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Your Financial Strategy For Retirement Must Allow For Healthcare Costs

Don’t forget about healthcare costs when planning your financial solvency into retirement.

When everyone thinks about planning for their retirement, the experts are now telling us not to forget about factoring in healthcare costs. That’s an easy one to mess up because we think with Medicare we’re going to have enough to cover our medical bills. In fact, healthcare bills can eat up our retirement savings.

Healthcare is the one thing that can annihilate your nest egg. Do it right and you’re fine. Do it wrong and you’re broke,” retirement expert and author Andy Landis tells Complete Senior.

How much are healthcare costs going to factor into our retirement?

A study by Fidelity Benefits Consulting says that a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2014 will need about $220,000 to cover their medical expenses throughout retirement. If you don’t do that, Fidelity officials say you’re setting yourself up for a “nasty financial shock.”

Wow. And we thought the 401(k) and IRAs would help cover other expenses and maintain our lifestyle. We can do a lot with $220,000, especially when we thought our paying into Medicare all of these years would protect our savings in retirement. Who thought it would be one of our largest expenses in retirement.

Rising healthcare expenses are forcing people to make educated decisions now more than ever, ranging from the services they utilize to the age they choose to retire,” says Brad Kimler, executive vice president of Fidelity’s Benefits Consulting business.

The Fidelity study says none of that $220,000 expense for those on Medicare includes nursing home care. Medicare doesn’t cover long-term facility costs.

At least the number is coming down.

That cost had kept going up six percent a year for decade, but has dropped for the last four years from a high of $250,000. A drop in out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs and lower than expected Medicare spending have dropped the threshold because of lower healthcare costs overall, the Fidelity study says.

What the final number we pay in retirement when it comes to healthcare is based not only on our health but when we retire, according to Fidelity. It will cost more if we retire at 62 and less if we delay it to at least 67.

What’s the difference?

Fidelity says it will cost couples $17,000 more a year if they retire at 62 instead of 65. That brings the total to $271,000 during retirement. That cost is based on healthcare costs prior to being eligible for Medicare.

If we wait until 67 to retire, Fidelity estimates we would save an extra $10,000 a year and pay only $200,000 for healthcare costs in retirement.

“We understand that some people don’t have a choice in when they retire,” Kimler says. “Sometimes health issues or someone’s occupation plays a role. So it’s critical that people plan well in advance for the considerable cost of health care by adding it into their overall retirement planning discussions.”

Retirees aren’t expected to rely on straight Medicare alone, which is what their paycheck deductions have covered over the years. That covers hospital costs.

We’re still required to supplement coverage for $104.90 a month to cover doctor’s visits and expenses and pay additional for drug coverage. Medicare covers 80 percent of a doctor’s bills, which can be staggering if there is a major surgery. And we should search out supplemental policies that help limit the out-of-pocket expenses we pay no more than $3,000 a year.

A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that in a survey of those on Medicare in 2010, the most recent year available, beneficiaries paid on average $4,700 a year for health coverage. That takes into account supplemental coverage such as retiree health benefits or Medigap policies, the report says.

The Kaiser study says premiums for Medicare and supplemental insurance accounted for 42 percent of the average out-of-pocket spending or $1,989 a year. The remaining 58 percent or $2,744 a year included spending on long-term facility costs, which was 18 percent of the total. That was followed by medical supplies/providers at 14 percent, prescription drugs at 11 percent and dental care at 6 percent, in-patient hospital at 3 percent, skilled nursing facility at 3 percent, outpatient hospital at 2 percent and home health at 1 percent.

In 2013, half of all people on Medicare had incomes of less than $23,500.

“Even with financial protections provided by Medicare and supplemental insurance, some groups of Medicare beneficiaries incurred significantly higher out-of-pocket spending than others, which could pose challenges for those living on fixed or modest incomes,” the study says. “Out-of-pocket spending tends to rise with age and number of chronic conditions and functional impairments, and is greater for beneficiaries with one or more hospitalizations, particularly those who receive post-acute care.”

The Kaiser study says the findings suggest “ongoing efforts to improve the coordination of care to prevent avoidable hospital readmissions and manage post-acute services could not only reduce Medicare’s costs, but also could significantly lower beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket spending.”

“Monitoring trends in out-of-pocket spending among people on Medicare in the coming years will be important in understanding whether such efforts are making a difference,” the study says.

The top group for spending on out-of-pocket expenses spends on average $11,500—more than twice as much on premiums and services of the typical beneficiary, the Kaiser study says.

“The analysis shows that out-of-pocket spending rises significantly for beneficiaries with multiple hospitalizations,” the Kaiser study says. “Patients with a hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge spent roughly $1,200 more on services than those with only one inpatient stay in 2010, including higher spending for medical providers and supplies, inpatient hospital services, and skilled nursing facility services.”

Out-of-pocket spending rises with age and is more for women than men, especially those 85 and older, the study says. Those 85 and above spend three times more on average at $5,962 a year compared to $1,926 for those 65 to 74.

Women pay $5,036 for out-of-pocket expenses for services and premiums compared to $4,363 for men. Officials attribute that to higher long-term care facility costs among older women.

Predictably, if you’re in poorer health, you’re going to pay more. Those who described themselves in poor health paid two-and-a-half times greater than those who were in excellent health. That cost is $4,505 compared to $1,774 on average. Those with even greater health issues and limitations paid $7,737 a year, the study says.

Those with the highest costs are those with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and end-stage renal disease. Those Alzheimer’s patients had the highest cost at $8,305 a year.

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