The best health tips for a boomer to achieve brighter golden years, as discussed in our previous article, focuses mainly on the need for one to have better health literacy skills. And this is because that the ability to interpret and to take the necessary actions stated by medical information will not only lead to better health, but an excellent way to secure one’s savings as well. As such, we’d like to continue promoting the need to improve health literacy and bring to light retirement solutions such as Medicare Supplement Insurance (also known as Medigap) at the same time. And in doing so, we hope that you and other readers may have a shot towards the future we all aspire and deserve to have.
A Brief Overview on Health Literacy in the Country
First, we’d like to reiterate some key information about health literacy. Defined by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Title V, as the scope of ability that a person has to gather, interpret, and make use of basic health information and procedures, health literacy is a skill that will definitely matter during the retirement years.
Yet, as essential as being able to integrate the use of health information in one’s life, a significant number of people in the country (77 million and rising) were recorded to have inadequate health literacy skills by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. This then leaves only 12% among the adult population in the country to have the required literacy skills to manage or prevent a disease.
To illustrate this further, here is the breakdown of health literacy levels compiled by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (as of the latest study done last 2003):
- Below Basic Level – 14%
- Basic Level – 21%
- Intermediate Level – 53%
- Proficient Level – 12%
Additionally, low health literacy was observed to be prevalent among those in the baby boom generation (especially those without insurance or Medicare or Medicare coverage), individuals with access to less education, and racial and ethnic groups. As such, we hope that by identifying and pointing at certain health literacy trouble spots, we’d all be able to see how a Medicare Supplement Insurance will be able to address the said issues.
Health Literacy Problem 1: Where to Get Information
One of the most common issues encountered when planning to improve one’s health literacy is the access and availability of proper health information. As mentioned by the same U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report above, adults from all sorts of health literacy levels use multiple sources to get information. However, adults with the most limited health literacy skill level have been observed to rarely make use of online resources to get health information.
Regardless of the medium used to get the information from (online, radio, television, etc.), the best way to understand or learn something new will come from the experts themselves. Information from doctors or health professionals has been observed to be a major source for individuals from all health literacy levels. Perhaps from the matter of trust or the labels associated, instructions from these experts are seen as legitimate and prized above other sources.
And Medigap plans can help people learn more about medical processes and the health care industry in general as well this way. Although information about these policies can be sourced out online, the best way still to get to comprehend the details of what a plan has to offer is from an insurance agent. And by connecting with an agent, an individual will not learn and find out which plan will best fit his or her circumstances – the opportunity to learn more about other medical details can further lead to more solutions that that person can take note of in the future.
To further point out the significance of consulting with a health professional or an insurance agent, let’s find out what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say on what a useful health information material needs to contain:
The material has to contain data backed by facts. And this has to be expressed in a way that the audience will understand, without losing the “voice” of a professional/medical standpoint.
No matter how it’s presented, the health information material has to be accessible for the target audience. Considering that online information may be the fastest way to learn something new, checking for references or other sources still is needed to be done by individuals. This is because digital information is prone to “false” news or reports – better safe to check than worry and regret about wrong information!
The most efficient health information material always instructs the reader on what to do. Accurate data provides the necessary details for an individual to be aware of, but instructions or additional guidelines need to be included to show what and how a person can manage a health issue.
Now, considering these three points and then searching for an expert to talk to will allow a person to have the right mindset in making a decision. Which, of course, is perfect when both looking for an appropriate insurance plan and improving on one’s ability to understand health instructions.
Health Literacy Problem 2: The High Cost of Care and Support
Poor health literacy skills not only are detrimental to one’s wellbeing but also in one’s finances as well. As reported by the American Medical Association, individuals who belong to this literacy in health skill level are:
- More likely to undergo emergency room procedures (wherein most procedures are unnecessary)
- More likely to have longer and frequent hospital stays
- More likely to have a higher mortality rate
- More like unable to commit to a treatment plan
As such, the factors mentioned above directly affects one’s savings. The out-of-pocket fees for retirement health care costs, as referred to in a CNN Money article, are already at a whopping $250,000 figure. Considering the additional hospital and treatment scenarios created by poor literacy skills will only increase the expected amount.
Applying for Medicare Supplement Insurance coverage may be the surefire way o counter this frustrating problem. By helping to pay for out-of-pocket costs not covered by Original Medicare Plans, Medigap policyholders are given both the peace of mind and security that their hard-earned cash isn’t compromised.
FYI: these out-of-pocket costs are also called “gaps,” which are basically coinsurance fees, copayments, and deductibles.
Health Literacy Problem 3: The Connection of Negative Psychological Effects
According to the study, Shame and health literacy: the unspoken connection (conducted by the Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA), individuals with limited health literacy skills experience shame when dealing with their skill level. Additionally, when considering that that individual is a boomer, the case of social isolation can be connected.
Combining the two ideas will then allow us to see the hurdle these individuals face. With the dread of not being able to comprehend health instructions and the helpless and fleeting emotion of having no available help, an individual is then left to his or her devices to manage a possible health disaster.
Of course, it all does boil down to that person’s circumstances, but a proactive approach of asking for help needs to be placed in one’s mind when dealing with insurance coverage and on improving one’s skill in health literacy. As mentioned in our first point above, the opportunity to speak with an expert will allow an individual to get the appropriate mode of treatment and coverage that he or she deserves.
And this is how we’d like to approach another Medigap benefit. The chance to be able to speak with an insurance agent is already valuable in terms of learning more about the health care industry, such as finding more about Medicare gap coverage and the like. But supplements for Medicare also offer a convenient experience for applicants:
Choose Who to Work With
Private insurance companies sell Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans. This allows applicants to shop around their area for a policy that will fit their budget, and to look for an agent they are comfortable working with.
Select a Plan
There are ten standardized plans to choose from – this means that applicants, through the guidance of an agent, have the option to select a plan that will best address their unique needs or preferences.
The convenience can further extend to better personal relationships or psychological benefits: Connecting with someone, even an insurance agent, can help brighten up one’s days; the opportunity to learn more about health procedures or coverage can be done in a lighter yet efficient manner together with an expert an applicant trusts.
Improving one’s health literacy skills and securing a better tomorrow through Medicare Supplements isn’t an overnight activity. In fact, it may mean a lot of work for a boomer. But the options above will give you and our other readers an idea on what to expect (or, perhaps, you are already experiencing it) for the golden years – and that expectation is already a form of getting interested in health literacy! We hope all the best for everyone!