If you're nearing retirement, planning for healthcare expenses is one key step of the process. And given its prevalence among older Americans, cardiovascular disease is one issue you may need to account for. Heart disease impacts nearly 70% of older men and women and collectively costs billions of dollars to treat every year. But you can reduce the financial burdens associated with this disease by planning early.
Health insurance considerations for heart disease risks
Both men and women suffer from heart disease at near-equal rates as they age, according to the American Heart Association, but middle-aged men are three times more likely than women to die from a heart attack or coronary heart disease. Hypertension is the primary cause of death for those suffering from heart disease, with men aged 45 to 64 twice as likely to die from it than women.
Aside from age, race plays a big role in the health outcomes of heart disease. Older Black Americans are 140% more likely to die from heart disease, while middle-aged Black Americans are twice as likely to suffer from strokes.
Health insurance is one of the chief ways Americans of all ages and ethnicities can mitigate the high cost of heart disease. For example, post-stroke care costs an average of $4,850 per month in the U.S. For most Americans, and especially those pulling only a retirement income, this kind of cost would be untenable.
However, at least one study has found that having health insurance significantly lowers the likelihood of dying from complications related to heart disease. Insurance commonly pays for preventive care, treatment and rehabilitation services, which significantly increases survival rates among people who suffered a stroke or other heart-related illnesses.
Older Americans nearing retirement who will lose their employer-sponsored health insurance may be concerned about coverage limitations resulting from pre-existing heart conditions or genetic history. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurers can't currently deny people with any pre-existing conditions. Those entering retirement age should explore all available health insurance options, including private health insurance and Medicare.
Get life insurance before you develop heart disease
Heart disease can cause medical emergencies or result in death at any time or place. As you age, it's important to consider how to financially protect your loved ones if you die early, or how to protect yourself should a sudden attack cause an accident that harms others.
Life insurance is an important element of financial planning, especially for Americans at risk of heart disease. However, acquiring life insurance may become more difficult if you have a pre-existing heart condition. Many life insurance providers will shy away from offering coverage if you have a diagnosed heart condition, especially if you're older and male. That said, you still have options.
If you're genetically predisposed to having a heart condition but you haven't developed one or been diagnosed with one yet, acquire a new life insurance policy as soon as possible — before your employer-sponsored policy expires. If you do have life insurance through an employer, you can likely roll it over into a private policy.
Alternatively, if you're nearing retirement and you've been diagnosed with a heart condition, you may need to acquire a simplified issue life insurance policy. These policies do not require a medical exam, but have the (expected) drawback of higher premiums and lower max death benefits.
Increase car insurance coverage
If there was ever a time to increase your car insurance coverage, it's when you discover you have a risk of heart disease or following a heart disease diagnosis. Most states won't hold you liable if you cause an accident due to a sudden medical emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke. However, some places, like Alaska, Hawaii, and New Mexico, do not recognize this defense. And if you were suffering from symptoms prior to an accident with time to pull over, or you had a pre-existing heart condition you were aware of, many states that do recognize sudden medical emergencies will not accept that defense at all.
Consider adding these coverages once you learn you're at risk of heart disease or develop a heart condition:
- Collision coverage
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage
- Medical payments (MedPay) coverage
Collision coverage pays for the costs associated with an accident, whether you run into another car or an object. Should you have a heart attack while driving and cause an accident, collision coverage will pay for your medical bills and repair costs, up to the policy's stated coverage limit.
PIP offers you and anyone in your vehicle additional financial protection in case injuries occur in an accident. Coverage typically includes medical expenses, but some policies may also cover loss of income and funeral expenses.
Medical payments coverage (MedPay) is designed specifically for medical bills and if necessary, extreme costs such as funeral expenses. This type of coverage may cost as little as $2 per month. MedPay and PIP won't protect you against liability — but if you're concerned about these potential costs, consider increasing your liability coverage limits.
Financial wisdom means risk mitigation
Heart disease is exceedingly common, and most Americans will develop a heart condition the longer they live. Statistically speaking, it's more of a "when" than an "if." That being the case, protect yourself and your family as you age.
Make sure you not only have health insurance but consider buying life insurance and take a look at your car insurance policy.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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