As we age, our health care needs change, often becoming more prominent than our younger years. Aches and pains become constant, prescriptions pile up and doctor visits become more frequent. Just as we start to really need health insurance the options get slimmer and more expensive. In a real catch 22, new data shows that retirement benefits are decreasing due to rising health care costs.
Getting health care coverage in retirement can be costly, but it’s not impossible. There are also things you can do to decrease the overall cost of health care coverage once you reach retirement.
Rule #1 – See If You’re Eligible for Medicare
Medicare is a federal government insurance program for older Americans that covers 80% of allowable expenses. Those who are eligible for Medicare will have most of their health care needs covered for free or a low monthly premium. The main criteria for eligibility is age. You must be 65 or older to get Medicare.
Rule #2 – Take Out a Medicare Supplemental Plan
Retirees will still have to cover some expenses while using Medicare. You can reduce the out-of-pocket expenses with a Medicare Supplemental Plan, also known as a MediGap plan. If you’re already eligible for Medicare Part A and Part B you should be able to get a MediGap plan. There is a monthly premium, but for most people, the cost is lower than going without one.
Rule #3 – Start Planning for the Future Now
It’s never too late to start planning and saving for retirement – even if you’re already old enough to qualify for Medicare. In fact, younger people are encouraged to plan for retirement medical expenses without the help of Medicare, which is projected to run out of funds for Part A coverage in 2028.
If you’re still working and haven’t signed up for Medicare yet it’s a good idea to start a Health Savings Account (HSA). They come with major tax-saving advantages. Medicare recipients can’t add to an HSA, but they can use the tax-free money in the account to pay for medical expenses after the age of 65.
Rule #4 – Don’t Forget to Anticipate Cost Increases
One of the most common mistakes that people make when they plan for retirement is to not account for increases in medical expenses. On average, health care costs increase by 5% annually. However, in retirement years it’s better to plan for a 7% increase each year.
Rule #5 – Stop Smoking
One of the quickest ways to increase health insurance cost and life insurance premiums is smoking cigarettes. Smoking can lead to a number of chronic illnesses that cost a fortune over the long run. That’s why insurers increase premiums if you smoke.
Rule #6 – Take Advantage of TeleHealth Services
If you haven’t heard of telehealth services yet you soon will. In an effort to halt the increasing cost of health care, a number of new approaches and services are being offered. Instead of meeting with a medical professional in person you can communicate in real time using an interactive audio/visual telecommunication system on your phone or computer.
Next year, telehealth services will be made available in some states. Telehealth services will also be available to Medicare recipients.
Rule #7 – Stay Healthy
Last but not least, stay as healthy as possible. A new report from Fidelity estimates that the average couple will need $275,000 for medical expenses in retirement.
Good nutrition and lifestyle habits minimize the need for medical intervention now and in the future. Getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, hitting the recommended number of minutes of weekly cardio and eating a diet of whole foods is the easiest way to avoid chronic illness and reduce the cost of healthcare in retirement. Bonus – healthy habits also increase quality of life!
Rule #8 – Sign Up for a Wellness Program
If you’re still working see if your employer offers a wellness program. Sometimes employers will offer reduced health insurance to employees that join the program and work on maintaining good health. The money you save on health care costs can be put to retirement savings for added benefit. Another advantage of wellness programs is you can learn how to create healthy habits for the future.