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Health Costs Add Up Fast – Help is Here

This month, One Away looks at health, especially high out-of-pocket health care costs and their impact on vulnerable older adults.

The majority of older people have at least one chronic health condition, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis or heart disease. This means they need more care and, often, expensive prescription drugs, and the costs can add up fast.

Even those with Medicare or other coverage are painfully aware that they may be one health problem away from an economic crisis.

For people who are economically insecure (with annual incomes below $22,000), health care costs can end up consuming 25% of their income and taking a huge bite out of already over-stressed budgets. (Read more here.)

NCOA is helping seniors and aging services professionals find solutions. In 2009, we launched a network of Benefits Enrollment Centers (you can find a list of Center locations here). These help low-income seniors find benefits to help with health care costs, including the Medicare Part D Extra Help/Low-Income Subsidy, the Medicare Savings Program, and Medicaid.

Another good resource: State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs), which provide free, assistance to seniors who have questions about health care coverage and can help with finding benefits. There is a SHIP in every state.

Professionals and seniors alike can go online and use NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp to find out about benefits they are eligible to receive. An online screening tool, BCU has helped nearly 3 million people find benefits totaling almost $10 billion.

Also online is NCOA’s latest offering, Better Choices, Better Health™ (BCBH), an online workshop for people who want to live better with an ongoing health condition. It’s the online version of the internationally recognized Chronic Disease Self-Management Program developed at Stanford University. Participants explore ways to reduce pain, fatigue, and stress. They discover better nutrition and exercise choices, understand new treatment options, and learn better ways to talk with their doctors and family about their health. For a limited time it’s available free and nationwide – including a copy of the companion book Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions. For adults coping with arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic conditions, Better Choices, Better Health can help them take control of their lives, feel better and perhaps even lower how much they pay for their health care over time.

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Comments on this Post

  • Is there any help for a spouse who must pay almost half of her retirement income to care for her spouse with advanced Alzheimer's/Dementia in a long term facility ? Lois Fairview Heights, IL
  • if someone is getting by with only 25% of income going to health related costs, they're doing very well, indeed ... I don't get to the "donut hole", but my supplemental insurance, Rx insurance and co-pays eat up 1/3 of my $1400/month income. Roxanne Austin, TX