By Fehmeen who is an MBA graduate and who owns the personal finance blog, Top Money Hacks. Be sure to visit the site to check out some top money management tips.
Planning for retirement can be challenging because there are plenty of variable expenses to look at, the biggest variable being related to healthcare. Medical bills can quickly add up after retirement because health drastically deteriorates with age and because the cost of good medical care is slowly rising with time. This means any sum of money saved for retirement may eventually run out while footing these bills, possibly leading to medical debt.
The obvious solution may be to get a robust health insurance policy with extensive coverage, but that can be costly on its own. The truth is, one can never achieve peace of mind regarding the future, but there are certain steps one can take to cut healthcare costs, even if an adequate insurance policy is in place and plenty of money has been saved up.
- Maintain good hygiene to keep your health
“Handwashing is like a do-it-yourself vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy.” Centre for Disease Control.
Prevention is better than cure, they say. This proverb holds true for both medical and non-medical conditions, because it’s easier to stay away from a problem than to find a solution.
Hand washing is an obvious tip that can save you from a lot of diseases in the long run, which is why it cannot be emphasized enough. Washing your hands diligently, for instance, can prevent the transfer of many viral and bacterial infections that require visits to your doctor. There is certainly no need to be obsessed with being germ-free, but simple habits like bathing regularly and carrying hand sanitizer when out and about, can keep you relatively safe.
- Make your home allergy-proof
According to the Eurostat website (the official source of statistics covering the European Union) respiratory diseases are one of the most common causes of death across the European Union. We often blame high levels of air pollution in urban areas for this problem, and rightly so, but we must also consider the fact that most of our time is spent indoors.
There are plenty of allergens in our homes, such as pet dander, mold, dust particles and micro-organisms that cause irritation in our respiratory tracts. While external air pollution is correlated to indoor pollution, we can control the latter to some extent by keeping our homes clean:
- Ensure proper ventilation,
- Remove dust from various surfaces,
- Eliminate mold,
- Get rid of damp spots, etc.
These practices can help reduce the negative effect of allergy triggers, and cut the number of related trips to the hospital.
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- Nip it in the bud
A range of preventative healthcare services are offered these days, some of them as part of public healthcare programs and some as part of insurance policies. Let’s have a look at two basic types of preventative services:
Vaccines can significantly lower the risk of catching various illnesses that are prevalent in many parts of the world. Granted, this tip is not for everyone because some people are against the use of vaccines.
Medical professionals can run a series of screening tests to catch the onset or risk of developing certain health conditions, such as cardiac diseases, bone degeneration conditions and cancer. The treatment for such diseases can be both lengthy and expensive. Fortunately, catching them at an early stage can:
- Improve the effectiveness of treatment,
- Disrupt the spread of the disease and
- Cut the cost as well as duration of treatment.
Make sure you get regular check-ups and any screening tests ordered by your doctor to help nip your illness in the bud.
- Medical tourism can save you a fortune
If you have been diagnosed with an illness, the treatment for which involves a major surgical procedure, you probably expect a big dip in your bank balance. This is because healthcare costs in USA are extremely high, as is the case across much of the developed world (exceptions exist). Be it a hip replacement procedure or cardiac bypass, you can be sure the final medical bill will soar to tens of thousands of dollars, possibly resulting in large medical debts.
Medical tourism can help you avoid all this because you may find plenty of countries that offer good quality medical services at a fraction of the prices charged in your home country. All this, inclusive of the travel cost! This concept has been covered at length by Billy and Akaisha, on this blog’s Medical Tourism page. Do have a look.
- Milk your insurance policy
Sometimes, we fail to understand the exact terms of our insurance policy, which prevents us from using it effectively. I’ll illustrate this point with examples:
- Be organized: My insurance firm reimburses me for any visits I make to the doctor if I submit the medical bill within a month of the issue date. I have been guilty of misplacing medical bills and of missing the one month deadline on a few occasions. That money could have easily been saved. Oops!
- Be aware: The same insurance firm recently broadened their coverage to include the reimbursement of multivitamin pills. I had developed the habit of discarding pharmacy bills for these pills for the last few years, and continued to do so out of negligence (for several months) after the insurance policy had been broadened. Again, oops!
- It doesn’t hurt to ask: One of my relatives underwent cataract surgery to change the lens in his right eye. A colleague had undergone a similar procedure a few months earlier and had a Grade B lens replaced into his eye, but when my relative decided to ask his company’s HR department about the various possible options, he was told that he could get a Grade A lens inserted under the same policy, for both his eyes! This incident took place a few months before his retirement, so the timing could not have been better.
- Fight your case: A few years ago, a friend wanted to have her insurance firm pay for visits to an off-panel gynecologist, who served at an off-panel hospital. She pleaded her case on the basis of trusting this renowned doctor who had treated her family for years, and her poor experience with other on-panel gynecologists. After a bit of back and forth, the insurance firm agreed to pay for her bills for a period of one year, long enough to see her through her pregnancy.
- Buy ‘generic, non-branded’ medicines when possible
Branded medicine can cost a lot more and are more popular than their generic counterparts, even though they are the same for all practical purposes. According to the FDA website:
“A generic drug is the same as a brand-name drug in dosage, safety, strength, quality, the way it works, the way it is taken and the way it should be used.”
In other words, both types of drugs are equally safe and effective because they must pass strict tests imposed by the FDA before being sold in the market. On your next visit, ask your doctor if it is possible to get a prescription for alternative generic medicines. If you’re still in doubt, peruse the FDA catalog of all approved drug products.
These are my top tips for cutting your medical costs over the years. Be sure to keep your doctor in the loop though, because this article should not be considered medical advice.
I always say, “Take care of your body and your body will take care of you.” A healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, is vital for good health.
Can you think of any other ways to limit your medical expenses?