Welcoming a new year typically spurs an eagerness for a fresh start. For many of us, this is especially true in 2021. While the COVID-19 pandemic remains, the start of a new year rekindles a sense of hope – and renewed motivation for initiating healthier changes in our lives.
Have you made New Year’s resolutions this year? In more “normal” times, some of the most common might include a commitment to lose weight, exercise more and save money. This year, exercising outdoors may be on your list. But making big changes is easier said than done — less than 10% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions for more than a few months.
One practical approach to turning your resolutions into healthier behaviors is to use readily available tools that could give you an edge in your quest to stay motivated and on track to attaining your goals for the year ahead.
You might be surprised to learn that those tools can be found in your Medicare benefits. Read on to learn how maximizing your benefits could help you achieve some of the most common New Year’s resolutions.
Resolution No. 1: Lose weight and get fit
No resolutions list would be complete without this one, and for good reason. It’s typically around late December when the stark reality sets in: All that holiday overindulgence, and perhaps too many months of inactive isolation, have officially tipped the scales and padded our waistlines.
Exercise is a key part of the equation if you want to get stronger and truly feel your best. Even in the winter months, you can head outside for a brisk walk, hike in the woods or just play in the snow with the grandkids.
And if you’re enrolled in a Medicare plan, many offer benefits to help encourage an active lifestyle. For example, eligible UnitedHealthcare Medicare plans offer RenewActiveTM, which provides access to an extensive, nationwide network of gyms and fitness locations. The program also offers access to local wellness classes and events, and to support staying healthy from the convenience of home, offers access to thousands of workout videos and an online brain health program from AARP Staying Sharp® – all features that could have you well on your way to a stronger and more energized you.
Resolution No. 2: Make 2021 your healthiest year yet
A recent CDC survey found that early in the pandemic, 40% of adults had delayed or avoided medical treatment due to COVID-related concerns. Some preventive services dropped by up to 90%. But with staying in optimal health taking center stage, now is an especially important time to prioritize these vital health appointments.
Fortunately, Medicare is designed to make it as affordable as possible to get the preventive care you need. And that can make a huge difference to your health and well-being by catching health issues early, when they’re usually easier to treat.
Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers an annual wellness visit as well as some preventive screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Your annual wellness visit is a good opportunity to sit down with your doctor and develop a plan to help you achieve your best health in the year ahead.
In addition to services covered under Original Medicare, many Medicare Advantage plans provide additional benefits, such as a full annual physical as well as dental, hearing and vision coverage. Some plans will schedule doctor visits for you and bring preventive care right into your living room through in-home care appointments, like UnitedHealthcare’s HouseCalls program. And nearly all plans offer additional telehealth benefits for 2021, which can help address minor health concerns through a video chat with a doctor or nurse. Many Medicare beneficiaries have become comfortable with telehealth; nearly half of all Medicare primary care visits were telehealth visits last April, compared with less than 1% before the pandemic.
By getting these appointments out of the way early in the year, you’ll get the dual benefit of peace of mind plus the entire rest of the year to implement the plan you developed in partnership with your doctor. It’s a win-win.
Resolution No. 3: Save more money/Get out of debt
Did you go all-in with your holiday shopping this year? All those gifts you bought may have left your January credit card statements extra-lengthy. And life can get expensive any time of year, particularly as our health care costs creep up as we get older.
With Original Medicare covering only about 80% of your Part B expenses for services like doctor visits and lab tests, that remaining 20% you’re responsible for covering can really add up, especially when you consider that there’s no annual limit on those out-of-pocket costs. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why enrollment in Medicare Advantage has doubled over the past 10 years.
Fortunately, most people can save money on health care in a variety of ways. If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, keep the following tips in mind:
- Take advantage of cost savings on prescription drugs. Most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage, and many offer home delivery pharmacy benefits that can be a great way to save money – not to mention trips to the pharmacy. For example, most UnitedHealthcare plans offer $0 copays for tier 1 and tier 2 drugs ordered through the OptumRx® home delivery pharmacy.i Some plans allow you to order a three-month supply of medication for a lower cost than you would pay if you got the same supply at a local drug store. And if your doctor prescribes a high-cost medication, ask if a cheaper alternative is available that could work just as well, such as a generic or a drug on a lower tier of your plan’s formulary (the list of covered drugs).
- Choose doctors and hospitals that have a relationship with your plan. Most Medicare Advantage plans work with a group of doctors and hospitals to coordinate their members’ care. Plans negotiate lower reimbursement rates with these doctors and hospitals, which means members pay a lower cost when they access care. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer out-of-network coverage, but your costs for your care are usually higher. So staying in-network when you need care is one of the best things you can do to manage your health care costs.
- Look for extra plan discounts on everyday health care items and services. You might be able to rack up savings by taking advantage of discounts your plan offers on things you already use or need, such as vitamins or hearing aids. You may save thousands of dollars a year just by taking advantage of your plan’s hearing aids discount given that Original Medicare doesn’t cover the cost.
Resolution No. 4: Less stress. More happiness.
What does Medicare have to do with maintaining a resilient mindset? As it turns out, more Medicare Advantage plans are taking a keen interest in helping members manage their emotional well-being, given the direct correlation between our mental health and our physical health. So check to see if your plan offers any resources to help members manage their stress.
For example, Renew by UnitedHealthcare is designed to support members’ efforts to live a happy, healthy life. As part of the experience, members can access a wide variety of articles, videos and other online tools that can help them infuse more positivity into their life. For a taste of what the program offers, check out www.RenewPositivity.com, where you’ll find everything from positive messages and photos to brighten your day to music playlists that can enhance your mood.
Resolution No. 5: Kick the habit
If you smoke, you know you should quit. Make 2021 your year! Medicare covers up to eight face-to-face visits per year with a doctor or other health care practitioner who can provide counseling to help you make cigarette and other tobacco use part of your past. That personalized, one-on-one attention can make a big difference. You may even be able to complete these visits via the comfort of your own home, through telehealth. So if you’ve tried to quit on your own in the past but struggled, consider taking advantage of these free counseling sessions.
The bottom line
Rather than rely on sheer willpower alone, put those Medicare benefits to use to help you stay on track toward your goals. When you live out 2021 as a happier and healthier version of yourself, you’ll probably wonder why you waited so long to make Medicare your secret weapon in conquering your resolutions once and for all.
To find a UnitedHealthcare plan that offers these services, visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com.
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in the plan depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare. This information is not a complete description of benefits. Contact the plan for more information. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits may change on January 1 of each year.
Participation in the Renew Active™ program is voluntary. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine. Renew Active includes standard fitness membership. Equipment, classes, personalized fitness plans, caregiver access and events may vary by location. Certain services, classes and events are provided by Affiliates of UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or other third parties not affiliated with UnitedHealthcare. Participation in AARP® Staying Sharp® and the Fitbit® Community for Renew Active is subject to your acceptance of their respective terms and policies. AARP Staying Sharp is the registered trademark of AARP. AARP Smart Driver is the trademark of AARP. UnitedHealthcare is not responsible for the services or information provided by third parties. The information provided through these services is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a doctor. The Renew Active program varies by plan/area. Access to gym and fitness location network may vary by location and plan. Renew Active premium gym and fitness location network only available with certain plans.
Renew Active by UnitedHealthcare is not available in all plans.*
HouseCalls may not be available in all areas.
*Refers to UnitedHealthcare’s standard Medicare Advantage plans (i.e., non-special needs plans).