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Protecting Yourself From the Medical Costs of Disability

What can you do to guard against the risks of disability and high medical bills? Here are some tips from the experts.

Go over your health insurance policy. Don't just assume your coverage is good. Read the booklet your insurer sends. Ask your benefits advisor at work if you have questions.

Settling health insurance issues is important before you get sick. The health care reform law will prohibit insurers from denying people coverage because of preexisting conditions. But it won't take effect for adults until 2014.

Get disability insurance. See if you can get it through work. You should purchase it as soon as possible. Trying to get disability insurance when you're older -- or diagnosed with a health problem -- is a lot more difficult.   

Look into long-term-care insurance. It's not right or affordable for everyone. But long-term-care insurance will cover some of the costs if you become disabled and need home health care or a stay in a nursing home.

Improve your lifestyle. Take these commonsense steps to protect your health:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy diet and lose weight if needed.
  • Lessen your stress.
  • Get enough sleep.

Improving your lifestyle could dramatically lower your risk of many conditions, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

Even if you already have been diagnosed with a health problem, changing your habits can still have a big benefit.

Take an honest assessment of your risks and do what you can to lower them. That way you can help minimize the risk of a financial setback.

"Your income pays for everything -- your mortgage, your savings, your kids' college, and your retirement," says Barry Lundquist, president of the nonprofit Council for Disability Awareness. "Your ability to work is your greatest asset. You should do what you can to protect it."