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 drug interactions.

* 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 company.

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 [email protected].

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.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.