How to Manage
and Afford Senior Health Care
by Council Nedd II and Leslie O. Anderson
There are lots of jokes poking
fun at growing old. For instance, you know you're getting older
when everything hurts and what doesn't hurt doesn't work. Likewise,
the gleam in your eye now comes from the sun hitting your bifocals.
A little humor can go a long
way in dealing with getting older, but making healthy choices
is no laughing matter.
For example, people age 65
and older are taking more prescription and over-the-counter medicines
than any other age group. While these drugs work wonders, they
only work when they are actually taken. In the black community,
seniors will occasionally neglect taking their medications if
they are "having a good day." Others sometimes skip
medications as a cost-saving measure.
This risk is unacceptable.
There are two important things
to remember in the quest to stay healthy, feel better and save
money. First, understand the importance of taking medications
correctly. Second, ease the financial burden of prescription
medications by finding out about the new Medicare-approved prescription
drug discount cards.
Across the nation, health care
providers say a common senior complaint is the many different
medications they must remember to take. This, however, is a
hassle people must learn to accommodate. In order for medicines
to be continually effective, they must be consumed on the appropriate
schedule. This is particularly important in the black community,
where hypertension and diabetes have had a devastating effect.
The National Institute of Health
recommends seniors do a few simple things to help manage their
health care regimen:
* Ask about the right way to
take any medicine before using it.
* Keep a list of all prescribed
medications on the refrigerator door or similar central location
as both a reminder and an alert to others in case of emergency.
* Make sure health care providers
are aware of all the prescribed medications to prevent harmful
* Find out what must be done
if a dose is missed.
* Refill prescriptions early
enough so they never run out unexpectedly.
Then there's the problem of
the high cost of miracle drugs.
While everyone can all use
help paying for prescription drugs, another benefit for seniors
is the new Medicare-approved prescription drug cards. Just last
year, the government started a program to help seniors pay for
the costs of prescription drugs. All Medicare beneficiaries
are eligible for a discount drug card, and the cards provide
substantial discounts on nearly all prescription medications.
Seniors who do not currently
have prescription drug coverage should immediately contact Medicare
to qualify and take advantage of the discount drug program's
benefits. Besides prescription drugs, even medical supplies
such as those needed to manage diabetes can be obtained at a
discount. There are different types of drug discount cards,
but one should look for the card that says "Medicare Approved."
This ensures the card is backed by a reputable and financially-stable
After the Medicare recipient
selects the card best suited for them and provides some basic
information, the card is immediately activated.
Health care choices are not
always easy, but the drug discount card program is one of many
ways to improve one's health without risking financial peril.
Concerned seniors need not
worry about going it alone when putting their medical affairs
in order. Doctors should be consulted to ensure they possess
consolidated copies of medical records. Pastors and trusted
family members also be enlisted to help make sound decisions.
Even the agency that runs Medicare has information and people
ready to help navigate the health care process.
Those registered for the Medicare
prescription drug card may also be eligible for an additional
$600 credit to assist with the cost of medications.
Modern innovations are making
it possible for people to live longer, healthier and more productive
lives. The cost of prescription medication should not be a prohibiting
factor - and now it doesn't have to be.
Council Nedd II is a member
of the black leadership network Project 21 and the executive
director of the Alliance for Health Education and Development.
Dr. Lesie O. Anderson is director of community, health and inner
city ministries emeritus for the Northern California Conference
of Seventh-Day-Adventists. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research.
Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries
reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those
of Project 21.
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