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Taking care of yourself is a major cost-saving strategy

by Amanda Lambert | Contributor
April 20, 2022

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As you plan for retirement, you are probably thinking about spending time with family, hobbies, trips and other adventures that await you. Structuring your time when you have more of it is wise and allows you to set and follow through on goals.

However, it can be challenging to plan for the unexpected, which is as necessary as any other retirement plans you make. As you meet with a financial professional, factoring in long-term care costs is part of estate planning and ensures that your dollar stretches throughout your life.

Acknowledging where health care costs are likely to impact you is critical to your understanding and planning for the future. Equally important is the role of managing your own health care by taking a proactive and focused approach to well-being. A healthier you is a cost-saving strategy. We will show you where health care costs are likely to occur and how you can minimize the financial impact by taking control of your health.

Medicare is great but doesn't cover everything

Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans are an excellent benefit for people over the age of 65 who qualify. The range of plans can be overwhelming, and, in an effort to reduce your premiums, you could be tempted by plans that have zero or low premiums. There is nothing wrong with these plans. Just be informed about the coverage areas and co-pays associated with specific health care options, like skilled nursing rehab. Also, Medicare does not cover dental, eyeglasses and hearing aids except under particular Medicare Advantage plans.

In the next section, we will review the costs that Medicare doesn't cover and the time-limited restrictions of some coverage. Making smart and informed choices about your insurance plan will save you money.

Out-of-pocket costs and long-term care

Probably the biggest misunderstanding is what Medicare does and does not pay for. Surveys say about 27% of Americans age 65 and over have less than $500 in savings to pay for medical bills. Between the ages of 60 and 65, 37% of seniors find it challenging to pay for health care.

Medicare Advantage plans vary from traditional Medicare in the supplemental services they cover and may offer more than traditional Medicare. Still, you must stay within a network of providers, and there could be co-pays.

Let's look at the possible services you may need as you age and how to pay for them.

Home health

Home health is a time-limited medical program where you must meet specific criteria to qualify. Any services you or a loved one may need beyond that will have to be paid privately unless you have a long-term care policy. And home health aides are restricted to activities of daily living only. If your loved one continues to require care after home health finishes, family or in-home care will need to help.

Hospice

Hospice is a fully covered Medicare and Medicare Advantage service. But many people don't understand that hospice does not provide round-the-clock care. If your loved one is at home, they may need additional care that you as a family would have to offer or pay for.

In-home care

Some Medicare Advantage plans might pay for limited in-home care, but traditional Medicare does not. In-home care is vital to families who need assistance with helping a loved one with bathing, dressing, shopping, hygiene, cooking and transportation. The hourly cost will vary depending on the company, where you live, and how many hours of care you need.

Assisted living

Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans do not pay for assisted living. If you have a long-term care policy and meet the criteria, your policy's daily maximum benefit could offset the daily cost. Otherwise, expect to pay between $4000 to $9000 for assisted living, depending on location and the level of care needed.

Memory care

Memory care is another assisted living setting that Medicare does not cover. Costs may be higher than assisted living due to a higher staff to resident ratio.

Skilled nursing rehab

Skilled nursing rehab is a specialized rehabilitation program for people who qualify. Skilled rehab is where things could get tricky with a Medicare Advantage plan. With traditional Medicare the first 20 days in skilled nursing are covered at 100%. After that, if you have secondary insurance, they will pay the daily co-pay from days 21-100. However, some Medicare Advantage plans will have an out-of-pocket daily cost up until a certain number of days.

If your loved one needs rehabilitation after 100 days, they will have to pay the total cost of care which could be hundreds of dollars a day.

Medications

Most people with traditional Medicare have an additional Medication prescription plan. Medicare Advantage plans have prescription plans rolled into the monthly premium. But according to STAT News, “We found that for seniors with eight common chronic conditions, a combination of illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm), annual inflation-adjusted out-of-pocket costs for guideline-recommended medications increased dramatically, by more than 40% between 2009 and 2019.”

Long-term care nursing homes

Most people say the last place they want to be is a nursing home. And for a good reason. Nursing homes have come under significant scrutiny due to the disproportionate number of residents who died from COVID. But the other factor is cost. Nursing home care is costly, and about 60% of people who reside in long-term nursing homes end up qualifying for Medicaid.

How your health affects your costs

Aging brings changes. Older adults are more affected by chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. The leading causes of death in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes. Nearly 70% of Medicare beneficiaries have two or more chronic diseases.

And then there are falls. According to the CDC, more than 300,000 older adults a year are hospitalized due to hip fractures. Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries.

All of these chronic diseases have long-term consequences of declining health and function, which means the need more help. And much of that help is not covered by insurance. Sometimes there is a cascading series of events that leads to declining function and ability to remain independent.

Approaches to better health

So, what can you do to avoid these devastating and expensive conditions? Turns out, quite a bit. Health-related advice can be confusing and overwhelming, but we are learning more and more about lifestyle changes and how they impact our susceptibility to disease, illness, and accidents.

Can you control everything? Of course not, but tackling what is in your control is likely to benefit you physically and emotionally and save you money. It is never too late to start.

Problem

Heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is a major cause of disability. Risk factors for heart disease are age, family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

Solutions and interventions

Diet

A heart healthy diet limits saturated fats, high sodium foods, and sugars. The bottom line? Focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low or fat-free dairy products, poultry, beans, nuts, and whole grains.

A heart-healthy diet also has other benefits, such as keeping your weight down, reducing cholesterol, controlling diabetes, and lowering blood pressure. Diabetes doubles your risk of heart disease. Start with small changes.

Exercise

two friends riding bikes together for exercise

Exercise is an overwhelming prospect for many people because they don't know where to start. But let's begin by reviewing the benefits of exercise:

  • Exercise strengthens your heart and improves circulation
  • Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise improves bone density
  • Exercise increases muscle mass which can help with functional activities
  • Exercise improves mood

Before beginning any exercise program, check with your physician. Start slowly and build through time. Simple activities like walking, yoga, strength training, biking, chair exercises, and swimming are all great exercise routines.

Regular checkups

Regular checkups with your primary care physician or cardiologist will give you lab results on your cholesterol and other heart indicators. Preventative care can detect medical issues before they worsen.

Problem

High blood pressure

High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Some of the factors that contribute to high blood pressure are age, race, family history, being physically inactive, too much salt in your diet, drinking too much alcohol and stress.

Solutions and interventions

Exercise

Yes, back to exercise! Exercise makes the heart stronger, which means it can pump more blood with less effort. The force of blood is lessened on your arteries lowering your blood pressure. If you can, aim for 30 minutes of activity most days of the week.

Stress

Stress is associated with high blood pressure due to the surge of hormones that are released when you are stressed. This causes your blood pressure to increase. Stress reduction is an entire subject on its own but tried, and true methods include meditation, exercise, participating in relaxing activities and setting realistic goals.

Problem

Falls

As we mentioned, falls can be catastrophic by causing injury and permanent disability. You can't prevent falls entirely, but there is much you can do to avoid falls and be better prepared to recover more quickly should you have one.

Solutions and interventions

  • Exercise and weight-bearing exercises increase bone density which is the cause of osteoporosis, or weak bones.
  • Balance exercise help to prevent falls.
  • Getting your eyes and hearing checked can help.
  • Make sure your home environment is well lit and clutter-free.
  • Wear sturdy skid-proof shoes.
  • If you need an assistive device, use it.
  • Consider physical therapy to improve your balance, strength, and endurance.

Problem

Cognitive impairment

Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer's disease. But research shows that you can do things to improve your cognition, and these might sound familiar.

Solutions and interventions

  • Exercise.
  • Manage chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Engage in social activities.
  • Challenge your mind with new games or activities.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Treat symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • Keep up with preventative medical visits.

Make changes to improve your health and reduce costs

When you are healthier, you save money. Part of your overall financial strategy should include a plan for optimizing your health. The task of improving your health can seem overwhelming and daunting. Here are some tips to get you started and keep you on a healthy path:

1. Make reasonable goals

Rome wasn't built in a day, and setting achievable goals will help you feel a sense of accomplishment. Scheduling goals with alerts is a great way to keep you on track if you have a smartphone. Set small goals that you can be proud of when you achieve them.

2. Engage a friend

Making changes with a friend can motivate you and keep you both advancing and reaching your goals.

3. Plan meals ahead of time

Planning and cooking healthy meals ahead of time will decrease the urge and availability of unhealthy foods. Make meals that can be frozen for future use. Get your whole family involved if you can so that everyone is eating better.

4. Be active each day

Activity and movement of almost any kind are beneficial. We aren't talking about vigorous exercise if you aren't ready for that. Small acts of activity add up over time. Walking, gardening, golfing or parking your car further from your destination all count.

5. Be kind to yourself

You might have setbacks, and that is ok. Just don't get discouraged. Get back on track. Healthy habits take time to form- they don't happen overnight. Keep your spirits up by reminding yourself that you are taking charge of your health.

It is never too late to start financial and health planning

It is never too early to start financial and health planning, but it is also never too late. Taking charge of your long-range financial and health goals will give you the confidence and ability to enjoy the years to come.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company dedicated to the art of personal financial planning. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.

Legacy

Your legacy is vastly more than an amount of money left to your surviving beneficiaries. Part your legacy can be the example of a life well-lived that’s achieved through proper planning.

Liabilities

Too many people enter retirement with burdensome mortgages, car payments and credit-card debt that they’ve amassed during their working years. Proper management of these liabilities is fundamental to your current and future financial viability.

Love

Financial planning often is motivated by our love for our life partners, children, family members and friends.

Taxes

Taxes have a significant impact your finances and can siphon assets unless you have a prudent approach to meet your objectives.