What's Up Doc?
One of the most important and difficult decisions in retirement is finding health insurance. If you have reached 65, you qualify for Medicare - which is great. But, if you are like me and have retired early, what do you do? I’m thinking a doctor visit every once in a while might be needed.
I have to admit; I’m just starting my journey. I retired at the end of June and decided to keep my employer insurance (for a short period of time) until I determine the best long-term option for my wife and me. Here are the long-term options I am considering.
Continuing my Employer Healthcare
I am very fortunate that I have excellent healthcare through my employer. One option is, continuing this coverage. Given my age and years of service, I qualify for a discount on my healthcare cost of ~15%. But, this might not be my ultimate choice (for the long-term).
Remember, I said I have excellent coverage? That comes with a high cost that luckily when working, my employer paid the majority of (the cost). Many retirees from my organization have opted not to take the company provided healthcare, given its cost.
Although potentially expensive, explore this option with your employer and see if you can continue your current coverage - if it makes sense. Also, they may offer COBRA which allows you to keep your current coverage for up to 18 months - to help with transitioning your care to another provider.
If you are unaware of your options through your employer, contact your Human Resources department to understand what is available as you prepare for retirement.
Buying Healthcare Through an Exchange
Much has been written, debated and politicized about the Affordable Care Act (ACA / Obamacare). I will leave that discussion alone, but one benefit of this law is most states have setup healthcare exchanges which provide options for purchasing health insurance. It also guides those who are eligible for subsidies to help pay for insurance.
I recently spent time on the California (my current state) and the Georgia (my future state) healthcare exchange websites. California has its own site that is very well done and has many options in their exchange. The Georgia website is a little less robust with only a few options. This is one of the challenges with the ACA - some states have embraced it, and some have not.
Whether you support the ACA or not, I would explore healthcare.gov for your state to see if there is a health plan that meets your needs.
In essence, these sites offer healthcare providers that have been vetted by the state. If you find one that’s right for you, great. You just saved yourself some time.
Buying Healthcare in the Open Market
My other option is to buy health insurance on the open market. I have done some initial research, and it’s overwhelming. When you search online for health insurance, you get dozens of results and options. So, this will take time to research the various companies (are they legit?), the plans (what do they cover or not?) and cost. I’m envisioning a detailed spreadsheet to analyze my options. Get ready Excel, here I come.
Another option is to find an independent insurance agent that can assist me. Once again, finding a qualified agent that I trust, will require research.
The bottom line is, start early, be patient, and thorough. Ask friends, family members and recent retirees about their healthcare provider so you can learn from their journey and choices. Hopefully, you are one of the lucky ones who can continue their employer plan at a reasonable cost. If not, put on a pot of coffee, take a deep breath, and get ready for some research.
Have you determined your retirement healthcare coverage?
- Will you keep your employer health insurance?
- Use an exchange?
- Buy a plan in the open market?
- Or, do you have another option?
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Good luck and let's #RetireHappy.