Health Insurance and the Importance of Preventive Care in Retirement

During their working lives, many Americans gain health benefits from their employers. But once they retire and stop receiving their employer’s health coverage, it’s important for them to have a plan to help cover medical expenses in retirement. This article looks at some of the options available for retired workers and discusses the importance of preventive care.

About seven of ten adults near traditional retirement age in 2004 had health insurance coverage from their current or former employer. Most of the people with employer coverage got their coverage from their own employers, while others received it through their spouses’ current or former employers, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or other sources such as private non-group insurance or Medicare Advantage plans.

While it’s true that the cost of employer-provided retiree health coverage has risen sharply in recent years, most people who worked for large firms had access to this kind of insurance in 2004, and most larger firms continue to offer it to some retirees. In addition, COBRA and other programs allow workers to extend their employer-provided coverage into their early retirement years, and Medicare Advantage plans may also provide retirees with a choice of doctors.

The vast majority of retirees, however, will have to get their health insurance from other sources. The good news is that it’s usually not very expensive to buy individual health insurance in the marketplace or to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. And, depending on their income levels, many retirees may even qualify for subsidies to help pay the cost of their premiums.

As they transition to retirement, the most important thing many people can do is to schedule regular visits with their doctor to receive preventive care, such as cancer screenings, pap tests or mammograms for women and PSA prostate specific antigen testing for men. These appointments, which are often covered by their health plans at little or no cost, can help detect and treat disease before it becomes more serious.

A health savings account is another way to save money on health care in retirement. People can put money into these accounts tax-free and use it to help pay for qualified health costs in retirement, including the monthly cost of Medicare Parts A and B.

Finally, it’s important for retirees to keep up with their annual Medicare open enrollment and to take advantage of any changes they may wish to make in their health insurance coverage. They can do this by contacting an experienced agent or finding out more about their state’s SHIP, which provides volunteers to answer questions about Medicare and the marketplace. SHIPs can help people compare their options, determine what kind of Medicare¬†Navigate to the page Advantage plan is right for them, and understand their subsidy eligibility. They can even help people with the online application process. SHIPs are available through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and in most states. For more information on the program and a list of participating organizations, visit www.MedicareSupportCenter.org.