Understanding Medicare coverage can help improve financial wellbeing

Published 11:03 am Friday, April 21, 2023

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April marks National Financial Capability Month – an important time for seniors to consider how their financial health is tied to their physical health and wellbeing. Many people may not realize how closely the two are linked, and why taking steps to live a healthier life can be a smart budgeting move; or why getting the best value for their health care dollars can lead to better health.
The connection between financial health and physical well-being isn’t always intuitive, but it’s important. Access to quality health care – and particularly preventive care, such as annual health screenings – is a significant component of a healthy lifestyle and can identify medical issues early on before they become more serious (and costly). In fact, many chronic illnesses – which can be very expensive for a person or family to manage – are preventable.
Medicare “Literacy”
Health care costs are often a concern, especially for people facing common, and preventable conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. This is especially important for seniors, who are often at greater risk for chronic health conditions. Understanding what preventive services and healthy lifestyle benefits may be available through their Medicare plan – and budgeting for health care costs that may arise during the year – can significantly improve seniors’ health and wellness – as well as their financial health.
Affordability is an important concern for many seniors – especially when it comes to their Medicare coverage. In fact, it’s one of the reasons Medicare Advantage plans have continued to grow in popularity: nearly half of all people eligible for Medicare in 2022 chose a Medicare Advantage plan. A new study by ATI Advisory found that “Medicare Advantage beneficiaries report saving more than $2,400 annually on out-of-pocket costs and premiums compared to Fee-for-Service (FFS) Medicare beneficiaries.”
This month, we’re encouraging seniors to review their Medicare plans to determine which benefits might provide financial value and help support better overall health throughout the year. The following tips can serve as a guide to help seniors take steps to improve their physical and financial health:
– Good health means being proactive about prevention. Everyone enrolled in Medicare has access to many preventive services, such as annual wellness visits and vital screening services like colonoscopies and mammograms. These screenings can help reduce the risk for many chronic diseases. Seniors should take advantage of all the preventive services they are offered to avoid problems – and expenses – down the road.
– Added features with Medicare Advantage can mean better health and more savings. Extra benefits and features not offered through Original Medicare, like dental, hearing and vision coverage, as well as fitness memberships, can help seniors stay healthy and get important care without the added costs.
– Keeping up with care – conveniently. With more offerings to support people’s health and wellness holistically, it’s now easier than ever for people enrolled in Medicare to keep up with care. For example, many Medicare Advantage plans offer flexible options to access care such as telehealth programs, nurse hotlines, and even in-home care.
– Study up to save. For people with Original Medicare, 80 percent of Part B medical expenses are covered, but they must cover the other 20 percent, with no limit on out-of-pocket costs. People who choose Medicare Advantage plans enjoy more predictable costs and capped annual out-of-pocket expenses. Understanding their health care coverage and costs can help people enrolled in Medicare anticipate what to expect when they need care.
– Enjoy new features for better health and savings. 2023 ushered in some fantastic new benefits and features that can make a meaningful difference in people’s financial and physical health like credits to help pay for gym memberships, over-the-counter items, healthy food, and even some home utilities. In fact, Medicare Advantage plans often offer a host of benefits that go beyond Original Medicare and can help improve health and financial wellbeing. Talk to your health plan provider to see what is available to you
For seniors, being proactive about their health – and taking steps to understand and get the most out of their Medicare plan – can help manage risk factors for disease, improve overall health and wellness and even provide real financial value by helping to reduce costs or connect them to quality care and services for less. Small steps like these can help seniors feel more confident and in control of their health care dollars and budget.
(Dr. Asher Turney is Chief Medical Officer for United Healthcare Medicare & Retirement of Tennessee)

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