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By Jennifer Williams
President J Williams Personal Financial Planning 

A woman's guide to health care in retirement – Part 1

Jennifer's Thoughts

 

At any age, health care is a priority. But when you retire, you should probably focus more on health care than ever before. That's why it's particularly important for women to factor in the cost of health care, including long-term care, as part of their retirement plan.

How much you'll spend on health care during retirement generally depends on a number of variables including when you retire, how long you live, your relative health, and the cost of medical care in your area. Another important factor to consider is the availability of Medicare. Generally, you'll be eligible for Medicare when you reach age 65. But what if you retire at a younger age? You'll need some way to pay for your health care until Medicare kicks in. Your employer may offer health insurance coverage to its retiring employees, but this is the exception rather than the rule. If your employer doesn't extend health benefits, you may be able to get insurance coverage through your spouse's plan. If that's not an option, you may need to buy a private health insurance policy (which could be costly) or extend your employer-sponsored coverage through COBRA.

Medicare

As mentioned, most Americans automatically become entitled to Medicare when they turn 65. In fact, if you're already receiving Social Security benefits when you're 65, you won't even have to apply--you'll be automatically enrolled in Medicare. However, you will have to decide whether you need only Part A coverage (which is premium-free for most retirees) or if you want to also purchase Part B coverage.

Part A, commonly referred to as the hospital insurance portion of Medicare, can help pay for your inpatient hospital care, plus home health care and hospice care. Part B helps cover other medical care such as physician services, laboratory tests, and physical therapy. You may also choose to enroll in a managed care plan or private fee-for-service plan under Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) if you want to pay fewer out-of-pocket health-care costs. And if you don't already have adequate prescription drug coverage or belong to a Medicare Advantage Plan, you should consider joining a Medicare prescription drug plan offered in your area by a private company or insurer that has been approved by Medicare.

Unfortunately, Medicare won't cover all of your health-related expenses. For some types of care, you'll have to satisfy a deductible and make co-payments. That's why many retirees purchase a Medigap policy.

Medigap

Unless you can afford to pay out of pocket for the things that Medicare doesn't cover, including the annual co-payments and deductibles that apply to certain types of services, you may want to buy some type of Medigap policy when you sign up for Medicare Part B. In most states, there are 10 standard Medigap policies available. Each of these policies offers certain basic core benefits, and all but the most basic policy (Plan A) offer various combinations of additional benefits designed to cover what Medicare does not. Although not all Medigap plans are available in every state, you should be able to find a plan that best meets your needs and your budget.

When you first enroll in Medicare Part B at age 65 or older, you have a six-month Medigap open enrollment period. During that time, you have a right to buy the Medigap policy of your choice from a private insurance company, regardless of any health problems you may have. The company cannot refuse you a policy or charge you more than other open enrollment applicants.

Long-term care

Long-term care refers to the ongoing services and support needed by people who have chronic health conditions or disabilities. Long-term care can be expensive. An important part of planning is deciding how to pay for these services.

Article courtesy of Forefield. Securities offered through NPB Financial Group, LLC. A Registered Investment Advisor/Broker-Dealer Member FINRA, MSRB, and SIPC.

 
 

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