It’s no secret that, as we age we can expect our health to deteriorate. Given this cautionary fact and coupled with the events that COVID-19 has brought to our shores, it’s imperative that you have adequate health insurance cover if and when you need access to top-quality healthcare. It’s certainly possible for pensioners and retirees to afford medical insurance. Bloom Financial Services and Health4Me explain how and why the elderly should definitely consider taking health insurance. Find out what you need to consider when you’re looking for health insurance for your parents, older relatives or even for yourself, if you’re over the age of 65.
What is health insurance?
Health insurance is an affordable alternative to a medical aid plan. It covers a list of preselected benefits with a monetary value attached to each of them. Health insurance has been designed to cater for those in a lower income bracket or those who are living on a fixed income.. It’s best for day-to-day medical expenses, accident and emergency cover and limited hospital cover. The medical insurance plans are serviced through a network of approved providers.
Why it’s so important to have health insurance if you’re elderly
Having access to quality healthcare is very important. Quality healthcare is very expensive if paid out of pocket. One must consider that the expenses that come with a serious illness or a chronic condition can quickly drain all your personal savings. Don’t be left in the position of having to abandon medical care because you can’t afford the proper life-saving treatment. While medical insurance premiums can seem like an unnecessary monthly expense, it will save you money in the long-run.
Common medical conditions that affect the elderly
Take a look at some of the common medical conditions that afflict the elderly, which should be reason enough to make sure your loved ones are taken care of when they need healthcare.
Arthritis is the breakdown of tissue inside the joints, which restricts movement and causes pain and inflammation. Osteoarthritis is particularly common amongst the aged, which is caused by the gradual decline of the joints over time. While there is no cure for arthritis, treatments like painkillers and corticosteroids can assist in managing the condition.
2. High blood pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when your blood pressure increases to an unhealthy level. This refers to the amount of blood that is passing through your blood vessels and the amount of resistance the blood meets while the heart is pumping. High blood pressure is caused by the narrowing of the arteries and, if left untreated, can cause damage to blood vessels, organs, brain, heart, and eyes. It is also the leading cause of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. High blood pressure is extremely common amongst older people who may need to take chronic medication to manage the condition.
3. Asthma and respiratory infections
Asthma occurs when one’s airways become inflamed causing the muscles in the airways to tighten, which restricts breathing. The can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, and a tight sensation in the chest area. Those who suffer from severe or chronic asthma may need to use an asthma pump/inhaler or take chronic medication. Elderly people are also prone to respiratory infections, like chronic bronchitis, which weakens the lungs.
4. Vision/sight impairment
Age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetes can all contribute to loss of vision or impairment, which are common in older people. Treatments include surgery, like cataract removal, wearing prescription spectacles, using eye drops, or laser treatment.
There are more than 200 types of cancer and the Cancer Association of South Africa confirms that more than 11 million people die from cancer each year. Some types of cancer are more prevalent in the elderly. These include breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and bowel (or colorectal) cancer. Recovery and survival rates are increased by early detection and an effective treatment plan.
6. Coronary heart disease
This is a disease that occurs when the arteries, which supply oxygen and blood to the heart, become too narrow. The cause is often cholesterol build-up on the artery walls, which obstructs the blood flow and causes serious health problems, like high blood pressure or even a heart attack.
Dementia is a condition often found in older adults where their thinking, memory, and social capabilities become impaired. Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia are some of the most common causes of dementia, which includes memory loss, difficulty communicating, inability to organise or plan activities, difficulty with reasoning or problem-solving, and a lack of coordination. Specialised treatment and care is required for those living with the condition.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. If left untreated, diabetes can affect your kidneys, eyes, nerves and other internal organs. People who have been diagnosed with diabetes need to take chronic medication to manage their condition.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that can cause seizures. It’s a condition that’s prevalent amongst children and adults over 65 years of age. It’s caused by head injuries, tumors, strokes or infections.
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes one’s bones to become weak and brittle, which means that a minor fall could result in a serious bone fracture. The disease is most prevalent amongst older women who have experienced menopause because they lose bone density. While medication can help with the condition, it also helps to undertake muscle-strengthening and weight-bearing exercises and to follow a healthy diet and take vitamin supplements.
11. Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic and progressive nervous system disorder that affects the brain and movement. The disease commonly affects those over the age of 60. Symptoms include a tremor or shaking of the limbs (especially in the hands), slowed movement, impaired posture or balance and loss of automatic movements, like blinking.
A stroke occurs when blood supply to your brain is interrupted, preventing the brain from receiving oxygen. Arteries that carry oxygen and nutrients to the brain can become blocked, which means that the brain is deprived of blood. During a stroke, parts of the brain can be left permanently damaged, which will have lifelong consequences. The risk of having a stroke increases with age.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood. High LDL or “bad” levels of cholesterol can increase one’s risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. This is because cholesterol deposits, called plaque, narrow the lining of the arteries. While there are a number of risk factors associated with high cholesterol, like smoking and poor diet, one of the main reasons is old age. This is due to the fact that the body’s internal organs, like the liver, are no longer able to function as well when it comes to removing LDL from the body.
14. Deep vein thrombosis
People who are over the age of 60 are also at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is when a blood clot develops in your leg, causing severe swelling and pain. DVT is a serious condition because the clot can break loose and travel through the blood streams to the lungs where it can cause a pulmonary embolism.
Which health insurance plan is best for a pensioner?
When it comes to choosing health insurance, it all comes down to your individualised healthcare needs and your personal budget.
The Health4Me Bronze health insurance plan is the entry-level option that is generally better suited for healthy, single people with no dependents and who don’t have any chronic conditions.
The Health4Me Silver health insurance plan is the more balanced option that could be the right choice for families as it offers day-to-day benefits, some specialist benefits like dentistry, and in-hospital cover.
The Health4Me Gold health insurance plan is the premium medical insurance option that offers the most comprehensive cover, including specialist visits and in-hospital benefits. This is our most popular option and is the best plan for those who have chronic medical conditions and who may need to visit a specialist or receive chronic medication.
How much does health insurance for pensioners cost?
The Health4Me Bronze health insurance premiums start at R447 per month.
The Health4Me Silver health insurance premiums start at R483 per month.
The Health4Me Gold health insurance premiums start at R524 per month.
Can I get health insurance if I’m over 65 years of age?
Yes, you can get health insurance regardless of your age.
Bloom’s trained brokers can help you find the right health insurance plan for people over the age of 65 years. Alternatively, we can advise people who would like to put their parents on the health insurance plans. Contact us and we’ll be happy to explain the fine print.
Medical Content Disclaimer
You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom Financial Services website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.