"Health care can be one of the biggest expenses for retirees," said Kelli Grant at CNBC, "and those costs are growing." Fidelity Investments estimates that a healthy 65-year-old couple retiring in 2017 would need $275,000 to cover their health-care costs in retirement, up from $260,000 last year. Even though Medicare covers the bulk of seniors' health-care expenses, out-of-pocket costs can add up fast. Fidelity's calculation factors in what typical retirees might spend on premiums, cost-sharing provisions, and costs associated with Medicare Parts A, B, and D. But it's far from the final tally, and "does not include other health expenses such as over-the-counter medications, dental services, and long-term care." It's a "ballpark number," to be sure, said Katie Lobosco at Money. How long you live and your general state of health can change the number enormously. But costs are expected only to rise, and younger workers who are still years away from retirement "should expect to spend a lot more." If you've been thinking you might need to save more for your golden years, this $275,000 figure "should light a fire under you."
There are a variety of ways to make these costs more manageable, both before and after you retire, said Kimberly Lankford at Kiplinger. While you are still working, set aside money in a health savings account (HSA). Contributions are tax-deductible and grow tax-free, and the money can be used to pay for "premiums for Medicare Parts B and D, and Medicare Advantage plans." But "you can't contribute to an HSA after you enroll in Medicare," so it pays to save early. To save on prescription drugs, "ask your doctor whether there are cheaper generic versions." And don't be afraid to "challenge the Medicare surcharge." The premiums you pay for Medicare Parts B and D are determined by your most recent tax return on file. If your income has decreased "because of certain life-changing situations, such as divorce, death of a spouse," or a change in your pension plan, you can ask the Social Security Administration to adjust your premiums accordingly.
"Long-term care is the wild card in your retirement planning," said Steve Vernon at CBS News. Medicare doesn't pay for stays in an assisted living facility or nursing home, and even short visits "can quickly drain your savings." To protect yourself — and your family — "from potentially ruinous long- term care expenses," consider again the tax-advantageous HSA; nursing-home care is a qualified medical expense under its rules. You might also consider buying long-term care insurance or "taking out a reverse mortgage line of credit and holding it in reserve." It's a lot to consider and plan for, "but if you start now, you'll be prepared when the time comes."