The high cost of healthcare can delay retirement for many until they turn 65, which is when Medicare is typically available. Women and men who reach 65 can expect to live another 19 and 16 years, respectively†, so it's important to budget for healthcare costs as part of your retirement plan. Fortunately, there are other options to help cover some costs that also have tax advantages.
Cost of healthcare in retirement
There are many healthcare decisions to make for your retirement. When do you take Social Security? Is long-term care insurance a wise choice for you? Can you save more?
Fortunately, Medicare typically covers the majority (66%) of healthcare services costs, with supplemental coverage (22%) and out-of-pocket spending (12%) generally making up the rest ‡. Like many financial forecasts, though, future healthcare costs are dependent upon a slew of variables, such as when and where you retire, your health, and how long you live.
That two-thirds referenced above covers 'medically necessary' services such as lab tests, surgeries, doctor visits, wheelchairs, and walkers§. That's a significant amount, but as more Americans reach 65–20% of the nation's population by 2030–total healthcare costs will very likely continue to increase¶. Some estimates suggest that the average couple will need $315,000 to cover medical expenses in retirement, excluding long-term care#.
And consider that with consumer inflation impacting most costs, even a 55-year-old couple in good health could face an additional $267,000 in medical costs when they retire at age 65Ұ.
Medical expenses likely not covered
Medicare is a very valuable support system, but even that won't cover some common services which retirees will have to prepare for, such as:
• Assisted living
• Long-Term Care¥
• Most dental care
• Eye exams (for prescription glasses)
• Cosmetic surgery
• Massage therapy
• Routine physical exams
• Hearing aids and exams for fitting them
• Concierge care (24/7 physician access, highly personalized)
• Services from another provider
The good news: Budgeting for healthcare in retirement
With so much uncertainty, saving and investing for post-retirement healthcare costs should start as soon as possible. And just as you may have started saving for a new car or home when in your 20s or 30s, setting aside funds for your later years should be similarly structured.
Health savings accounts
A good first start to consider is a health savings account (HSA), an investment account for pre-tax dollars sometimes matched to certain amounts by employers≠. Though integrated with high-deductible health plans, unused funds roll over from year to year and accumulate earnings on a tax-free basis when used for qualified medical expenses. One drawback is that after anyone starts receiving Social Security or Medicare, they're prohibited from contributing to their HSA account, although the funds are still accessible for use. When looking at HSA accounts, keep in mind they are available if you have a high-deductible health plan, and there are often contribution limits.
Traditional and Roth IRAs/401ks
Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) might already be a foundation for your retirement savings, and can be used for healthcare costs in retirement, too. You can continue to increase your retirement savings contributions until you max out. Also, traditional and Roth IRAs offer different tax advantages.
It doesn't matter where you are on your journey to retirement; everyone should have an emergency fund. The amount in an emergency fund may cover a few months' expenses, and that money could be tapped for nominal medical bills. And it'd be wise to ‘repay' the emergency fund after taking any funds out, even if held in a low-interest-rate money market account.
Long-term care coverage insurance can help cover the cost of care not covered by traditional healthcare insurance or Medicare, such as nursing home care, in-home care, assisted living, etc. It also allows you to determine the amount of coverage you want by paying premiums, or in some cases, one lump sum. Disability insurance can provide income if you become disabled, but is not eligible for reimbursement with a HSA.
It is also possible to get medical bills reduced. If you find yourself with a big medical bill, don't give up. There may be ways to negotiate. With out-of-network bills, you can appeal directly to your insurance company or the healthcare provider and ask them to waive or reduce charges.
Many healthcare providers, including physicians, dentists and hospitals, offer no- or low-interest payment plansⱢ. Typically, your credit rating will not be impacted as long as a bill is settled within 365 daysⱠ.
Your savings and investments for retirement may or may not cover the bulk of healthcare costs, which is where a Huntington Financial Advisor can help.