Controlling Health Care Costs in Retirement

If you’re a Boomer, as I am, you should know by now that nothing our federal government promises can be counted on. They sent us into wars like Vietnam for reasons that never made any sense–and still don’t. They gave our veterans disgraceful treatment in the Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital. They have run our Social Security Trust Fund like it was their personal slush fund — any private business that spent, rather than invested, such a fund would be called a Ponzi Scheme and prosecuted.

In this economic “recession,” it’s a big question mark whether Social Security and Medicare will even pay us back the money we’ve paid in.

My point is that depending on the folks in Washington to control and actually reduce the health care costs for the average American is totally absurd. I don’t have to read the bill that’s being debated in Congress now to be able to tell you with full confidence: “It ain’t gonna happen!”

So, what are you going to do to limit your own need for expensive and possibly rationed health care services in the years of your retirement? Pray? Hope for the best? Move to some foreign country that offers reasonably-priced medical care?

You probably have heard that health care expenses are rising faster than any other cost you will face in retirement — and since the value of your stock portfolio and your home and your business are going down — how are you going to make ends meet?

Here are some tips to help you cut your health care expenses, if you can’t or won’t move to another country:

* Get serious about improving your health: Quit smoking, lose weight, manage stress, end toxic relationships

* Start a regular exercise program, such as taking a brisk walk for 30-45 minutes each day

* Look into converting to a vegetarian or vegan diet: Vegetarians live longer with less chronic disease

* Learn to use high-quality nutritional supplements to take the place of expensive drugs, under the care of a doctor familiar with nutritional medicine

* Find something to do that makes you happy

It’s not too late to make improvements in your health, if you’re still breathing. The very act of making an effort will make you feel better. Small improvements made daily can snowball into something significant over the many more years you have to live.

You can’t control health care costs. You can, however, influence your personal health from here on out. Don’t count on someone out there in Washington, DC, to miraculously make it all more affordable again. You will likely be disappointed.

Get busy on your own Health Care Plan B. Start today!

Pet Health Care Costs

One of the biggest things to keep in mind before deciding to purchase an animal is going to be the pet health care costs you’ll be facing. These costs differ dramatically between different types of pets and different situations. For instance, there’s probably no comparing the most dire medical costs for a hamster to even the most basic health costs of a horse. While we’d all like nothing more than for our pets to be entirely healthy and happy for all the years of their lives, we must operate under the assumption that something serious inevitably will happen, and that in such an event, we, as owners, must be willing to pay the resulting veterinary costs. So what kind of up front costs can you expect? What should you be prepared for? Read on to have your questions answered.

As you make your pet purchasing decisions, ask yourself how much pet health care cost you’re prepared to deal with. If your answer is “not very much,” it’s probably best to invest in a lower budget animal such as a goldfish or betta fish or a small mammal like a hamster or mouse. This is not to say that these animals will have perfect health and will never need to see the vet, but the likelihood of a fish or hamster incurring hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of medical care is slim. Unlike dogs, cats, or horses, a fish or small mammal doesn’t require yearly vaccinations or check-ups. If you’re on a budget, avoid any animal that’s considered “exotic” such as reptiles, amphibians, and exotic birds like parrots. Many times, these animals require special, difficult to find vets who charge more for their expertise. Research and plan before you buy!

While you may not have any up-front health costs for a hamster, fish, or other small animal, you have to consider the fact that your pet may take ill at some point. For fish, one of your biggest concerns will be a disease called Ich, which can be treated with a $10 bottle of solution from the pet store. For hamsters, mice, and other rodents, home-diagnosis is usually tricky, so a trip to the vet will be necessary. Most vets charge a flat fee for an office visit-that is, just for bringing your animal into the exam room. This fee varies from vet to vet, but expect to pay anywhere between $30 and $70 just for the visit, plus extra for whatever medication your pet might require.

For larger or more exotic animals, your pet health care costs will inevitably increase. Puppies and kittens alike must have 3 or 4 rounds of booster shots in their first few months of life. Depending on your vet, this set of vaccinations can run anywhere from $50 to $100. After the booster shots, your cat or dog will need a check up, vaccination, and rabies shot every year for the rest of their life. On top of that, you’ll need to have your dog or cat spayed or neutered around the age of 6 months. The cost of spaying or neutering depends upon the type of animal, and upon the animal’s gender. As spaying is far more invasive than neutering, it’s naturally going to be more expensive, and since dogs are generally larger than cats, the cost will be greater for dogs. Expect to pay between $50 and $100 to have a cat altered and between $70 and $200 to have a dog altered. Some cities offer low-cost spay/neuter clinics where you can get a considerably reduced-cost surgery–a feline neutering could be as little as $15 at a low-cost clinic!

As much as you don’t want to think about it, you must also factor potential major illnesses or emergency situations into your pet planning. A basic broken bone can rack up a bill around $1,000 for a dog or cat. A major internal surgery and stay at the vet could cost you upwards of $2000. Treatment for a chronic illness such as cancer could have you looking at numbers in the $1,000’s as well. Some animals may develop conditions that require daily medication, in which case you’ll have monthly costs to contend with that could be from $25 for a basic medication on up. For horses or other larger animals, add another zero to each of these cost estimates.

While owning a pet should never be reduced to a matter of numerical figures, the reality of pet health care costs must be dealt with before you bring an animal into your home. You owe it to yourself to be fiscally responsible, but moreover, you owe it to the living creature who is going to be depending on you for its every need.

Health Care Costs Are the Result of Bad Diet Choices

The Cost of Our Food Should be Measured in the Total food, Health Care, Energy, and Environmental Costs of What We Choose to Eat. Looked at this way, it is insane how much we are paying and future generations will be paying for our unhealthy diet pleasures. Meanwhile, half the world is starving and the other half remain overfed.

It is remarkable that the American public, as tight as money is, is so fearful about some unexpected health crisis popping up, that we are willing to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars per family each month for health insurance, which may get cancelled at the last moment anyway. This is a perfect example of how we have been conditioned to fear things we don’t understand.

Rather than taking the time to educate ourselves on how to eat to stay both thin and well, we allow ourselves to be manipulated by our fear of some nameless health catastrophe. And then, overcharged for high-tech solutions that treat only our symptoms. (To be fair to doctors, they can’t control what we eat.)

And yet, for all the “protection money” we spend, we are unwilling in most cases to do the things we are told by public health agencies that will prevent many of the most feared diseases. We pay exorbitant charges for health care insurance rather than correct our personal risk factors.

This being January, the month when most Americans decide to get serious about dieting for a week or two, it may be appropriate to look at how insane our dietary habits are.

The diseases that trouble us the most are caused by the junk we eat. Most of them can be prevented by correcting our diet–once and for all–and learning to ignore temptation. We should recognize slick advertisers of unhealthy foods as the Devil’s own representatives–and avoid their recommendations like the plague.

What we do instead, with the encouragement of our medical providers, is spend $70-100+ per month for a statin drug to allow us to go on eating bacon and eggs, meats, and ice cream, without worrying about our cholesterol levels. Would it not be simpler and healthier–and cheaper!–to stop eating extra cholesterol? But no, life in modern America wouldn’t be worth living without being free to graze on all the delectable goodies that food chemists concoct for us each day–or so we appear to think.

So, because 68% of Americans are overweight, which should be an easy problem to remedy with a little self-discipline, we are prone to become diabetic, suffer from cardiovascular disease, and several cancers. This we know. What are we going to do about it this year? Another bout with the Atkins diet? Or will it be some new diet that is guaranteed to be a marketing success and a weight loss failure?

Weight loss is generally viewed as a simple math problem. Usually, we’re given the old choice: We’ve either got to exercise a lot more or eat a lot less, but most dieters want to do neither one.

There is, however another option that most of us ignore with a passion. And that is changing WHAT we eat rather than limiting how much we eat. Specifically, we’re talking about cutting out meats, eggs, and milk products.

That is the key that few of us want to use to unlock the weight loss riddle. More than being a problem of eating too much, weight gain is caused by eating the wrong kind of foods. Anthropologists point out that our digestive systems are not set up to be carnivorous. But since McDonald’s and Pizza Huts even provide the food service in many public schools now–and have for some time–most of us find it hard to imagine life worth living without fast foods, fried foods, and junk snack foods.

We have been trained to eat the wrong foods and to expect someone else to solve the medical problems this creates. (And now, it looks like we will all be forced to buy health care insurance, whether we want it or not.)

Health care, as we currently see it practiced, is not the answer, though.

Until we are each able to see the part we play in allowing ourselves to be manipulated by advertisers to eat unnatural, unhealthy foods, we will not be ready to take the first step to permanent weight loss. Short term changes in what we eat, diet pills, and all the new crop of diet books will not produce the desired results until we learn to see how we have been duped by food processors and our government-subsidized industrial system of farming.

We need real food, grown in healthy soils, not colorful boxes of factory-farmed “foods” with minimal nutrients and maximal flavor additives. And, we need to stop eating animals and their by-products. The alternative is to continue to pay outrageous prices for continuing to eat as we do.

One option to the unrealistic expectation of converting the nation to organic farming methods overnight is to encourage everyone to supplement their diet with high-quality vitamin and mineral supplements. It makes sense that much of our overeating is an unconscious urge to get the vital nutrients that should be in our food but aren’t, due to depleted soils.

If it seems extreme to suggest we stop eating meat, other animal products(milk, etc.), and processed foods, don’t you think open-heart surgery, knee and hip replacements, kidney dialysis on a regular basis, chemotherapy, and Alzheimer’s Disease are extreme, too? Countries where the populations live on simple, naturally grown foods, with little meat in their diets rarely get the diseases we do. We should learn from them.

If, as 45-year cancer researcher T. Colin Campbell tells us, our diet is responsible for 97% of the diseases we get, then it is up to us to stop offering ourselves up as prey for the health care industry. Change your diet and you can change your medical fate.

The irony of this whole milieu of sickness, obesity, and high health care costs is that we are doing it to ourselves by what we choose to eat. As soon as we realize that fact, we can start doing something to reduce our weight and our health care expenses.

As a happy side-effect, changing our unhealthy diet will take a huge burden off our environment and be a good example for the rest of the world.