This Father’s Day, I can’t help but think about the incredible men in my life. I have a father. He’s a terrific physician. I have a wise and talented brother. I have a wonderful husband and two amazing sons. Look, I may be a bit biased, but the one objective fact all the men in my life have in common is that they lead busy – some may say stressful – lives, compounded by the fact that they want to protect and care for their family.
I’ve noticed that these men often put other responsibilities ahead of their health and forgo doctor’s appointments. Is it any wonder, then, that men die significantly earlier than women? Given that widowhood so frequently pushes women into poverty, do you think this is the best way to protect your family? Does this hit a nerve? I have a request for my guys and for all of you men out there: Please take the time to take care of your health.
Now before you say that you are taking care of your health – because, after all, you go to the gym sometimes – agree to these two steps:
- If you don’t currently have health insurance, get coverage and encourage the people in your life to do the same.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014, all uninsured Americans – many of whom don’t have access to insurance through an employer – will be able to purchase insurance through health insurance marketplaces (also called exchanges). Whether you’re self-employed, between jobs or have been denied coverage, because of the ACA you will be able to shop for insurance and compare the benefits and costs of health plans side-by-side.
Think of shopping for your health coverage like shopping for a new car. All cars have the basics: wheels, an engine, brakes. Some cars are stocked up with special features – like a navigation system and heated seats. In a similar way, all of the insurance plans in the exchanges will offer a core package of benefits such as hospital, emergency, lab services and other care. Some plans will also offer other features on top of the essential benefits. As with car-buying, you want to be sure you are getting a good deal – the right deal for you and your family. When you shop in a health insurance marketplace, you can search for the best plan at the best price to meet your health needs, and you won’t be turned down because you have a pre-existing health condition.
In the health insurance marketplace:
- You’ll be able to see what your premium, deductible and out-of-pocket costs will be before you decide to enroll.
- You’ll be able to see apples-to-apples comparisons of costs and coverage between health insurance plans.
Plus, depending on your income, you may be eligible for some help – tax benefits that will lower your monthly insurance premium. Information about coverage options through the marketplace will be available beginning in October 2013. Today you can visit the Health Law Guide at www.aarp.org/healthlawguide to find more about what the health law means for you and your family.
- Get screened.
Men, once you have health insurance, there is no excuse to delay visits to the doctor. If you are 50 or older, it’s important to have an honest dialogue with your doctor, even if it touches on sensitive subjects such as prostate and colorectal health. Your doctor can recommend screenings that are right for you. Because of the ACA, most insurance plans, including Medicare, must now cover preventive benefits, such as immunizations like the flu shot, and screenings for diabetes and certain cancers. Be sure to check with your insurance plan about what preventive services are covered with no out of pocket cost to you. Remember: when you are getting a preventive medical test, you are not just doing it for yourself. You’re doing it for your family and loved ones.
The rest is up to you
Taking care of your health and prolonging your life is one of the best ways you can protect and care for your family. Now that you have a lead with health insurance, the rest is up to you. And don’t forget to eat your vegetables!
Gadgets for Guys
Health Law Guide: Use AARP’s online Health Law Guide at www.aarp.org/healthlawguide to learn about the benefits and protections you get through the health law and how the law will apply to you and your family. The Health Law Guide is also available in Spanish (http://www.aarp.org/guiadelaleydesalud). Bookmark this website and come back for updates as the law is phased in.
Doughnut Hole Calculator: If you have Medicare Part D, you may be at risk of falling into the coverage gap, or “doughnut hole.” Check out this four-step tool that may help you save money. In English: www.aarp.org/doughnuthole or Spanish: http://calculadoramedicare.aarp.org/.
Nicole Duritz, is Vice President of Health at AARP, leads the Association’s member and consumer health education and outreach program, which includes work on issues such as Medicare, new health care law, prescription drug affordability, long-term care, prevention and wellness, and wise use of medications.