My wife and I often joke that our grandchildren are our rewards for raising our kids well. Whenever I see them, I am reminded of the famous Robert Browning quote, “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” Our grandchildren are excellent motivators for us to maintain good health.
According to a recent survey conducted by Aetna and Grandparents.com, major health concerns among my peers focus on exercise and diet. Almost one in three (26.9 percent) say they wish they had started exercising 20 years ago. About 20% wish they had started eating healthy 20 years ago. And nearly 40% found daily exercise was the hardest habit to form.
Further, many respondents care deeply about passing their health care learnings on to their grandchildren. Nearly forty percent of respondents (38.1 percent) would tell their grandchildren to stay active. Also, 22% say that they would tell their grandchildren to maintain a positive attitude. About 30% say that that their grandchildren’s best health habit is eating healthy, and about 20% say that playing on a sports team is their grandchildren’s healthiest habit.
As I watch my granddaughters grow, I find myself thinking about the steps I am taking to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle to help keep up with theirs. It’s a new year; now is the time to ensure that you are doing everything you can – from maintaining a healthy lifestyle, to consulting with your doctor, to making sure you get the most from your health coverage — so you can ensure the best years ahead for yourself and for your family.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Health Plan
1. Know what you bought. Check out your plan document online or in your package from your insurer. If you can’t find it, call your insurer and ask how to get one. Ask questions if you don’t understand the details of your plan.
2. Make sure you understand the meaning of terms such as deductible, co-insurance, co-payment, premium (both plan and Medicare), in-network and health savings account.
3. Choose a doctor. Your primary care physician, or PCP, is a doctor who is typically part of your plan’s network. If your plan requires referrals, this is also the doctor who will give you those referrals to specialists. Check your insurer’s website for a list of doctors in your area who are in your plan’s network.
4. Make sure you get preventive care. Most plans cover preventive care at no cost to you. This means you pay nothing out-of-pocket for things like annual physicals, mammograms and other screenings, vaccines and more. These are important steps to staying healthy, so take advantage of them!
5. Don’t miss out on savings. Many health plans offer you discounts on everything from contact lenses, acupuncture and dental care to gym memberships or yoga classes. Be sure to check your plan’s materials to see where you might be able to save, or call and ask what’s available to you.
6. Take help when offered. Want to lose weight or get your blood pressure down? Did you just get a diagnosis of heart disease or diabetes? Depending on your individual needs, your health plan might offer an online program, one-on-one counseling from a nurse or something in between to help you get and stay healthy.
7. Know your out-of-pocket cost for prescriptions. Some plans have online tools that tell you how much a drug will cost before you go to the pharmacy. If you can’t find an online tool, call customer service and ask. If the cost is too much, you can ask your doctor to consider another drug.
8. Check your plan documents to see if there are any services that require preauthorization. If so, who has to request it – you or the doctor or facility providing the service?
9. Verify your coverage before you travel. Typically, Medicare does not cover health care services when you are outside the U.S. Some Medicare Advantage plans provide worldwide coverage for urgent or emergent care. When traveling, whether in the U.S. or abroad, you should always check your plan benefits carefully to see what costs and rules apply.
10. Start a list of the benefits you use and those you don’t to help you decide if you need to adjust or shift coverage in the future. You’ll be better informed when it’s time to choose a health plan at the next open enrollment season.
Fortunately, the mobile technology available to us and our grandchildren today provides an excellent tool to help maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Fitness-related mobile applications and the like can positively influence the future of our grandchildren’s health.
About the Author
Randall Krakauer, M.D., is Vice President and national medical director for Medical Strategy at Aetna. He is a recognized leader in geriatric care and board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology.