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Got $285k for Healthcare Costs in Your Retirement Years?

By Clive Riddle, April 5, 2019

West Health and Gallup this week released a 44-page report: The U.S. Healthcare Cost Crisis, with survey results that addressed “the impact of the high cost of healthcare on personal finances, individual healthcare choices and the level of satisfaction with the U.S. healthcare system.”

The survey found “that despite 45% of respondents reporting fears of bankruptcy if a major health event strikes, 1 in 4 skipping a medical treatment due to costs and Americans collectively borrowing an estimated $88 billion to cover healthcare costs in the past year.” The report also tells us that: 

  • When given the choice between a freeze in healthcare costs for the next five years or a 10% increase in household income, 61% of Americans report that their preference is a freeze in costs
  • 76% expect their costs for healthcare will increase even further in the next two years
  • 26% have deferred a treatment
  • 12% borrowed money to pay for healthcare in the past year, including nearly 3 million borrowing $10,000 or more
  • 23% cut back on household spending due to healthcare costs
  • Only 36% of  doctors discuss costs with them in advance of procedures, tests or treatment plans, and 34% discussed costs of prescriptions 

But the concern rightfully is heightened for seniors (age 65+) who have the most immediate and more complex healthcare needs overall, and finite financial resources: 

  • 31% of seniors will be unable to pay for basic healthcare in the next 12 months (41% with annual household income <$60,000)
  • 29% will be unable to pay for medicine in the next 12 months (42% with annual household income <$60,000)
  • 38% said a major health event could lead to bankruptcy 38%  (45% with annual household income <$60,000) 

Fidelity this week released their annual analysis of out of pocket Medicare expenses and funds required for medical expenses with a couple retiring today. 

According to Fidelity, “a 65-year old couple retiring in 2019 can expect to spend $285,000 in health care and medical expenses throughout retirement, compared with $280,000 in 2018. For single retirees, the health care cost estimate is $150,000 for women and $135,000 for men.” Fidelity tells us that “while there’s no surprise that health care costs are a top financial concern in retirement, the past two years combined have seen a slower rise (3.6 percent) than in the previous two (2015-2017), which saw the estimate grow to $275,000 from $245,000 (up a total of 12.2 percent). Even without the same rate of growth, some retirees are still surprised by today’s cost of health care.” 

Fidelity healthcare prescription isn’t surprising – they advocate building savings to cover the expenses, through HSAs:

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