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Aussies living longer but tackling more illnesses

Aussies living longer but tackling more illnesses

Australians are living longer with one of the highest life expectancies in the world – which is great news for those who want to build up extra precious memories with their adult children and grandchildren, enjoy their retirement or even take that coveted round-the-world trip.

Of course, the trade-off isn't always that sweet. While Aussies are living longer, they've also got to contend with the risk of increasing chronic illnesses. 

Investment funds and rental properties can be smart ways to financially secure your future, but have you thought about protecting your health in the years to come?

Ageing and chronic disease

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Australian males have the sixth-best life expectancy in the OECD’s top ten countries for life expectancy at birth, while Australian females have the seventh-best life expectancy.

However, with an ageing population, other health risks emerge.

Chronic illnesses accounted for 90 percent of deaths in 2011 and are the leading cause of death, disability and illness, the AIHW stated in regards to its report entitled Australia's health 2014.

The cost of chronic illnesses

Many Australians have more than one chronic disease, and the numbers only increase with age, the AIHW explained.

The 2014 AIHW report highlighted the costs involved with chronic disease treatment – cardiovascular disease, mental disorders, musculoskeletal and oral health issues incurred $27 billion of direct health-care costs in 2008-09. This figure is a mammoth 36 per cent of allocated health care expenditure. 

The risk of chronic disease is a real one, and the costs are tangible proof of the impact on the health sector. 

Accordingly, you should start thinking about your health insurance options. While Medicare offers some free or subsidised treatments, many couples and families choose to take out private health insurance policies in addition to their Medicare entitlements.

Get the appropriate health care

According to Brian Owler, Associate Professor and Australian Medical Association President, treating health issues early is a sound approach. 

"Nearly 90 percent of Australians have a regular [general practitioner (GP)], and enjoy better health because of that ongoing and trusted relationship.”

“Family doctors are leaders in preventive health care, early diagnosis and treatment, coordinated care, and chronic disease management," Owler stated.

Accordingly, it's worth spending the time researching potential GPs. You want to see someone who can offer sound judgement and hear your concerns.

Consider your health care options

Medicare ensures all Australians get a minimum level of health care. However, there are limits. For instance, you can't choose your own doctor and you may not get to elect hospital admission dates, if such care is necessary. 

The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman notes that you won't be covered for private patient hospital costs or medical services that aren't clinically necessary.

If you get treated as a private patient in a hospital or need to consult with a specialist, the Medicare Benefits Scheme limits how much you're covered for. If you don't have private health insurance to cover the difference between your medical costs and Medicare entitlement, you may be left out of pocket and have to dip into your savings account to pay your hospital or general treatment fees.

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