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Retiring After 65? How to Avoid Costly Medical Bills

Tips to stay healthy without breaking the bank


(Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by Acts Retirement-Life Communities.)

Health care can be expensive even in the best of situations. Sometimes, even if you have top-flight medical insurance from your job, deductibles, copays and prescription costs can still be costly — especially if you have health issues that you’re struggling with. This gets only more complicated once you reach retirement age.

After 65 you can enroll in Medicare, but that only covers a certain percentage of your medical costs unless you take extra steps to manage your medical bills. Don’t worry, though; if you’re looking for the best ways to keep yourself healthy during retirement without breaking the bank, the following tips are for you.

Sign Up for Medicare Immediately

Once you hit age 65, you become eligible for Medicare. Medicare Part A is generally free, and that covers your big expenses like hospital visits — not having at least Medicare Part A can see you incurring some major costs in an emergency. Meanwhile, Medicare Parts B and D, which provide you cover for both doctor visits and prescription medications, do have premiums associated with them, and require you to enroll in a timely manner.

How timely are we talking, here? There’s a seven-month window of eligibility starting three months before your 65th birthday month and going for three months after. And unless you sign up for Medicare Parts B or D during this time you can end up with some steep surcharges. In other words, sign up for Medicare in a timely manner or you could end up spending even more than you would have for post-retirement medical coverage.

Insist on Generic Prescriptions

Pharmaceutical companies sometimes charge exorbitant prices for their drugs. These high-cost medications are absolutely not compatible with a retirement income, and can be a major drain on your resources — especially if you need to take daily medications that get refilled often.

Thankfully, there’s often a lower-cost alternative for many medications on the market. If your doctor can prescribe the generic form of the drug, which is 100% identical to the brand name drug except for the high price tag, you can save a serious amount of money. When you’re constantly refilling meds every few weeks, this makes a big difference for stretching your health care budget.

Keep on Top of Medical Issues

Sometimes, going to the doctor when you’re feeling a little under the weather seems like a waste of money. But it might help you catch a more potentially dangerous condition well before it can become serious. A $25 copay may be worth the expense if the alternative is being hospitalized because of an infection or injury that could have been treated right away.

Keep Out of the ER If You Can

Meanwhile, keeping on top of your health might save you a bundle in the long run, but only if you go to the right doctor’s office to get those issues checked. Visits to the Emergency Room are often prohibitively expensive even if you do have good medical coverage, so try to stick to your general practitioner for office visits as much as you can.

In the event that your regular office is closed and whatever issue you’re experiencing isn’t life-threatening, try to find a nearby urgent care center. These medical facilities are the perfect midway point between a regular doctor’s office and an ER, as they’re designed to be a more cost-effective alternative to a trip to the Emergency Room.

Understand Your Options

You don’t always need to see a doctor. In today’s world there are a variety of options available that don’t include stepping inside a hospital. You can call or email your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms and see whether it’s necessary for you to make an in-person visit. You can also use telehealth apps that have physicians ready and available to see you from the comfort of your home using a phone or computer.

Don’t Rely on Just Medicare for Coverage

Medicare is a great option but it’s far from perfect. Thankfully there are other ways to prepare for your medical costs during retirement. In fact, there are two ways that you can put money aside for medical costs in the future by investing pre-tax income through your employer: the health savings account, or HSA, or the flexible spending account, or FSA.

An FSA is best for anyone over 65 who is still working, as it pulls from employment income on a use-it-or-lose-it basis; it doesn’t roll over every year. An HSA, meanwhile, rolls over from one year to another, though the requirements for contributing to an HSA are slightly more complex than an FSA so it’s best to consult with an expert. Which brings us to our next point:

Always Rely on Expert Advice

Unless you’re a financial expert or you work in healthcare, you are unlikely to have the specialized knowledge needed to navigate retirement-age medical coverage. This means your best bet is to rely on the knowledge of such an expert; this way, you don’t have to struggle, on your own, to figure out ways to control your health care costs.

There are plenty of different types of experts you can talk to for guidance. Financial advisers will know how to help you navigate retirement savings programs like an HSA or an FSA, while experts in signing up for Medicare can explain the processes and procedures you need to go through in order to meet eligibility requirements and comply with enrollment deadlines.

Prepare for Tomorrow, Live for Today

The last thing you should have to worry about during retirement is whether you can afford medical care. If you’re over 65, keep the above tips in mind to help you control those medical costs so you can concentrate on enjoying your retirement and not worrying about if you can afford to pick up your medications from the pharmacy.

For more information on retirement, read these articles by Acts Retirement-Life Communities:

By Acts Retirement-Life Communities

Acts Retirement-Life Communities is the largest not-for-profit owner, operator and developer of continuing care retirement communities in the United States. Headquartered in suburban Philadelphia, Acts has a family of 23 retirement communities that serve approximately 8,500 residents and employ 6,200 in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. For more information about Acts visit actsretirement.org.

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