Are you over 65? Find out what you should be looking for in a health insurance policy.
If you're over 65 then your health insurance needs may have changed since you took out your last policy. Whether you're after a comprehensive policy that covers you for all the extras or a policy that protects your for just the basics, it's important to review your cover to ensure you're getting value for money.
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Why get health insurance?
There are several reasons why health insurance is essential for those over 65 including:
- Increased medical needs. One of the unfortunate parts of getting older is that you are at a higher risk of suffering from a wide range of illnesses and medical complications. In addition, the older you are, the longer you will generally take to recover from illness or injury, which can further increase your medical costs.
- Medicare doesn’t cover everything. While Medicare provides cover for some medical costs, it certainly doesn’t cover all the medical, hospital and treatment expenses you could incur. Private health insurance is designed to act as an extension to the cover offered by Medicare, providing financial protection against expensive health care costs.
- Policies designed with you in mind. Many Australian private health funds have policies specifically designed to suit seniors, ensuring that you have the protection you need at all times.
- Get the treatment you need. Having private health cover in place allows you to avoid hospital waiting lists, choose your doctor and hospital, and avoid the financial impact of expensive medical bills.
What does Over 65s health insurance cover?
Health insurance for over 65s covers a wide range of treatments and medical services. While the exact cover provided varies depending on the insurer and the policy you select, you can take out over 65s health insurance to cover:
- A private or shared room in a private or public hospital
- Theatre and intensive care fees
- Ambulance transport
- Emergency department visits
- Inpatient pharmaceuticals
- Joint replacement surgery
- Eye surgery
- Cardiac-related services
- Home nursing
- Palliative care
- Organ transplant
- Psychiatric treatment and care
- General treatments such as optical, dental, physio, occupational therapy and health management programs
What about the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card?
The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) gives older Australians access to cheaper pharmaceuticals and government-funded medical services. If you hold one of these cards you’re eligible for:
- Discounts on prescription medication offered through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
- Bulk-billed GP appointments. The federal government provides incentives to doctors to encourage them to bulk bill cardholders.
- Increased benefits for out-of-hospital patient care above what Medicare covers
- Discounts on Great South Rail services, including the Ghan and the Indian Pacific
- A quarterly payment, referred to as the Energy Supplement, to help cover power and phone bills
In order to qualify for the CSHC you must:
- Have reached pension age (65 years old) and not qualify for a payment from the Department of Human Services or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
- Provide the Department of Human Services with your and your partner’s Tax File Numbers
- Meet the income test
- Meet residence requirements
The income test for the CSHC is reviewed each year and includes your adjusted taxable income and a specific amount from your account-based income streams. You will need to have an income of less than the following amounts in order to be eligible for the card:
- $52,273 for singles
- $83,636 combined income for couples
- $104,546 combined income for couples who are separated by illness or respite care, or where one partner is imprisoned
The income limit rises by $639.60 for each dependent child you care for.
Health tips for people over 65
The right diet is a crucial factor of staying healthy and keeping your medical costs down. Keep the following tips in mind to help form and maintain healthy eating habits:
- Eat fewer calories. Those over 65s don’t need to consume as many calories in their diet as people aged in their 20s because they live more sedentary lifestyles. However, regardless of age, our requirements for vitamins and minerals remain the same.
- Eat a balanced diet. Fruit and vegetables form a hugely important part of your diet, at least five portions a day is recommended. You also need to eat plenty of foods rich in starch and fibre, as well as some milk and dairy foods and some meat and fish. Get some Vitamin D supplements. While Vitamin D is mostly obtained from sunlight for younger people, getting outside may not be as easy as you age.
- Antioxidants. Did you know that a diet high in antioxidants, which are commonly found in fresh fruit and veggies, can help stave off Alzheimer’s? Moderate consumption of wine can also help you get the antioxidants your body needs.
- Calcium. Calcium helps prevent osteoporosis, so eating lower-fat versions of milk, cheese and yoghurt is a good idea. Sardines and green leafy vegetables are also excellent sources of calcium.
- Iron. Iron is an essential nutrient for health and wellbeing, and the Department of Health recommends one daily serving of lean red meat to ensure that you have enough iron in your diet.
- Reduce salt. Consuming too much salt will increase your blood pressure, which could lead to complications such as heart disease and stroke. Read food labels carefully and try to limit your consumption to a maximum of 6g of salt a day.
Lowering your blood pressure
High blood pressure can lead to a wide range of complications including heart attack, stroke and even cognitive decline. The following tips will help you keep your blood pressure at a healthy level:
- Get to a healthy weight. Obesity is a contributing factor to high blood pressure, so eat the right diet and get regular exercise to ensure that you stay in a healthy weight range.
- Get regular exercise. Regular exercise will help reduce your blood pressure, and health authorities recommend that Australians get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week.
- Eat right. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is a crucial factor of lowering your blood pressure. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg along with grain foods, lean meat, poultry and dairy products. Drink plenty of water and limit your alcohol consumption, and make sure to avoid added salt, added sugar and saturated fat as much as possible.
- Eat less salt. Eating too much salt will cause your blood pressure to rise, so try to eat less than 4g of salt, which is equivalent to 1,600mg of sodium, a day (the maximum upper limit is 6g).
- Quit smoking. Smoking won’t increase your blood pressure but it does increase your risk of heart disease, so now is the perfect time to give up this nasty habit.
- Meditate. Meditation, yoga and tai chi all promote slow, relaxed breathing, which can decrease levels of stress hormones and help lower your blood pressure.
- Medicate. Depending on your situation, you may need to take medication in addition to the healthy lifestyle measures listed above to lower your blood pressure. Ask your doctor for advice on medications and their side effects.
Eye health tips
Protect your eyesight as you grow older with these handy tips:
- Regular tests. The best way to monitor and maintain eye health is to have regular eye exams. This will help you stay on top of any problems that may arise, and ensure that you are wearing the right prescription lenses for your eyes.
- Eat the right diet. Nutrition plays a very important role in maintaining eye health. Choose a diet full of foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as fish and green leafy vegetables; the omega-3 fatty acids in fish can also help protect the macula. Avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol and saturated fats is also recommended.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of developing a number of conditions that are detrimental to eye health. Quitting smoking can not only protect your eyes but can also have a wide range of other health benefits.
- Exercise. Regular exercise improves the circulation of blood throughout your body, which in turn improves oxygen levels to the eyes and eliminates toxins.
- Wear sunglasses. Sunlight can damage your eyes and increase the risk of cataracts, so wear sunglasses to block out the sun’s powerful UV rays.