By: Robin Trimingham
Because the law requires island residents to have health insurance, and also because the majority of us are enrolled in a health insurance plan at our place of employment (or the place where our spouse is employed), and the cost of the monthly premiums is deducted directly from wages, many people have a tendency to not think about their health insurance unless they are sick.
Even then, it is just a card that you hand over the counter to the receptionist and someone else sorts out the paperwork.
Health care coverage has become such a normal part of people’s existence that many people can’t recall exactly how much they pay per month or exactly what benefits they are entitled to. It is not surprising therefore; that statistically, factoring in the cost of health insurance is one of the most overlooked items in any retirement life monthly budget.
The reasons for this include:
- Failing to factor in the monthly cost of health insurance premiums in retirement.
- Not understanding the full cost of coverage once their employer ceases paying for a portion or all of the monthly premium.
- Needing to add a spouse to the policy who previously received health insurance as a workplace benefit where they used to be employed.
- Neglecting to allow for the need for more frequent or long-term use of health services as you age and your health naturally deteriorates.
- Neglecting to allow for the cost of assisted living or end of life care.
- Increased need for dental procedures not fully covered by insurance.
While you might not think that you have many options when you are retiring, there are a few things that are worth considering.
Firstly, not all plans are created equal. Before merely ticking a box to indicate that you will be staying with your current health insurance provider, do your research:
- What will your monthly premium be if you stay with your current provider?
- If your spouse is still employed, would it be better for you to join his/her plan?
- If you are married and both of you are retiring at the same time is there a difference in the cost of coverage if you both stay with your individual plans or join the same plan?
- Is there a difference between what your plan benefits are now, and what your benefits will be once you are retired?
- How do your coverage benefits (and cost) compare with the benefits and cost of Future Care?
- Could you purchase supplemental coverage to cover any items not covered by Future Care?
Secondly, are you making effective use of the benefits that you are paying for? While it might not make sense to visit the doctor unnecessarily just because you have coverage, some people do not make enough use of the benefits that they are paying for. For example:
- If you have vision coverage, are you going for regular eye exams?
- If you have dental coverage, are you getting your teeth cleaned regularly?
- If your policy includes coverage for consulting a nutritionist, are you taking advantage of this?
But providing for your long-term health and wellness needs does not stop once you have selected your coverage. It is worth remembering that because your body changes as it ages, your health and wellness requirements also change as you age.
Dr Ricky Brathwaite, Chief Executive Officer of the Bermuda Health Council, is on a mission to help all island residents learn to think differently about their health. He believes that people of all ages need to recognise that, when it comes to health, the behaviours that they choose to participate in may have good or bad consequences.
“People don’t always realise that the lifestyle decisions that they make are impacting their health”, says Dr Brathwaite. “We need to do more to educate the community that cultural norms and the environment that people are situated in affect their choices. We can’t just wait until people are sixty-five to address this. We need to educate people for life.”
People need to understand how to adapt to the changing mental and physical needs of their bodies. “As you age, your body changes and your approach to health and wellness has to change along with it if you want to stay in good health,” says Dr Brathwaite.
“The older you get, the more active you should be – but you have to be open to trying things out and figuring out what works for you. Doing your own research and seeking professional guidance are a great way to start,” he added, “and the Bermuda Health Council can also answer questions regarding what resources are available.”
The Bermuda Health Council is located at Sterling House 16 Wesley Street, 3rd Floor, Hamilton – 292-6420 – [email protected]