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10 Ways to Save on Health Care Costs (Photo) 02/03/15 How many of us are still sticking to our New Year's resolutions to live healthier? I, for one, have good intentions, but I've been struggling to get to the gym as often as I want. What has motivated me recently is getting a greater understanding of how a healthier me can lead to big savings in health care costs.
AARP's Health Care Costs Calculator can help you understand what your health care costs will be in retirement based on your medical conditions AND show you how getting certain conditions under control can affect your bottom line. In the meantime, here are 10 ways to start saving money on health care and expand your possibilities:
1. Ask about generic drugs.
2. Don't smoke. The costs associated with smoking go well beyond the price of a pack of cigarettes. Smokers pay more for health insurance coverage and we all pay for the health effects of both smoking and second hand smoke. Each year, our economy takes a $289 billion hit in direct medical expenses and lost productivity.
3. Take advantage of wellness benefits. These days everyone has a growing interest in keeping you well rather than caring for you only when you are sick. For example, employers offer wellness benefits like health screenings or gym membership discounts. Find out what programs your employer offers. Similarly, Medicare provides a "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visit within the first 12 months you have Part B. You are also eligible to receive free yearly "Wellness" visits and many preventive screening services for free, such as flu shots and blood pressure screenings. Finally, check with your health insurance provider: they too might offer discounts and other wellness benefits.
4. Get recommended preventive screenings. Because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), most insurance plans now cover a wide range of immunizations and preventive screenings. For adults, these include colonoscopies (age 50 and over), diabetes and high blood pressure screenings, flu shots and more.
Trx Training 5. Take your medications regularly. If you have a chronic condition, it's important to take your medications exactly as prescribed. You can avoid costly hospital visits that often result from skipped doses. It's also smart to keep an updated list of all the medications you take, including dietary and herbal supplements, and bring it to your doctors' appointments. You may want to use the AARP Rx app and take advantage of the electronic or print medication record. Simply go to the App store on your device and download it for free.
Trx Exercises 6. Eat healthy and exercise. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise can improve your overall health, which will in turn improve your bottom line when it comes to health care expenses. Many chronic conditions can be managed or eliminated by eating better and becoming more physically active.
7. Stay in your plan's network. Most health insurance plans offer in network and out of network coverage. If you stay within the network of providers your plan offers, you can save big on out of pocket expenses.
8. Sign up for Medicare at the right time. If you are nearing Medicare eligibility, you have a seven month window to sign up. This is the three months before your birth month, your actual birth month, and the three months that follow. If you miss this window, your monthly Medicare payments (your premiums) may be higher.
9. Check out programs that reduce health costs. If you get health coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace, you might be eligible for help with your monthly insurance payments. You may qualify for lower out of pocket costs, too. Your eligibility depends on your annual income and family size.
10. Review your health coverage every year. Your insurance coverage may change from one year to the next, so it's important to review your coverage during your open enrollment period. Those changes can affect your monthly premiums, the services covered by your insurance, and the list of doctors that participate in the insurer's network. Avoid costly surprises by reviewing your coverage every year.
Whether it's small acts or big lifestyle changes, you can save thousands of dollars in health care costs in retirement by taking action today. Here's to our health and healthy cost savings!
Bonus Tip: Being a safe driver can save lives and dollars. Did you know that you may be able to reduce your insurance costs by taking an AARP Driver Safety class? Find a class (available in English and Spanish) in your community using the course locator.
By Nicole Duritz, Vice President of the Health Family issues team in the Education and Outreach group at AARP. She leads AARP's educational and outreach efforts on health education issues, including Medicare, the health law, prescription drug affordability, long term care, and prevention and wellness. And with tax season upon us, con artists are stealing Social Security numbers to file for fraudulent tax refunds. It's a big problem. To date, the IRS has identified around 15 million false tax returns alone. For more information on the latest trends in tax identify theft, check out AARP's Fraud Watch Network.
How do you know if you're a victim of tax identity theft? If someone files a fraudulent tax return using your identification, and then you file your return, the IRS will contact you by mail. The letter will state that more than one return was filed using your Social Security number. Note that the IRS will not contact you by phone, email, text or social media. You can check the legitimacy of any IRS mailing by calling 1 800 829 1040.
You'll also get an IRS notice if someone uses your Social Security number to get a job, and the employer reports that income to the IRS using your number. The letter will indicate that you did not report all of your earnings on your tax return. Another warning sign could be receiving a W 2 or Form 1099 from an employer for whom you didn't work.
If you become a victim of tax identity theft, here are the steps to take:
1. Contact the IRS immediately using the contact information on the notice you received. You'll be asked to fill out an IRS Identity Theft affidavit, Form 14039.
2. Contact your bank and credit card companies and inform the credit bureaus of the fraud.
Suspension Training 3. Ask one credit bureau Experian, TransUnion or Equifax to place a free fraud alert on your report, and the others will follow. A fraud alert lasts 90 days, but you can renew it.
4. Access your credit report free from all three credit bureaus. Ask the bureau that places your fraud alert how to obtain your reports.
5. File an Identity Theft report with the Federal Trade Commission. This will help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report and stop companies from trying to collect debts related to fraudulent activity.
6. File a police report. Bring the form you filed with the FTC to the police.
Trx Workouts Tips for Avoiding Tax Identify Theft
It's becoming ever more difficult to protect our identities, but here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family: