. Rather than age, draw attention to experience.

Oftentimes, smaller and younger corporations are eager for older talent. The experience comes as a boon to smaller operations where team members wear many hats. Additionally, age-friendly employers can be found through the AARP and by using sources such as seniorjobbank.org. Persistence is your best ally; sending resumes will eventually result in an interview.

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Get Extra Help For Prescription Drug Costs

For people taking prescription medications costs are a priority. Those facing increased costs may turn to methods such as taking half-doses or skipping altogether to get more from prescriptions. Health is important. There are ways to save on prescription medication while taking the doctor recommended dose.

Ask a Doctor

Ask a medical professional whether generic or more-affordable options are available. In many cases there may be less-expensive alternatives. Switching from a name-brand prescription medication to a generic can save up to thousands per year or more.

Ask About Aid Programs

Many pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs for qualifying Medicare recipients. An estimated two million Medicare recipients taking prescription medication qualify,

There are 12 million people today, or about one in three people who have Medicare coverage taking advance of this cost-saving method. An estimated two million more qualifying people have yet to take advantage.

Qualifying recipients for full assistance pay reduced rates for generic and name-brand prescription drugs. Limits set at $3.30 for generic medication and $8.25 for name-brand help prescription drugs become affordable. Partial qualification reduces medication cost by 85%. Aid depends on income and revenue.

Qualifiers

For single people, an income cap of $13,820 limits participation. For married persons, $27,600. Relatives living in the home may affect income considerations. Savings accounts, stocks, and bonds count toward income and resource levels. Assets, gift amounts, and some other sources remain separate. These programs help people save thousands each year.

Register for Aid

For those interested in applying, three options are available:

  • Find an application and detailed instructions online anytime at socialsecurity.gov/extrahelp.
  • Request for SSA-1020 over the phone, or apply by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213
  • Ask for aid and assistance in-person at a local SSA office.

Applications are easy to fill out. Instructions are available online or by asking an SSA representative. Bring a social security card, drivers license or similar, and bank information including account balance, assets, and investments. The Social Security Administration reviews applications with replies generally sent in a month.

Check back often for more information on prescription medications, wellness, and ways to save money. Topic suggestions are always welcome. Contact an agent anytime for all insurance-related questions.

Low Energy in The Afternoon Do This

Feeling sluggish in the afternoons? It’s a common issue. While mornings are usually high energy, the mid-afternoon slump sets in around 3 pm. Caffeine and sugar may be tempting for a quick boost but the reward is short-lived. The energy boost from coffee, sweets, or energy drinks comes at the cost of healthy sleep patterns. Stay healthy and sleep well. Here are 5 ways to improve daily energy levels:

1: Take a (Short) Nap

Sleepy? Take a short nap! For people with the option, a nap can help improve energy levels and even cognitive function. According to the National Sleep Association, even short naps can boost energy levels. They claim naps of twenty-thirty minutes increase performance while leaving nighttime rest unaffected. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published findings that older adults may want to consider sixty minutes of rest. According to the study, adults who napped, but did not over-nap, scored higher for cognitive function than adults who did not nap or napped too long.

Medical Information Today came to similar conclusions during a study on sleep and senior health. Their study drew parallels between rest and mental performance. Researchers compared elderly adults who napped and those who either didn’t at all or napped excessively. The elderly adults who did not nap or took longer naps were more likely to have lower cognitive ratings. The group who took naps for thirty to ninety minutes after lunch scored higher.

2: Take a Walk

Spending ten minutes walking or climbing stairs can boost your energy, even more than a cup of coffee! The University of Georgia studied sleep-deprived adults. Those who completed ten minutes of simple exercise daily score higher than those turning to caffeine. 10 minutes of walking is much healthier than a can of soda!

3: Eat Dark Chocolate

Feeling good can be tasty! A study by Northern Arizona University found that eating dark chocolate can improve memory. The study demonstrated improved brain scans after consuming chocolate consisting of 60% cacao or more. Improve basic cognitive wellness with a delicious dark chocolate snack.

4: Eat Nuts and Seeds

Success through trail mix. Nutrition-dense nuts and seeds help prevent the variations in blood sugar affecting energy. Nuts and seeds are great sources of protein and may contain healthy omega-3 fats aiding brain function. Combine nuts and dark chocolate for an energizing (and delicious!) snack.

5: Get Outdoors

Not enough time in the day for a walk? Spending a moment outside and enjoying the air can boost energy levels. If the outdoors are out of reach, white noise apps and other options exist for listening to nature sounds. An interesting note: Individuals tend to prefer water sounds 6x more than white noise.

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In 2018, Medicare Premiums Likely to Decline

For the first time in five years monthly Medicare costs are expected to go down. Prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D should become more affordable in 2018 helping millions of Americans.

The expected monthly cost of coverage will dip $1.20 per month to a reduced amount of $33.50. The equated to a 3% annual savings for prescription drug coverage. This comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

This is good news for the 43 million adults over 65 enrolled in Medicare Part D. CMS attributes this decrease to lower bids by pharmaceutical companies, driving the costs for premiums down.

The actual amount Medicare Part D recipients will pay out-of-pocket will vary. Recipients select a medication program available in their area. Actual costs will depend on program deductible and co-pay, and the medication.

Income is also a factor. Adults age 65 and older 150% below the federal poverty level – $18.090 annually in 2017 – may be eligible for the Part D Low-Income Subsidy.

CMS should release actual costs for 2018 premiums in September. Open registration for Medicare begins October 15 and closes December 7.

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What Women Ignore May Kill Them

When catching up on women’s health don’t fall behind on cardiovascular disease. Too often, women and their doctors ignore the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Reduce your risk by learning how to identify the warning signs.

When you know a disease is serious, you are more likely to give it the attention it deserves. The American College of Cardiology reports 45% of women between 26-60 have no idea they are in danger of cardiovascular disease. According to the CDC, each year heart disease contributes to one in four deaths.

The same survey reports 25% of women between 50-60 don’t know the risks of cardiovascular disease. Of the 1000 women surveyed, over 200 were unaware cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death for women in the United States.

Know the Signs

Heart disease can affect all ages. Cardiovascular disease includes several types of heart disease – all with serious consequences. Signs and symptoms to look for include:

  • Extended chest and upper body pain
  • Pain or discomfort in the back, neck, or jaw
  • Anxiety, weakness, dizziness, and nausea
  • Pain in the arms or shoulder region
  • Increased work of breathing

Keep Your Doctor Appointments

Of the women surveyed, 63% admitted to canceling doctor appointments. 45% reported delaying their appointment simply to lose weight before going in. Take your health seriously. If you haven’t spoken to your doctor about cardiovascular disease, make an appointment (and keep it).

Be Proactive

A surprisingly high number of doctors report they do not discuss cardiovascular disease with their patients. It is important you be proactive about your health. Don’t wait for your doctor to bring up cardiovascular disease. Know the signs and symptoms and take charge of your health.

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Doctors Can Help With Prescription Costs

Most patients between 50 and 80 don’t talk to their doctor about their prescription costs. Most trust their doctor’s recommendation, without comparing costs. What they don’t know may be costing them. Many times, less-expensive medications may be available by discussing them with your doctor.

The University of Michigan School of Medicine, with aid from the AARP, conducted a national survey on healthy and balanced aging. This in-depth study uncovered that many patients struggle to pay for their prescription medications. Approximately 2/3 of survey participants reported prescription of two or more medications. For 27% of those patients, the cost of maintaining so many prescriptions has become too high. These patients run the risk of missing doses due to high out-of-pocket costs, putting their health at risk.

The director of the survey, Preeti Malani, is also a Professor of Medicine at University. Dr. Malani expressed concern that if people did not take their prescription medications, they would likely suffer. This is not because doctors are trying to make things difficult. The study indicates improved doctor-patient communication could result in more affordable-yet-effective prescription solutions.

Among those reporting the costs for medication a problem, almost half hadn’t spoken to their doctor about it. 42% of participants thought their doctor was already familiar with the medication price already. A whopping 61% of respondents had not discussed medication costs with their doctor at all.

Dr. Malani thinks these results show an increased need for patient/doctor communication. Patients need to become comfortable speaking about prescription medication costs. At the same time, Dr. Malani encourages doctors to speak to their patients as well. The proof is in the study: of those patients who did speak to their doctor about prescription medicine costs, 67% found a less-expensive solution.

AARP representative Alison Bryant commented on the complexity of the prescription medication costs. Her concerns were that because insurance policies change, so may costs and coverage. This makes it challenging to predict the patient costs for medication. The supplier cost is only one factor of the medication cost for a patient. Bryant recommends patients discuss cheaper alternatives with their doctor or pharmacist. There may be alternate options available reducing out-of-pocket costs.

Determining the total cost for prescription medications becomes more complex with each prescription. Of adults surveyed, 63% report using 2 or more prescriptions on a regular basis. 47% of those take between 2 and 5 medications, while 16% of adults take 6 or more. The greater the number of medications, the greater chance cost will become a problem. Adding doctors to the mix further complicates things. 69% of patients stated seeing two or more different physicians each year.

Many people think their doctors know the out-of-pocket cost of medications they recommend. Dr. Malani says that this is not usually the case. Even your regular physician likely does not know the cost of your prescriptions. This is because of much more than manufacturing cost – many factors contribute to the costs different patients will pay.

Dr. Malani encourages patients to speak up. If you’re filling a prescription and shocked by the cost, ask about it. Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a less-expensive option. Pharmacists are an excellent yet often-overlooked resource for information and help. They know what costs insurance companies may cover. If the cost of your medication too high, talk to your pharmacist about what options may be available.

You don’t have to rely on a pharmacist. People should not be afraid to comparison shop. Costs can vary depending on many factors, such as:

  • Using a lower-cost prescription card
  • Registering with a mail-order pharmacy
  • Approval for aid programs, either from a pharmaceutical firm, or state government.

The National Survey on Healthy and Balanced Aging is a new study created by the UM Institute for Healthcare. In partnership with Michigan Medicine, the study also receives support and funding from the AARP. This national survey sampled 2,131 adults, dividing them into groups between the ages of 50 to 64, and 65 to 80. The survey has a small margin of error between two and four percent.

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