Remember the good old days of health care, eight or nine years ago?
When you got sick, all you had to worry about was being sick. You went to the doctor or hospital, flashed your insurance policy, which was heavily subsidized by your employer; paid a modest deductible, and started down the road to recovery.
Good times, and long gone. Medical costs continue to skyrocket, taking insurance rates along for a ride that has prompted many companies to raise employee contributions and deductibles to levels that no one considers “reasonable.” This national crisis – and yes, I do think that’s the right word — will almost certainly get worse before it gets better – if it ever does get better.
The demand for health care services is already outstripping supply. Soon that system will need to accommodate the enormous number of Americans who will be extended health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Adding to the strain and cost: the millions of baby boomers who drank, smoke, and ate their way through the past 50 years. My doctor recently told me he fears the cost of caring for boomers into their 80s and 90s could cause our health care systems to simply collapse.
What can you do to minimize the impact on your wallet and retirement? I suggest a strategy you’ve heard from me a hundred times: Commit to a goal, make a plan to achieve that goal, and budget appropriately. This time I’m not talking about a financial goal, rather a health and fitness objective.
Ben Franklin said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Every minute you spend working to resolve your current health issues, pursuing fitness goals or learning how to live a healthier life could pay off in significantly reduced medical costs down the road. Get with your health professional and decide what issues you need to address. Once you’ve set those goals there are endless resources to help you make a plan to achieve them – books, websites, DVDs, personal trainers, nutritionists and more.
You’ll need to budget both money and time to support your efforts. You don’t need an expensive gym membership or personal trainer to get in shape, especially if you are just getting started. Walking, jogging, biking and hiking are just some examples of effective and inexpensive ways to shape up. Making time to engage in such activities on a regular basis, might prove more difficult, but if you’re committed, it will happen.
Ditto with making other healthy changes. Breaking life-long habits is hard, but when you invest in eating better or living without cigarettes, the dividends start almost immediately and last for a lifetime – often a much longer, more enjoyable lifetime.
Gossip about soaring homes values used to be common at the coffee machine. Now, we grouse about the out-of-pocket on young Jake’s broken arm and the ugly news in the boss’ latest memo about the upcoming changes to the insurance coverage.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was more conversation about everyone’s journey to a healthier life? That would be a change we could bank on.