Chronic health conditions affect many different aspects of life, including how you shop for a Medicare plan. The good news is that Medicare plans often cover care and treatments to manage your chronic conditions and symptoms. By learning about your own health needs, you can be sure to select an insurance plan that covers the treatments you need.
How Chronic Conditions Affect Medicare
There are 21 diseases and ailments that the U.S. government classifies as chronic health conditions. They include Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, depression, and hypertension. These chronic conditions are not uncommon. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 78% of adults ages 55 and older have at least one chronic condition, and 47% have at least two chronic conditions.
Because chronic conditions are so common, Medicare programs have been developed to allow for treatment and management of these conditions. Original Medicare will not deny coverage to people with these diseases, and it does cover treatments for these diseases.
While Original Medicare does cover chronic conditions, it’s not necessarily the best choice for every patient. Many private insurance companies also offer Medicare-based health plans, and often, these plans are better suited to individuals with chronic health conditions. These private plans usually cover more incidental expenses than Original Medicare. For example, they may cover in-home care, nutritional counseling, and meal services. Some even cover transportation to and from doctor’s appointments for patients with certain conditions.
Because there is such variability in coverage between private Medicare plans, patients with chronic health conditions should shop around and see which plan offers the best coverage for their particular needs. Those with more serious diseases, such as end-stage renal disease or COPD, may also want to consider a Special Needs Plan. These plans are available to those enrolled in both Medicaid and Medicare. They offer additional coverage for the more advanced and in-depth treatments that more seriously ill patients often need.
The Importance of Managing Chronic Conditions
When patients have a Medicare plan that adequately fits their needs, they are more likely to manage their chronic conditions properly. For example, someone with arthritis whose Medicare plan covers over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications is more likely to take those anti-inflammatory medications.
Why is managing one’s chronic conditions so important? For one, properly managing chronic conditions often slows their progression or prevents them from worsening. A patient with diabetes, for instance, needs to eat a proper diet and test their blood sugar to prevent more serious consequences like diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy. This care does not just benefit the patient, either. By offering coverage that allows patients to better manage their health conditions,
Medicare saves money on more expensive treatments later on. It’s less expensive to pay for osteoporosis medications than for a hip replacement surgery several years later.
Managing chronic conditions also allows patients to live an overall healthier lifestyle. Patients whose asthma, arthritis, or high blood pressure is under control are more likely to get regular physical activity and prepare their own healthy meals. This can help keep their condition from worsening, and it can prevent or delay the onset of other chronic health conditions. Regular physical activity is also important for mental health, especially in older adults.
Chronic health conditions do not have to keep you from enjoying a healthy, active lifestyle, and they should not prevent you from receiving Medicare coverage. The goal is to find a Medicare plan that covers more of the treatments and services your chronic condition requires. With this coverage, you’ll be better able to afford the care you need, which will keep you active, healthy, and vibrant as you age.