According to research from Fidelity Investments, retirees should expect to pay $295,000 for healthcare during their retirement years, and this doesn’t include the costs of long-term care. Guest speaker and author Philip Moeller says that while retirees can find many ways to lower their healthcare costs, it takes a lot of time and effort.
A major decision facing those turning 65 is whether to choose Traditional Medicare plus optional prescription drug and supplemental insurance or sign up for an all-inclusive Medicare Advantage plan. While premiums for Medicare Advantage may be lower, your choice of doctors, facilities and prescription drugs may be limited and out-of- pocket expenses could be higher.
People who aren’t committed to seeing specific physicians in person may save money by using telemedicine providers. If your physician is recommending medical procedures, get a cost estimate from your healthcare insurance provider, or use web sites that offer comparison pricing for these procedures.
For prescription drugs, don’t automatically have your physician send your prescription to a local pharmacy. Bring it there yourself and ask the pharmacist if lower-cost generic alternatives or discounts are available. Prescription drug price comparison web sites can help you find lower prices at local pharmacies and national buying clubs. You may also want to ask your physician to help you legally purchase prescription drugs from Canada, where prices are often significantly lower.
If you’re still working and your employer offers a Health Savings Account (HSA), try to take full advantage of this option. Contributions are pre-tax, and all withdrawals you make for qualified healthcare purposes are tax-free. While you can’t contribute to your HSA once you’re enrolled in Medicare, you can use the balance in your account to pay for most Medicare premiums, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses.
Finally, if these decisions seem overwhelming, look for help. Your state offers free counseling services to help evaluate your various Medicare options. If you’re friends with a retired nurse or doctor, see if they’re willing to serve as your healthcare advocate—and pay them for their time. And make sure you fill out a healthcare proxy form that gives someone you trust the legal authority to make healthcare decisions for you should you become physically or mentally capacitated.
For further research:
- State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) National Network: Find free Medicare counselors in your state
- Doctor on Demand and Teladoc: Online telemedicine sites and apps
- Rally and Healthcare Bluebook: These sites provide comparison pricing information for healthcare providers and medical procedures in your area
- GoodRx.com: Find the lowest local prices for prescription drugs
- Philip Moeller, Get What's Yours for Health Care: How to Get the Best Care at the Right Price