I knew few baby boomers who are actually retired. And though they dream of golfing on a Tuesday, they are hesitant to stop working all together.
Who can blame them? The latest estimate on retiree health costs is just short of a quarter million. As if the price tag wasn’t hard enough to swallow, if they’re a few years shy of Medicare eligibility, pre-retirees know how hard it is just to secure health care.
We all remember when health reform tried to help with this problem through a $5 billion program for early retiree coverage. The program was supposed to provide assistance to employers until Jan. 1, 2014, but the money ran dry less than two years after the program started.
Health coverage is a huge a dilemma for anyone on the fence about retiring. How can benefits managers help pre-retirees examine solutions for health care? Steve Vernon, a consulting actuary and contributing wrtier for CBS MoneyWatch has helpful tips. They’re written for the consumer, but they’re worthwhile for HR to reiterate.
First, he says, don’t expect your 401(k) alone to take care of the medical bills. “You'll pay for medical premiums and expenses throughout your life; for example, most retirees have Medicare's premiums deducted from their monthly Social Security income. If you're lucky enough to have a pension from work, you can also use that monthly income to pay for medical premiums and expenses.”
But using Social Security funds will also be a challenge. “As a result, you'll need other sources of retirement income to pay for retiree medical costs. That means boosting your savings in your 401(k) or health savings accounts (HSA), if eligible.”
Next, he endorses taking part in a wellness program. “Not participating in such a wellness program is actually worse than not taking full advantage of your company's 401(k) match…I've previously estimated that only about 30 percent, or $72,000, of the $240,000 projected by Fidelity would be needed to pay for Medicare premiums. The remainder, about $168,000, would pay for deductibles and co-payments -- in other words, costs you're charged when you get sick”
Last, the most popular route to take, is to work during the early part of your retirement. “Not only will you earn additional money, but you might be eligible for medical coverage as an active employee, which will reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for medical care.”
The best part about Steve Vernon’s advice is that it’s a rather chipper outlook on some very grisly news. Vernon writes, “While there's no need to despair over this news, consider it serious motivation to take steps that will help you live long and live well in retirement."
Thanks for the pep talk, Steve.