02/24/2020 Managing the Cost of Cardiovascular Disease

Allison Walsh

Managing the Cost of Cardiovascular Disease

Nearly one out of two adults in the United States has at least one risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke tobacco, have high cholesterol or suffer from high blood pressure, you are technically a part of this group. Unfortunately, there are other conditions that can also make cardiovascular problems more likely to occur, like having diabetes, eating an unhealthy diet, abusing alcohol, or being overweight or being sedentary.1

Once you know that you have a cardiovascular condition, the next step is figuring out how to manage it. While many people focus on eating healthier or working out more, there are other factors beyond your physical health to consider.

Have you thought of the way that a heart condition will affect your finances? Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be expected to pay a significant portion of the cost. By getting the most out of your healthcare insurance, using your supplemental insurance and finding ways to save money, you can make the financial cost easier to bear.

Cardiavascular stats

Every 37 seconds, someone dies from a heart condition. This chronic illness causes one out of four deaths in the United States. In a single year, the United States spends $219 billion on all of the health care services, lost productivity and medicine costs connected to this illness.1

The most common form of cardiovascular conditions is coronary heart disease. In 2017, coronary artery disease killed 365,914 people.2 An estimated 18.2 million adults have coronary artery disease. Meanwhile, researchers estimate that a heart attack occurs every 40 seconds. One out of five heart attacks is silent, which means that the person experiences it without realizing what has happened.1

The cost of cardiovascular conditions

 Each day, heart conditions like coronary artery disease and strokes cost the country $1 billion in lost productivity and medical costs. One out of every six health care dollars goes toward cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, these costs are only expected to increase. By 2030, researchers estimate that direct medical costs will reach $818 billion per year. Meanwhile, the economy will lose $275 billion from lost productivity.3

Each year, there are 1.5 million heart attacks.4  These heart attacks lead to $219 billion in lost productivity and health care costs.1  Business Insider’s The 35 most expensive reasons you might have to visit a hospital in the US — and how much it costs if you do listed several cardiovascular-related events and their related cost, showing that the average adult who had some form of cardiovascular-related expenses spent $4,279 on heart-related care.5[SGMT1] [WA2]  When you initially have a heart attack or get diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, the main focus is staying healthy and recovering.

Later, you may start to realize how fast the costs add up. If you have a heart attack, it can lead to expensive costs like hospital charges, ambulance fees, surgery costs and charges for diagnostic tests. Once you recover, you will still have to pay for the long-term maintenance of cardiovascular disease. These maintenance costs include the price of testing, medications and cardiologist appointments. There are also indirect costs caused by lost income and productivity.

Managing the cost

No one plans to have a cardiovascular event, but there are things you can do while you’re healthy to help mitigate the financial impact in the case that you do. First, make sure you have adequate health insurance.  Know what your policy covers before you need to use it. Next, consider adding supplemental insurance.

Remember, major medical doesn’t cover everything. Out -of -pocket health costs are skyrocketing for families, even those who have insurance coverage through their large employers.  Family annual contributions to insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses to cover health-related services have increased from an average of $4,617 to $7,726 over the past ten years.6  Deductibles are rising ten times faster than inflation, so the average worker is feeling tremendous financial pressure to keep up with healthcare costs .6

Disability insurance

Disability insurance, can help cover costs if you suffer from a heart-related condition. You’ve probably heard of worker's compensation, unemployment insurance and other government-sponsored insurance options. Disability insurance is similar: it is a kind of insurance product that can help if you undergo some form of disability or injury.

Many medium-sized and large-sized companies already offer a group disability income insurance policy as a part of the overall benefits package. Depending on your company, you may even get a short-term and long-term policy. If your work does not provide you with coverage, consider investing in income protection on your own.

A short-term policy can help you get cash immediately after an injury happens, but you may not need this option if you have a decent emergency fund. If you have some money saved away, then it may be better to focus on getting long-term insurance instead. Long-term policies are important because they help to manage your risk exposure over the long run.

To get a good deal on your disability insurance, consider the base benefit, benefit period, residual benefit, cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and elimination period. The base benefit is the amount of income you get if you undergo a qualifying injury.

The residual benefit represents the amount you will receive if you are still able to generate some of your income. If you do not get a residual benefit, then your insurer may force you to choose between working for a paycheck and getting disability benefits. Meanwhile, the COLA is important because your benefits need to keep pace with the cost of inflation.

Also consider your benefit period and elimination period. The benefit period is the maximum length of time that you can receive benefits from your insurance policy. Your policy's elimination period is also important because it shows the period of time you must be disabled before you can begin to receive benefits. In most cases, the elimination period is between 30 to 90 days. If you choose a longer elimination period, you will generally be able to get a lower premium.

An average claim for disability coverage lasts for 34.6 months.8  While it only covers 40 to 60 percent of your previous income, it is always better to have at least some income coming in while you heal. Since 53 percent of people do not have enough money to cover three months of their living costs, having any income coming in after a disability is an advantage.8  

Combined Insurance offers Income Protector to help when regular income is disrupted.

Other supplemental insurance products

Disability insurance isn’t your only choice to help protect against the costs of losing income. Combined Insurance offers other options like:

  • Accident and Sickness Protector pays directly to you if you are in the emergency room, going through recovery or confined in the hospital, and your accident or sickness is covered.
  • Critical Care Protector may help when you are diagnosed with a major illness or injury. It provides cash assistance if you are diagnosed with conditions like cancer, stroke, severe burns or kidney failure. Since many Americans currently struggle to pay their medical bills, this form of coverage is vital for families who need extra support.
  • SickPay Plus pays you in cash from the first day you are unable to work and are under a doctor's care. The cash payments last for up to six months.
  •  Income Protector allows you to replace lost income if you are disabled. It is not connected to your employment, so you can still work at a part-time job if you need to earn extra money.
  • Cancer Protector pays you a lump sum benefit if you are diagnosed with or treated for a covered cancer.

Other ways to manage

1. Ask for help

If you cannot afford the costs of your medical treatment, do not be afraid to look for financial help from charities. There are many charities out there that will help with costs like medication, food, transportation costs and day-to-day bills. The federal government also has a number of programs to help cover the cost of medical care.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid can cover many of your treatment costs if you fit each program's age and income requirements. Your state's health insurance marketplace can also help you find insurance coverage. Depending on your income, you may be able to qualify for subsidies that help you pay the cost of your insurance premiums.7 If you cannot get insurance through your employer, HealthCare.Gov can help you find out about the insurance plans and subsidies you may qualify for.

You can also look into getting other costs covered as well. Lifeline is a federal program that covers the cost of your phone line if you meet certain requirements. There are also programs available to help you cover the cost of your energy bill if you are struggling financially.

2. Save on the cost of medicine

 The cost of medicine can quickly add up. If you want to reduce the amount you spend on your medications, there are a few changes you can make.

  • Many medicines have generic options available. Even though they have a significantly cheaper price, they should work the same as the brand name option. To find out if there is a generic option you can use, you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Ask your doctor if it would be cheaper to take a different medication strength. Sometimes, medical companies charge less per milligram for a larger pill than they do for a smaller one. Once you get the larger dose, you can always cut it in half.
  • Remember that cutting medications in half is not always the best option. Sometimes, the tablets are designed to be taken whole because of the way their coating is made. In other cases, the pill is simply difficult to cut in half. Even if it turns out that you cannot actually split the pill in half, you can still ask your doctor to find out for sure.
  • Finally, it is also possible that you no longer need all of your medications. You may want to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all of the medications you take. It is possible that some of your current prescriptions are old, and you may be able to save money if you no longer need all of your prescriptions.
  • If you are on Medicare, you can use Medicare's online plan finder to see if there are drug plans that include lower prescription costs. Other than using less expensive medications, you can also use mail-order pharmacies as well. Your state may also offer support with paying your medication costs.

Prevention

Cardiovascular disease can be preventable. You can reduce your risks and alleviate current heart problems by adopting lifestyle changes. Even if you are already diagnosed with a heart condition, it is never too late to make changes in your life. You can start by getting more physical activity. This will help you reduce your blood pressure, lower your weight, improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your overall risk of cardiovascular disease. On average, you should spend at least 150 minutes a week doing some kind of moderate exercise.

Weighing yourself each day can help you spot the early warning signs of a heart-related problem. If your condition deteriorates, you will notice a sudden increase in your weight because of water retention. You should also take your medicine, avoid excess salt and eat a healthy diet. If you notice any new symptoms, you should immediately report them to your doctor.

In addition to exercise, you can also reduce your risk by eating a healthier diet. Avoid animal-based foods and unhealthy fat. Instead, focus on plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits and legumes. Reducing stress levels can also alleviate heart problems. Stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga and breathing exercises can help. If you currently smoke, quitting nicotine will improve your heart health.9  

With some planning ahead, support from your doctors, pharmacists, community and friends, facing heart disease can be a little easier. Contact a Combined Insurance sales agent today to learn more about our products.

Policies underwritten by Combined Insurance Company of America (Chicago, IL) in all states, except New York. In New York, Critical Illness policies underwritten by Combined Life Insurance Company of New York (Latham, NY). Combined Insurance Company of America is not licensed and does not solicit business in New York. Cancer policies not available in all states. Exclusions and limitations apply. See policy for complete details.

References:

1 Heart Disease Facts. (2019, December 2). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm. Accessed Feb 7, 2020

2  Benjamin EJ, Muntner P, Alonso A, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2019 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2019;139(10):e56–528.

3 Stinson, C., Stinson, C., & Stinson, C. (2015, April 29). Heart Disease and Stroke Cost America Nearly $1 Billion a Day in Medical Costs, Lost Productivity. Retrieved from https://www.cdcfoundation.org/pr/2015/heart-disease-and-stroke-cost-america-nearly-1-billion-day-medical-costs-lost-productivity

4 Cdc. (2019, October 10). Million Hearts® Costs & Consequences. Retrieved from https://millionhearts.hhs.gov/learn-prevent/cost-consequences.html

5 Michaels, M. (2018, March 1). The 35 most expensive reasons you might have to visit a hospital in the US - and how much it costs if you do. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/most-expensive-health-conditions-hospital-costs-2018-2#20-other-fractures-16

6 Tracking the rise in premium contributions and cost-sharing for families with large employer coverage. Retrieved from https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/brief/tracking-the-rise-in-premium-contributions-and-cost-sharing-for-families-with-large-employer-coverage/

7-Help with Bills. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.usa.gov/help-with-bills

8-Andrews, M. (2017, October 11). Why A Long-Term-Disability Policy Is More Important Than Pet Insurance. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/10/11/556946744/why-a-long-term-disability-policy-is-more-important-than-pet-insurance

9 Prevent Heart Disease. (2019, December 9). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/prevention.htm


 [SGMT1]The reference used is more recent, but I cannot find where in the article it states that the average adult spent that amount on heart-related disease. Please modify the sentence to reflect what the article says.

 [WA2]This is me adding up all the reported cardiac related expenses and averaging them.

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