Challenges in the Health Care System

The older we get, the more likely we are to need medical care, which is why health insurance premiums are higher for mature adults.1 Unfortunately, most doctors are given the least medical training in caring for older adults.2

Medical schools focus a fraction of their curriculum on older adults, though older adults represent a higher percentage of patients in hospitals and outpatient clinics. Many health care professionals lack specific training in the anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and special conditions specific to older adults, says Dr. Louise Aronson, a geriatrician and author of the book “Elderhood.” This is a critical area of medicine because older bodies can be more susceptible to harm caused by certain medications or hospitalization, for example.3

 

Dr. Aronson notes that this level of attention is starting to change. Many surgeons now consider the most effective ways to prepare older adults for pre- and post-surgical care, and anesthesiologists are looking more closely at the effects of anesthesia on older adults, for example.4

 

Unfortunately, the cost of medical services remains a challenge for all demographics. While Medicare pays for a large portion of medical care, retirees can be burdened with significant medical bills that can impact their long-term standard of living. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The New York Times found that more than half of people who struggle to pay medical bills must change their lifestyle in some way, such as cutting household spending, depleting savings or seeking an additional income source.5 Another consequence is that, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, about 43 million Americans have overdue medical bills on their credit reports.6

 

Fortunately, there are some insurance products that offer the flexibility to use assets for a variety of needs. For example, there are life insurance and annuity products that offer benefits to assist with the costs of long-term care — should you ever need it — with benefits you won’t lose even if you don’t. Please call us to learn more.

 

One way to reduce medical bills is to curb unnecessary medical services. For example, one recent analysis of claims from 2 million Medicaid and commercially insured patients by the Washington Health Alliance found that, in the state of Washington, $341 million was spent on 48 measures of unnecessary health care over one year. While the vast majority (92 percent) of these services were low-cost, it goes to show that the cost of minor services adds up fast over a large population. The top three examples of wasteful, or low value, services found in this study were prescription opioid medications for lower back pain in the first four weeks, antibiotics for upper respiratory and ear infections, and annual EKGs or cardiac screenings for low-risk patients.7

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Healthcare.gov. “How insurance companies set health premiums.” https://www.healthcare.gov/how-plans-set-your-premiums/. Accessed June 3, 2019.

2 Judith Graham. Kaiser Health News. May 30, 2019. “A Doctor Speaks Out About Ageism In Medicine.” https://khn.org/news/navigating-aging-a-doctor-speaks-out-about-ageism-in-medicine/. Accessed June 3, 2019.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Roxie Hammill. Kaiser Health News. June 3, 2019. “Churches Wipe Out Millions In Medical Debt For Others.” https://khn.org/news/churches-wipe-out-millions-in-medical-debt-for-others/. Accessed June 3, 2019.

6 Michelle Andrews. Kaiser Health News. May 31, 2019. “Mired In Medical Debt? Federal Plan Would Update Overdue-Bill Collection Methods.” https://khn.org/news/mired-in-medical-debt-federal-plan-would-update-overdue-bill-collection-methods/. Accessed June 3, 2019.

7 Shelby Livingston. Modern Healthcare. June 1, 2019. “Calculating the cost of waste.” https://www.modernhealthcare.com/providers/calculating-cost-waste. Accessed June 3, 2019.

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