The health costs of ageing parents

The health costs of ageing parents

Last updated on 12th December, 2017 at 05:11 pm

People are living longer than ever before, so no matter how carefully your parents have planned for the future, you may have to assist them financially – and this will include the costly exercise of health care.

Given that elderly people are more prone to chronic conditions and other age-related illnesses, healthcare can become very expensive. We look into ways to make the most of your private healthcare…

Prescribed minimum benefits

People tend to develop conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or cholesterol problems as they grow older. These conditions often require ongoing medication, which does not come cheaply. As a result, the government has legislated for prescribed minimum benefits (PMBs). This is a list of 270 conditions which, by law, even the most basic of medical aids have to cover. So regardless of what form of medical cover you and your parents choose, at least their chronic medication is paid for.

Make them a dependant

Firstly, most open enrolment medical aids will allow you to add your parents to your membership as a dependant, as long as you can prove that you or your dependant spouse support them financially. But there are also some consequences. If this is the first time your parents have joined a medical aid, or it’s been a long time since they were members of one, they will be subject to late-joiner fees, which will increase your premiums. And besides the normal three-month waiting period when they become members, they may have to wait a full year before they can claim if they have a pre-existing condition (excluding PMBs) such as cancer.

Pensioners medical aid options

The other option is for your parents to have their own medical aid plan. Today, there are several inexpensive plans offered by medical aids, based on your parents’ income. To make this option affordable, the medical aid provides a network of private practitioners or hospitals that have to be used by members. This could, however, pose a problem if none of the network’s service providers are close to where your parents live.

Hospital plans

Hospitalisation and specialised care are costly aspects of healthcare, so at the very least your parents will need a hospital plan as they age and the risk of illness grows. This type of plan generally covers all in-hospital care, as well as PMBs.

Hospital cash-back plans

We’ve all seen the ads on TV for policies that pay out cash while you are hospitalised, but it’s important to remember that this is insurance, so unlike medical aid, the assurer is not obliged to take you on as a client if the risk is too high. And with elderly people, they are even more reluctant, so if your parents can get this type of insurance, the premiums are likely to be pretty hefty. The reality is many of us are going to have to contribute to our parents’ upkeep. It’s worthwhile looking into medical scheme options before it gets to the point where they really need it, and the choices are limited.

By Nicci Botha

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