Life tends to get better with age, although this is not the case when it comes to paying for the cost of healthcare. An increase in life expectancy, prescription drug costs and medical insurance work together to push the average cost of healthcare to the point where it quickly becomes a financial burden for many retirees. Fidelity Investments estimates that a retired couple, both age 65, can expect to spend $245,000 on their healthcare needs during their retirement.
Having Medicare benefits does not necessarily make the average cost of healthcare decrease as the benefits tend to be inefficient in fully covering all of the costs that factor into a healthcare plan. The average cost calculation also does not take additional financial responsibilities, such as paying for a nursing home or long-term private home care, into consideration. Here is a look at the various factors that impact the average cost of healthcare for retirees.
Retirement Healthcare Calculations External factors, such as pre-retirement savings, retirement income and insurance coverage details play a part in arriving at the average cost for retirement healthcare. Retirement healthcare calculations also take the additional costs of other insurance policies into account when arriving at an average cost figure. These costs include payment for dental or vision insurance, any co-payment a person will make and out-of-pocket medical expenses that insurance policies fail to cover.
Certain factors such as life expectancy, prescription medication needs and insurance policy premiums are set according to geographical location, age and current health condition, making it difficult to calculate the exact amount of retirement healthcare across the board. Life expectancy is a substantial variable in the calculation of healthcare costs. Financial analysts and healthcare providers can not determine how long a person will live. For that reason, accurate retirement healthcare costs, down the the last cent, is a figment of the imagination and the primary reason why average cost calculations exist.
What Makes Retirement Healthcare Costly One of the most significant factors that impacts the cost of retirement healthcare is the insurance policies. Most people that are of retirement age maintain a personal health insurance policy with a premium payment amount that steadily increases year after year. When they reach the qualification age for a Medicare policy, they face additional insurance costs as not all parts of a Medicare policy are inexpensive.
Medicare insurance consists of four different parts, with one part being inexpensive and the remaining three parts being an out-of-pocket insurance medical expense. Under a Medicare Part A policy, people make the premium payments through payroll tax deductions during their years of pre-retirement employment. Failing to make those payroll tax deductions requires a monthly premium payment of approximately $411 each month to receive hospitalization coverage free of charge. When a retired person requires hospitalization for medical treatment, the healthcare costs quickly increase.
All Medicare recipients must meet a $1,288 deductible for a hospitalization benefit period that extends up to 60 days after admittance to a hospital. During that benefit period, there are no co-payment requirements. A person may leave the hospital and return again within that 60 day benefit period without facing an additional deductible payment. When the benefit period ends, there is a co-payment of $322 for each additional day a retired person needs hospitalization.
The three remaining parts of a Medicare policy are expensive for most people who are of retirement age. Medicare Part B provides coverage for basic medical care needs such as visits to the doctor, tests or lab works that is necessary, annual physical checkups and ambulance transportation. A retired person also receive coverage for purchasing medical supplies, such as wheelchairs or walkers.
The cost attached to Medicare Part B averages around $105 per person, with a married couple facing potential costs of $390 per person each year. The policy comes with an annual deductible requirement of $166 as well. Medicare Part C serves as supplemental insurance coverage and Medicare Part D works to cover the rising cost of prescription medication.
The Role Prescription Medicine Plays Prescription medication can be both a blessing and a curse at the same time. On one hand, modern technology is beneficial in paving the way for the development of new medications. These medications often impact the health conditions of individuals, giving them the opportunity to live longer with certain health conditions that carry a diagnosis of a shorter life expectancy timeline. The medical innovations do not come without a cost, which is part of the reason why prescription medication grows increasingly more expensive each day.
Medicare Part D works to provide people of retirement age with assistance in paying for their necessary prescription medication. Under this plan, a retired person pays a deductible of $360 for prescription medication coverage extending up to $3,310 each year. Once the annual cost of prescriptions reaches that amount, the individual becomes 100 percent responsible for all remaining medication costs after that point. Participation in a Medicare Part D policy is optional and does not impact the ability to have coverage in the other three parts of Medicare.
The Rising Cost of Prescription Medication As modern technology continually advances medical developments, drug manufacturers continue to increase the costs consumers pay to receive the benefits of those developments. For retired individuals living on a fixed income, the rising costs of prescription medication often becomes a serious financial burden. Medicare is unable to engage in negotiations with drug manufacturing companies in an attempt to reduce the costs that retired people pay for the medication they need.
There are laws and regulations in place that prohibit Medicare officials from asking drug companies to make a compromise on the financial costs of the medications they make. If the Department of Veterans Affairs does engage in talks with these manufacturers, the benefits often to towards Medicare recipients instead. That leaves Medicare paying full price for most prescription medicines that their insurance patients need.
The Long-Term Care Factor Payment for Medicare insurance coverage and prescription medication only begins to scratch the surface on the healthcare costs that many retirees face. As they continue to age, the probability of needing long-term medical care begins to take center stage. That undesirable aspect of the aging process is often an unforgotten aspect when calculating retirement healthcare costs.
When people plan for retirement in the years where the are still gainfully employed, it can be difficult to envision a life requiring the consistent, around-the-clock care of a nursing home or other long-term healthcare facility. By the time a retired person reaches the point of needing full time medical care, there is little to no money left in a retirement account to cover the relevant costs of that care.
The average cost of nursing home care is $6,235 per month for a semi-private room and $6,965 a month for a private room. Many retirees needing full-service care are able to live with a family member and receive care in the privacy of a personal home. Although these types of situations are less costly than nursing home care, a financial burden is still present. On average, a family may pay $21 per hour for a home healthcare worker to come into the home and provide care for the retired person.
As the relevant costs of long-term care continue to increase each year, many family members work towards caring for their loved ones without requesting assistance from outside healthcare services. Under these circumstances, one or more able-bodied adult must make a financial sacrifice of giving up a steady source of income, such as full time employment, to care for their ailing parent. The financial changes they make factor into the healthcare costs that retirees face each year.
How Retirees Can Help Reduce Healthcare Costs Although most factors that play a role in the calculation of retirement healthcare costs are out of the hands of the retirees who make the payments, there are a few steps that retirees can take to reduce their healthcare costs. The most effective step is to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle for as long as possible. Staying physically active keeps the body functioning properly and prevents joints and muscles from stiffening up over a lack of physical movement.
Retirees can also take a proactive approach during visits with their doctor by educating themselves on additional treatment options outside of taking prescription medication or undergoing a surgical procedure. They can seek out other treatment alternatives as well, such as participating in physical therapy for back pain or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever for arthritis pain instead of a more expensive prescription medication.
These small changes work to slowly reduce the amount of healthcare costs that retirees pay out of their own pocket. As these costs continue to rise over the coming years, so to will the average cost of healthcare. The best course of action a person can take is to start putting money aside now in preparation for the rising healthcare costs that come when retirement arrives. Having a financial plan in place works to provide retirees with more money for retirement activities like traveling or spending more time with family.