Concerns about healthcare are on the rise in the United States. A recent Gallup poll revealed that Americans list healthcare as tied for the nation’s No. 1 problem, right along with dissatisfaction with government. Each of those was named by 18 percent of the people polled, far outdistancing any other worry.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that those two issues cause equal amounts of anxiety among Americans, says Chris Orestis, Executive Vice President of GWG Life.
“There’s a lot of debate in Washington about what role government should play in healthcare, and I think a lot of people are worried that lawmakers aren’t coming up with good answers,” says Orestis, who has written extensively about what he refers to as the nation’s Healthcare Hunger Games.
“That Gallup poll is an indication that people around the country have come to realize how important healthcare coverage is for them, and how easy it is to lose it.”
With so much uncertainty about what would replace Obamacare if the move to repeal it continues, it may fall to each individual to take measures to make sure the odds are in their favor, Orestis says.
The key to doing that, he says, is to understand how to get the most out of what you already have. Some factors to consider include:
Weigh employer-provided options.
Most Americans get health insurance at work, and usually, there are coverage options to choose from. Employees need to consider how much medical care they think they and their families will need in the coming year. “If you don’t expect to need a lot of healthcare, select a plan that has lower premiums, but higher deductibles and co-pays,” Orestis says. “If you know you’ll need lots of care and prescriptions, choose the plan with higher premiums, but lower deductibles and co-pays.”
Make sure you understand Medicare.
Medicare offers numerous choices that allow people to put together the best combination of benefits for their needs and budgets. But beware, Orestis says. “Enrolling in Medicare can be complicated,” he says. “If you’re not careful, you can miss out on the coverage you need or pay more in premiums, co-pays and deductibles than you realize or can afford.”
Plan for long-term care.
Many people eventually require some type of long-term care, such as a nursing home or assisted-living facility, and the cost is hefty. It can be difficult to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid to pay for long-term care, and if you do qualify there are restrictions, Orestis says. Long-term care providers prefer some sort of private pay, such as personal savings, long-term care insurance, annuities or exchanging a life insurance policy for long-term care benefits. “You need to plan ahead,” he says, “because the worst time to start planning is when you’re already in a crisis.”
Ultimately, the best strategy is to stay healthy so you need as little healthcare as possible, Orestis says.
“If you invest in your physical, mental and emotional health today,” he says, “you’ll be repaid with a better lifestyle and less need for doctors and prescription medicine in the future.”