The changing landscape of healthcare has made preventive care and medical tourism more appealing, especially in light of rising healthcare costs and reduced access to healthcare providers among several populations, including the elderly.
Even if you’re not of retirement age or thinking about your golden years, the future of healthcare isn’t fully known. As it stands, the American Health Care Act 2017 could increase the number of uninsured people to 23 million over the next decade, mainly by cutting Medicaid for lower income citizens.
For those who do have insurance, one can expect premiums to decrease for younger, healthier and wealthier Americans, while older and poorer people would likely see premiums increase — if the bill is enacted.
A Growing Elderly Population
The elderly population will explode by 2050 and is expected to reach 83.7 million, which is double the number of aging adults in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Financial limitations can reduce the likeliness to receive care, especially for those with chronic health conditions.
Many senior citizens are living longer, more active lives than ever, yet there’s still a significant number of people who are figuring out how to get access to affordable healthcare.
Typically as you age, the need for regular medical testing usually increases. Routine screening tests and preventive measures are recommended for the elderly. Now is the time to proactively take care of your health and monitor changes in your body.
Preventive health services typically fit into three categories, according to Better Health While Aging.
- Physical health screenings check for certain types of cancer, plus high blood pressure and high blood sugar, which increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. Some patients don’t know they have a health problem until they go to the their doctor for a physical health screening that’s more in depth than an annual medical exam.
- Mental health screenings will catch symptoms that are often overlooked in routine annual exams. Patients will be asked about depressive symptoms, alcohol misuse and the potential for falls within the home.
- Administration of vaccines could reduce the risk of potential illnesses. The recommended vaccines for adults 65 and older are pneumonia, shingles, tetanus-diphtheria, and influenza.
Why Preventive Care Is Important
If someone is obese, for example, it’s much more helpful and less expensive to address the problem and prevent future health complications than if the same patient suffers a heart attack and still needs to change their lifestyle.
It’s not an easy thing to do for many people, but losing weight is one of the best things you can do for your health. Carrying too much weight contributes to risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, various types of cancer, and gallbladder disease.
Instead of getting reactive care that’s in response to an immediate health concern, the patient needs to be treated holistically and offered preventive care.
“This type of care has been proven to create lower mortality rates, better health and lower medical costs, leading to healthier and more economically stable communities,” says Dr. Sarah Chouinard in The State Journal.
Preventive care is about maintaining health and establishing a baseline health status. During a preventive visit, a doctor will decide what tests are appropriate based on factors such as your age, gender, personal history and any current symptoms and chronic health concerns. Health screenings, vaccines, lab work and x-rays may be part of preventive care.
Another preventive measure that isn’t often talked about is protecting oneself from STDs. Older Americans are continuing to see an increase in infection rates for sexually transmitted diseases, according to STD labs. Within a four-year period, those aged 50 to 70 saw a 38 percent increase in STDs. Have an open dialog with your doctor if you’re sexually active, even if you’re not worried about pregnancy.
Choosing Medical Tourism
Many people, young and old, are turning to medical tourism to help lower their medical bills. This growing trend is evidenced by the fact that 500,000 to 800,000 Americans a year get dental care outside of the U.S., mainly in Mexico or Costa Rica. Worldwide, more than 5 million patients have traveled to destinations across the globe, according to Patients Beyond Borders.
Dental clinics in foreign countries are just as good as American dental care and patients can expect to pay 40 to 80 percent less, according to an article in Trip Savvy.
Medical tourism in general is also much more available with commercial air ambulance services for qualified patients who are transferred by airplane.
A robust medical tourism industry reflects the need for a more affordable healthcare system — whether one has insurance or not.
The pursuit of good health is something all ages should strive for. The elderly population is the most vulnerable, but by taking advantage of preventive care or even traveling across the border for quality, affordable healthcare, patients are taking control of their lives. Until our healthcare system changes the way it does business, more people will be looking at alternative means than what’s currently available to them.