Retirement not far off? Consider reviewing your health insurance policy to ensure you're fully covered as you enter your golden years.
Health insurance is important at all stages of life, as it helps to fill the gaps in health care that Medicare doesn’t cover. However, health insurance becomes even more important as we get older, because once we turn 50, chronic health problems can start to increase and we may need to access medical services more than ever before.
What's covered in this guide?
- As a person over 50, what health insurance questions should I ask myself?
- What services should I look for in a policy?
- What benefits can I get from the Seniors Health Care Card?
- Can a change in diet help avoid health problems?
- What can I do to maintain low blood pressure?
- Any advice for avoiding issues with my vision?
- Should I change my policy type? If you already have private health insurance, you may have a couples or a family policy, which prioritises certain treatments that would have been more important to you in the past (eg, wisdom teeth removal, appendix removal, pregnancy or IVF). However, if you’re considering moving to health insurance for over 50s, there are a new set of priorities you will need to consider.
- Are different medical services required? Instead of braces, things like hip replacements, cardiac surgery, cataract removals and greater use of prescription medications may become higher priorities, requiring a complete review of your health insurance policy.
- How do I ensure full medical cover? While you may be eligible for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card after the age of 65, which can help to reduce the cost of some prescription medicines and services, only intermediate or comprehensive health insurance will ensure you are adequately protected into your later years.
So, given that good health cover is something everyone over 50 should have, what then should a good health cover policy contain?
- Hospital cover. This should cover the basics such as a private or shared room in a private or public hospital, ambulance cover, theater and intensive care fees, x-rays, pathology and inpatient pharmaceuticals. It should also contain less of the treatments you are unlikely to need, such as obstetrics and assisted reproductive services, and more of those you may need in the future, such as cardiac procedures, prostheses, non-cosmetic eye surgery, joint reconstruction, organ transplant, psychiatric treatment and palliative care.
- Extras cover. This should cover those ancillary services you are likely to need more often such as optical, dental, podiatry and physiotherapy and should not include services you will have less need for such as gym memberships or travel vaccinations. Benefit limits should ideally be individual rather than combined so that you can claim more for the services you use most.
Rather than it costing you more for over 50s health insurance, customising your cover in this way can actually save you money, and shopping around and comparing your options is the best way to see just what’s out there and what’s best for your individual needs.
The Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card is a government concession card available to Australian residents of pension age. This is currently defined as:
- 65 years and 6 months if you were born between 1 July 1952 and 31 December 1953.
- Up to 67 years if you were born after 1 January 1957.
To be eligible for the card, you must not be eligible for an Age Pension or a Veterans’ Affairs pension and your adjusted annual taxable income must be less than $51,500 (less than $82,400 for couples).
The card provides a range of concessions including:
- Cheaper prescriptions through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
- Greater benefits for medical expenses once you reach the Medicare Safety Net threshold.
- Bulk billing for visits to participating doctors.
- Various concessions including concessional travel on the Ghan, Indian Pacific and Overland rail services.
As well as health insurance for over 50s, you can help to insure yourself against ill health by improving what you eat. A balanced diet for over 50s should include:
- Plenty of fresh fruit and veg.
- Wholegrain bread, rice, pasta and potatoes.
- Dairy foods including milk.
- Other protein sources such as meat, fish, eggs and beans.
Your diet should be rich in fiber to assist with constipation and digestive problems, calcium to ward off osteoporosis, zinc to boost your immune system and iron for overall good health.
Another way to maintain good health when you’re over 50 is to lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Ways to actively reduce your blood pressure can include:
- Exercising regularly. Do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week (e.g. swimming, walking or cycling).
- Eating a balanced diet. Eat a variety of foods from the five food groups and reduce your consumption of sugar and saturated fats.
- Reducing your salt intake. Look for processed foods that contain less salt and don’t add extra salt to your food.
- Reducing your alcohol consumption. Don’t drink more than two standard drinks a day.
- Giving up cigarettes. Quitting smoking will reduce your blood pressure and your risk of developing heart disease and a variety of other health problems.
Vision problems can also develop once you’re over 50 and some useful ways to ensure healthy vision for longer can include:
- Have regular check ups and, if you wear spectacles ensure your prescription is always up to date.
- Eat a balanced diet to protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Wear a hat and UV protected sunglasses when outside to protect your eyes from damaging UV rays.
- Exercise regularly to maintain circulation and oxygen intake, which are crucial for good eye health.
- Quit smoking, which increases your chances of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Maintain a healthy body weight, as obesity can lead to diabetes and possible loss of vision.
- Use strong lighting for reading and close work to avoid straining your eyes.
- Get lots of sleep, which will help with cleaning and lubricating your eyes.