How Would Higher Medicare Costs Affect My Retirement Budget?
Q: I retired seven years ago at age 65 when I started Social Security and Medicare. I have difficulty budgeting my healthcare costs. I never seem to learn what they will be until I start getting the bills. Can you help?
A: Budgeting for changes in health as we age is a challenge. What we can do, though, is give you some pointers in estimating your current costs and setting a healthcare cost budget.
- Gather your medical expense records from the past year to three years, if you have them. Organization of these records not only helps you figure out your household budget, but keeping it all in one place helps you compile the amount to claim as medical expenses at tax time. Since expenses vary so much with your health, going back three years can help you get a better idea of average annual cost.
- Set up a healthcare worksheet with your basic expenses. That can include Medicare premiums for Part B (deducted from your Social Security), Medicare supplement premiums and Part D premiums OR Medicare Advantage premiums. You also need to include deductibles, out-of-pocket co-pays or co-insurance. In addition, include the costs for premiums or out-of-pocket costs for services that Medicare does not cover, including dental, vision and audio. Include the cost of glasses and hearing aids and batteries if you use them.
- Estimate healthcare cost increases of at least 7% to 10% a year. Recently there has been news of a slowdown in healthcare costs. While that's good, overall Medicare costs still increased about 6 percent and in the past two decades the rate of increase was often about 10 percent per year. To keep a lid on your costs, make sure you compare health and drug plans annually during the Medicare Open Enrollment period that starts October 15th and ends December 7th every year. Switch when you can find a better plan.
- Plan for health changes as you age. What are the chances of developing a chronic condition, like asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure later in life? It's a good idea to set aside a portion of your retirement savings for healthcare emergencies and health changes as you age. One way to figure this is by using the out-of-pocket maximum limits on your health plan and Part D coverage. For example, having an emergency healthcare account of at least $11,450 set aside for a senior in reasonable health in 2013 is a smart idea. If you are in a health plan that has a maximum annual out-of-pocket limit, you will want to try to have at least that much set aside every year (that may be about $6,700 in 2013, for example). Your Part D out-of-pocket maximum in 2013 is $4,750.