Are you over 80? Find out what you should be looking for in a health insurance policy, along with healthy living tips.
When you’re young and fit, taking out health insurance may seem less important. However, when you’re over 80 it can provide real peace of mind. Unlike travel insurance, where over 80s can find it difficult to get cover and must undergo medical exams, private health insurance is available to Australians regardless of age or pre-existing conditions. Keep reading to find out more about health insurance for people over 80 years of age.
Even if you’ve never had health insurance before, if you were born on or before 1 July 1934, the Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) loading – which applies a 2% increase on premiums for every year without hospital cover – won’t apply to you. There is also a greater incentive to have health cover in later life, as those aged 70 and over receive a larger Private Health Insurance Rebate in their tax return than all other age groups (up to 35.7%).
If you’re over 80, chances are you will have more health problems than someone under 50 and make greater use of medical and hospital treatments and services. Health problems facing over 80s can include:
- Broken bones from falls
- Heart problems
- Hospital cover. Hospital cover will offer a private or shared room in a private or public hospital, ambulance cover, theatre and intensive care fees, pharmaceuticals, x-rays and pathology. Rather than containing cover for treatments you are unlikely to use such as pregnancy and IVF, it should cover those treatments and services you are more likely to need such as cardiac surgery, joint reconstruction, non-cosmetic eye surgery, organ transplants, prosthesis, psychiatric treatment and palliative care.
- Extras cover. Extras will cover you for services you are likely to need such as optical, dental, physio and podiatry and not those services you won’t need such as gym membership or travel vaccinations. And you should look for a policy that provides individual rather than combined benefit limits, which allows you to claim more for the services you need the most.
Tailoring your health cover to your individual needs is the best way to ensure you get value for money, and shopping around and comparing policies will allow you to see who’s offering the best health insurance options for over 80s.
Something else that can help to lighten the burden of health expenses in your later years is the Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card. This is a concession card that is available to Australian residents of Age Pension age, which is currently:
- 65 years and 6 months if you were born before 31 December 1953.
- 67 years if you were born after 1 January 1957.
The card entitles you to a range of concessions such as:
- Cheaper prescriptions through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
- Higher benefits for medical expenses when you exceed the Medicare Safety Net threshold.
- Bulk billing at participating GPs.
- Cheap travel on the Ghan, Indian Pacific or Overland rail services.
While there’s no asset test for eligibility, to receive the card you must not be eligible for an Age Pension or Veterans’ Affairs pension and your adjusted taxable annual income must be below $51,500 for singles and $82,400 for couples.
Naturally, the best form of insurance to have when you’re older is good health and over 80s can help to keep a range of chronic health problems at bay by observing healthy eating habits. A balanced diet for over 80s should include foodstuffs such as :
- Fruit and vegetables
- Wholegrain bread
- Pasta and rice
- Milk and other dairy products
- Fish and meat
- Eggs and beans
- Fibre to ward off constipation and digestive problems
- Calcium to keep osteoporosis at bay
- Zinc to boost the immune system
- Iron for general good health
You should try and eat three meals a day, drink lots of water, lower your salt, coffee and alcohol intake and maintain a healthy body weight by exercising regularly.
As well as healthy eating, lowering your blood pressure can also keep you healthier for longer when you’re over 80, as high blood pressure increases your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Ways to reduce high blood pressure include:
- Regular exercise. You should get roughly half an hour of moderate exercise such as walking, swimming or cycling five times a week.
- Balanced diet. Eat regularly from the five major food groups and cut down on sugar and saturated fats.
- Less salt. Don’t add salt to your food and look for processed foods that contain less salt.
- Less alcohol. Don’t drink more than two standard drinks in a day.
- Quit smoking. Quitting smoking will lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and other smoking-related health problems.
Maintaining good eyesight is part of staying healthy in your 80s and ways to keep your eyes stronger for longer include:
- Having regular eye exams and keeping your prescription glasses up to date.
- Eating a balanced diet, which will help to protect your eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Wearing UV-rated sunglasses, which will protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging UV rays.
- Regularly exercising, which will help to maintain good circulation and oxygen intake – both essential for eye health.
- Giving up smoking, which will lessen your chances of developing cataracts or macular degeneration.
- Avoiding obesity, which can result in diabetes and possible vision loss.
- Getting plenty of sleep, which can help to clean and lubricate your eyes.
- Always using strong lighting when reading or doing close work to avoid eye strain.